Photo Improvement Tips

What We'll Learn

  1. A few tips to quickly improve your picture taking
  2. Get more familiar with using features of your camera

Taking Better Photos

There are a few tips we can learn from professional photographers that will quickly improve your picture taking ability.  Thankfully,  they are easy to learn and put into practice.


1. Take Lots of Photos

The
first tip is to get used to taking lots of pictures.  Professional photographers always take multiple shots, often as many as 10:1, to ensure that they have the best chance of getting a great picture.  This is particularly important if you are taking group shots, where you never know which one will contain the best combination of all the participants.

Some cameras have a  continuous shooting mode where the camera will continue to take as many pictures as it can while you press and hold down the shutter button.

Of course, taking many pictures, means you need to develop the discipline to ruthlessly delete them... but more on that later.




2. Shutter Lag and Focus Lock

The second tip is learning how to lock your focus and avoid shutter lag. When you press your shutter button your camera has to perform a lot of calculations before it can take a picture:
  1. Measure and adjust for the amount of light
  2. Assess and adjust for the colour of light or the white balance.
  3. Identify the distance to the subject and adjust the focus correctly.
  4. Set the shutter speed, aperture size and ISO sensitivity to the best levels.
  5. Identify whether a flash is needed, and if used, activate red-eye reduction lighting.
As you can imagine, depending on the camera, this can take a bit of time.   That's why you might experience a pause between when you push down the shutter button and when the camera actually takes the picture.  This pause is called shutter lag

You can avoid shutter lag by pressing the shutter button half-way down. This allows the camera to do the calculations, and then when you press the button down all the way, it immediately takes the picture.

Pressing your button half-way down also lets you lock the focus on a particular subject.  You can then shift the camera to recompose your picture without having it accidentally change the focus on to something else.



Exercise

Try taking a picture using the focus lock capability of your camera:
  1. Point at a nearby subject
  2. Press the shutter button halfway down
  3. Move the camera so that the subject is no longer in the middle of your picture
  4. Press the shutter button down all the way 
  5. Review the results


3. Get Up Close

The third tip is learning to get closer, or zoom in to your subject.  This produces much more interesting pictures and helps fill the picture with more relevant details. This single tip is most likely to have the greatest improvement on your photography results.

When shooting people, keep in mind some basic cropping rules:
  • Crop arms above the elbows
  • Crop legs above the knees


4. The Rule of Thirds

The fourth tip is about general picture composition.  Imagine your picture area divided into three parts horizontally and vertically, or into thirds. Usually, putting your subject in the center of your picture, is far less engaging than putting them on one of the thirds of your picture.  This is also true of horizon lines.  See the example below:




5. Prepare to Capture the Natural Moments

The fifth tip is to be prepared to capture the natural moments.  Staged pictures are nice, but the real magic happens on the fly. Here are some things to make sure your ready to take advantage of these opportunities:
  • Make sure your battery is charged
  • Be familiar with using your camera
  • Take lots of pictures from different perspectives
  • Try to capture people in their natural activity


Exercise

Take time to view these videos to see these tips in action:



View this video for some more advanced photo taking tips:

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