How to improve your photos
Here are some tips for budding photographers or those just
needing a nudge to get them going again. This isn't an
exhaustive list but it should get you started.
1. Take lots of images
It's obvious. If you want to get better you need to
practice. Digital cameras have helped in this regard. It
costs a lot less to take lots of digital images than it
does to shoot lots of frames on film. Regardless of whether
you're a digital buff or prefer working with the analogue
stuff you should still aim to shoot a large amount.
However, just shooting a lot of images is not enough. You
need to sit yourself down and take a close look at them,
show your friends, post to an online forum, or ALL THREE.
What makes the image work and what could you have done
better? Ask yourself why you like the image. Now ask
someone else, or a number of people.
Remember, when you ask for an opinion on a image you have
created, always ask for an explanation of the opinion. A
response of "That's nice" is not enough for you to progress
as a photographer. Why is it nice? Why don't you like it?
Honest answers are what you're looking for.
2. Fill the frame
By filling the frame I mean, exclude all those distracting
elements the detract from an image. That rubbish bin in the
background. The couple of leaves hanging down at the top of
the photo. Fill the frame with your photographic subject.
If you're photographing a person try a head and shoulders
shot and fill the frame with them. If it's a nature
subject, get in close or zoom in. Don't let your subject
get lost. A good rule of thumb is this. When you've taken
your image, resize it down to a suitable size for email or
the internet. Something along the lines of 750 pixels along
the longest edge. If, after you've resized, you subject
looks too small... you didn't fill the frame enough.
3. The Rule of 3rds
This is a very well known rule in the photography world. To
use this rule, imagine the image you're about to take is
divided up like a naughts-and-crosses grid. Two horizontal
lines intersecting two vertical lines. The object of this
rule is to place your key subjects on intersections of
these lines. This is one of the most widely used rules for
photography. There are others, but this is one you should
practice with often. If your camera has auto-focus points
displayed in the view finder you can use these to align
your subject vertically.
4. Compositional placement
Let your feet do the walking, or zoom if you have it. Move
around and find the most interesting placement for the
subject or subjects of your image. Use leading lines to
guide your viewer through the image to your subject.
Railway track, roads, fences etc are fantastic for leading
lines. Use story telling as a method for designing your
image. Story telling is like a book, it involves a
beginning, a middle and an end to your image. Place
interesting subjects in the foreground, middle ground and
background to have your images tell a story.
5. Time of Day
The time of day you decide to shoot can have a great effect
on the quality of your photographs. Landscape photographers
prefer the warm light of early morning (before 10 am) and
afternoon (after 4 pm). Between these times, daylight takes
on a bluer harsher quality. This can be countered by using
warming filters like the 81A or 81B and colours can be
boosted by using a polarizing filter. But what if it's
overcast? So what! An overcast sky is perfect for
photographing forest scenes under the canopy where the
contrast is too great to capture if the sun is out.
Inclement weather gives you a perfect opportunity to create
some very moody images so if it's raining don't put your
camera away, put your rain coat on, wrap your camera in a
plastic bag and keep shooting.
6. Use a polarizing filter
A polarizing filter is a fantastic addition to your
photographic kit. A polarizing filter helps by cutting down
glare and reflections and boosting colour saturation. Do
you wear polarized sun glasses? See the difference when you
move them back and forth over your eyes? Well that's the
effect you'll give to your images if you place one over the
front of your lens. If your camera has auto focus, you'll
need a circular polarizer. Without getting too technical,
unpolarized light is traveling in all directions as it's
reflected off many surfaces around us. This causes glare,
and a polarizer absorbs a lot of this glare.
Read The Flipping Manual!
You need to know how your camera works to get the most out
of it. Find out how the light meter works at different
exposure modes. How does the Flash function work? What ISO
modes are available if you're using digital. Where and how
do you change the ASA/ISO settings of your film camera.
What do all those shooting modes do and how do you select
the best one for your needs.
(Hint: Don't always
shoot in P or A modes. All your photos will look the
Don't just read the manual for your camera, go to my
section and get some inspiration.