5 Basic Tips for Taking Great Photos

I was asked to write an article about how to take good photos. I’ve been learning and improving my photography skills over the past several years. Here are my top 5 tips for beginning photographers!

It is often said that the best camera is the one you have with you. Today, most cell phones have good cameras capable of capturing great photos. There are also many camera apps you can download for more features if you aren’t satisfied with your standard cell phone camera options. Follow these 5 tips to improve your photography skills and get the most out of your camera, no matter what type it is! 

  1. Composition: Consider all aspects of your photo and remember the rule of thirds. Imagine a grid dividing your screen into thirds vertically and horizontally. Many cameras give you an option to display the grid lines, making this even easier! Try to compose your shot with the subject or point of interest at one of the grid line intersections. Consider including foreground details in landscape photography, for example, a tree or flowers when shooting a distant subject such as a mountain or waterfall. Also pay attention to background details when shooting close subjects such as people and animals. Try to avoid distracting background details such as signs, if possible. Don’t be afraid to move around to find a more pleasing composition or to place yourself closer or further away from your subject. The angle of the photograph may also have a dramatic effect on the end result. Consider taking your photo from a lower or higher angle to add interest.
The sign post is distracting and detracts from this landscape photo.
This photo was taken a few feet to the right of the above photo, eliminating the sign post.
The trees in the foreground add depth and interest to this photo.

2. Lighting: If possible, try to take outdoor photos in the morning or evening in order to avoid the harsh midday sun. Taking photos in the shade or on a cloudy day will also provide protection from harsh light. If you are photographing people, try to place them with their backs to the sun and consider using the flash to combat shadows. When photographing indoors, try to ensure the room is well lit and consider using your flash. Some lighting and exposure correction may be possible in post-production, more on that in tip #4.

The subject is facing the sun and squinting.
The subject is side lit in this photo. No squinting! Note the distracting background. A clean background would yield a better quality portrait.

3. Technique: We’ve all taken photos with a finger in the shot, or had a photo turn out blurry. It’s easy enough to keep your fingers away from the camera lens, but what about those blurry shots? Blur will be more noticeable in low light conditions because of the slower shutter speed necessary for low light. But it can happen in any light if you don’t have a steady hand. Try sitting or crouching down and resting your elbows on your knees to help stabilize your camera. If there is a piece of furniture, ledge, fence, tree branch, or other object nearby, you may use it to rest your camera on while taking your photo. Alternatively, consider a portable, inexpensive tripod such as the Joby GorillaPod flexible tripod or the GorillaPod Mobile Mini Stand. They are lightweight, compact, and easy to carry anywhere. Blur may also happen if your point of focus is off. If you are photographing a landscape using your smart phone, try placing your focus point within the closest third of the scene. When photographing a close subject such as a person or an animal, focus on the eye or the face. Blur may be unavoidable with a fast-moving subject, depending on your camera and the light conditions.

I shot this photo without a tripod, using a downed tree to stabilize my camera.

4. Post-processing: Often overlooked by amateur photographers, post-processing is done after you capture your photographs. It is often an easy correction that makes the difference between an “okay” photo and a GREAT photo! Many editing programs exist. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are favorites among professional photographers. It is now very easy to edit your photos right from your phone using Adobe’s FREE Lightroom app for Android and Apple devices. Using Lightroom, you can easily crop photos, correct color and lighting, or creatively edit your photos. Adobe has good tutorials to get you started with post-processing in Lightroom, but the “auto-correct” feature is a handy one-tap option for quick, basic corrections. You can easily save your edited photos or share them directly from the app.

Photo as shot with my Moto Z4 smart phone.
The same photo as above, after post-processing using Lightroom.

5. Enjoy and share your photos! Are you guilty of having hundreds (or thousands!) of photos on your camera that never see the light of day? Choose your best photos and turn them into wall art, collectible albums, or cards! Companies such as Mixtiles offer lightweight photo tiles that are easy and convenient to display on your wall using non-damaging adhesive strips. Chatbooks offers several affordable options for creating photo books and other products, including a $5 “monthly mini” 30 page photo book. Apps such as MyPostcard allow you to create and send photo postcards or greeting cards to family and friends. Simply upload your photos, personalize your message, specify a mailing address and payment information, and they will do the rest! Be sure to look for sales or coupon codes to get the best deals on whichever products you choose!

I hope these basic tips will help you capture more amazing photos! Do you have any basic tips that I didn’t cover here? 

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