Five ways to take better photos

A picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, some are. Some are worth about three. Some less.

An expensive camera does not a great photographer make. I’ve seen the most amazing photos taken with a cheap point and shoot (or even an iPhone), and some horrid shots (including many of my own) taken with an expensive DSLR.

After owning my first point and shoot digital camera for a couple of years, I could get a lovely photo from it, whilst in the first months of owning my DSLR, I took bad photo after bad photo. Demoralising!

These five tips will help you make the most of your camera. I’m not a professional; just an enthusiastic amateur who loves getting a good photo amongst a pile of ordinary ones. Not that I’m against an average photo if it’s the only one you have of your baby’s first steps, or if it shows a special moment between siblings; a less than perfect photo is better than no photo at all.

So here we go – five tips to improve your pics:

1. Read the manual. Learn what the buttons mean and what they do. See if you can change the ISO (lower in bright light, higher in dim light). Is there an aperture priority mode? Do a bit of research and figure out how to use it – you’ll be amazed at the difference in your pictures! Can you change the exposure?

Once you start looking at the capabilities of your camera, you’ll probably find you want to know a bit more about how it all works. F-stops, apertures and white balance can all sound a bit complicated, but it doesn’t take much to get your head around it, and it’s worth it.

2. Have a think about lighting. Sometimes you don’t have an option to change the light, but if you are posing a family picture, or trying to get a cute picture of the baby for grandma, you will have more time to consider it. If you’re inside, can you get the subject to face a window? Ouside, watch for shadows falling over people.

I know the rule is to have the sun behind the photographer, but you tend to end up with squinty eyes. Experiment with having the sun behind the subject, lighting them up from behind like a halo. Or catch the late afternoon sun on chubby cheeks. Be aware of the effect of the light on your photos.

photo lit from behind

3. Composition. There are some simple things that can make all the difference in a photo. Can you place the horizon either in the top or bottom third of the photo? Be aware of the background and try to remove distracting elements. Would the photo look better if you switched to a portrait rather than a landscape orientation? Get down to your subject’s level to take the photo. Tilt the camera a little. Play!

rainbow cake

4. Learn some basic editing skills. There are free photo editing programs available on the net that will perform basic edits. Simple things like lightening a dark photo, or cropping out a distraction in the background can make a big difference. For a little outlay, a program like Photoshop Elements will allow you much more control over your photos. Google how to do a defog, and you will be amazed at what a little bit of editing can do for your pictures!

5. Use that delete button! It doesn’t take long for people to lose interest if they are looking through 150 good photos and 1500 average photos of your trip to Europe (no, Dad, of course I’m not talking about you *cough*). If you took 200 photos of the Eiffel Tower, search through them objectively and choose the best two or three. Editing that set of birthday party photos down from one hundred shots to twenty five good ones will make you feel much better! Not to mention free up space on your hard drive. (And don’t forget to back them up – a lesson learnt the hard way here.)

Do you have any tips to add? What has made the biggest difference to your photography?

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7 thoughts on “Five ways to take better photos

  1. I really should read the manual for my DSLR – it’s really just been trial and error for me! I think cropping and culling photos is a big one. I take HEAPS of photos to get a few really nice ones. It’s hard getting good pictures of kids (especially if you want to get two or more kids at the same time), so taking lots and editing later gives me a better chance of getting a few nice ones.

  2. I would love a DSLR, but I also want to do a course once I get one! I’d love to take some more beautiful shots.
    I love these. The two sitting on the couch with the green blanket is just gorgeous!

  3. wonderful tips… and practice, practice, practice…. that is the great thing about digital cameras!!

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