40 Tips to Take Better Photos

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  • PetaPixel

    40 Tips to Take Better Photos(http://petapixel.com/2014/01/24/40-tips-take-better-photos/)

    Invaluable advice for the beginning photographer

    Jan 24, 2014 Lisa Clarke

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  • Many years ago when I was a starry-eyed undergrad I would ask every photographer I came

    across the same question:

    How do I take better photos?

    I was extremely lucky to have many talented and generous photographers take me under their wing to show

    me the ropes. Without their valuable advice there is no way I would have become the photographer I am


    Ironically, the number one question I now get asked as an Open producer is How do I take better photos?

    So along with some tips that Ive picked up over the years, Ive recruited some outstanding snappers across

    Australia to share their own secret techniques about how they take their photos to the next level.

    1. Get in close

    It was the famous photojournalist Robert Capa (http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?

    VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL535353) who once said If your photographs arent good

    enough, youre not close enough. He was talking about getting in amongst the action. If you feel like your

    images arent popping, take a step or two closer to your subject. Fill the frame with your subject and see how

    much better your photo will look without so much wasted space. The closer you are to the subject, the better

    you can see their facial expressions too.

  • 2. Shoot every day

    The best way to hone your skills is to practice. A lot. Shoot as much as you can it doesnt really matter

    what. Spend hours and hours behind your camera. As your technical skills improve over time, your ability to

    harness them to tell stories and should too. Dont worry too much about shooting a certain way to begin with.

    Experiment. Your style your voice will emerge in time. And it will be more authentic when it does. Leah


    Leah Robertson is a super talented Melbourne based photographer and videographer, specialising in music

    and documentary photography.You can see her work here (http://leahrobertson.com/).

    3. See the light

    Before you raise your camera, see where the light is coming from, and use it to your advantage. Whether it is

    natural light coming from the sun, or an artificial source like a lamp; how can you use it to make your photos

    better? How is the light interacting with the scene and the subject? Is it highlighting an area or casting

    interesting shadows? These are all things you can utilise to make an ordinary photo extraordinary.

    4. Ask permission

    When photographing people, especially while in countries with different cultures and languages, it can be

    hard to communicate. In certain countries if you photograph someone you are not supposed to photograph,

    it can get ugly and rough very quickly if you are not careful. So out of respect you should always ask

    permission. I have started shooting a series of school children in Pakistan. These are all posed portraits and

    they are looking down the lens. My guide helps me with the language and I limit myself to smiling, shaking

    hands, giving hi-five and showing them the image on the back of my camera once it is done. You would be

    amazed how quickly people open up. Andrea Francolini

    Andrea Francolini is a well known Italian born, Sydney based sports photographer. He is also the founder of

    My First School (http://www.my-first-school.org/), as trust which has the aim to facilitate educations in

    Northern Pakistan. You can see his work here (http://www.afrancolini.com/).

    5. Use flash during the day

    You might think that you should only use flash at night time or indoors, but thats not the case at all. If it is an

    extremely bright day outside and the sun is creating harsh shadows on your subject, switch on your flash. By

    forcing extra light onto your subject, you will be able to fill in those ugly shadows and create an even


    6. ISO

    There are questions to ask yourself when deciding what ISO to use:

    What time of day are you shooting? If you are shooting outside during the middle of the day you will need to

    use a lower ISO such as 100 or 200. If you are shooting at night time without a tripod you will have to

    increase the ISO to a higher number to be able to record the light on the cameras sensor.

    Will the subject be well lit? If your subject or scene is too dark you will need to use a higher ISO such as 800

    or 1600.

  • Do you want a sharp image or an image with more movement in it? Using a high shutter speed to capture fast

    movement might mean that you need to use a high ISO to compensate. Likewise, if youre using a slow

    shutter speed to capture blur you will need a low ISO to compensate.

    Dont forget, increasing your ISO increases the grain or pixel size in your photo. So dont use an ISO of 3200

    or 6400 if you dont want a photo with a lot of digital noise.

    7. f/4

    f/4 is my go to aperture. If you use a wide aperture with a long lens (200mm-400mm) youre able to separate

    the subject from the background. This helps them stand out. Works every time. Peter Wallis

    Peter Wallis is a sports photographer extraordinaire, working for The Courier Mail in Brisbane. You can see

    his work here (http://peterwallisphoto.com/).

    8. Youve got to be joking

    A well timed joke will always yield a more natural smile, than simply saying smile Dean Bottrell

    Dean Bottrell is a Emerald based photographer who specializes in portraiture. You can see his work here


    9. Buy books, not gear

    Having expensive camera equipment doesnt always mean that youll take good photos. Ive seen some

    absolutely amazing images shot with nothing more than a smart phone. Instead of having ten different lenses,

    invest in some fantastic photography books. By looking at the work of the masters, not only do you get

    inspired, you come away with ideas to improve your own photos.

    10. Read your cameras manual

    The best way to know what to do with your camera is to actually read the manual. So many people miss this

    really important step on their photographic journey. Every camera is different, so by reading the manual youll

    get to know all the funky things its capable of.

    11. Slow down

    Take time to think about what is going on in the viewfinder before pressing the shutter. How are you going to

    compose the shot? How are you going to light it? Dont jump straight in without giving it some thought first.

    Brad Marsellos

    Brad Marsellos (https://open.abc.net.au/openregions/qld-wide-bay-71AY7Fz) is the Wide Bay ber Open

    producer. You can see his photos, videos and musings on life here (https://open.abc.net.au/openregions/qld-


    12. Stop chimping (checking the photo on the back screen)

    Its a bad habit digital photographers can develop. Time and time again I see photographers take a

    photograph and then look at the back of the screen straight away. By doing that you could miss all the

    special moments. You can look at your photos later. You can miss the shot and it affects the flow of your

    work, so just keep shooting! Marina Dot Perkins

  • The lovely Marina Dot Perkins is a news, travel and wedding photographer who worked for The Canberra

    Times and is now based in Newcastle.

    13. Framing

    This is a technique to use when you want to draw attention to something in your photograph. By framing a

    scene or a subject, say with a window or an archway, you lead the viewers eye to the primary focal point.

    14. Shape with light

    Never shoot with the sun directly behind you. It creates boring, flat light on the subject. If you shoot with the

    light source to the side or behind the subject, you are able to shape with the light, creating a more interesting

    photo. Patria Jannides

    Patria is not only a talented news photographer, she is also my long term friend, mentor, and personal cheer

    squad. She even helped me to land my first job as a paid photographer. Thanks for everything P xxx

    15. Watermarks

    This tip isnt in direct relation to TAKING photos, but it does affect the look of photos. When it comes to

    watermarks, the smaller the better. And if you can avoid using them, do.

    Chances are, unless you are a paid professional, theres not much of a chance of your photos getting nicked.

    But in reality, they wont prevent your images from getting stolen. They only distract from the fabulous image

    that youve created, because once youve slapped a watermark all over it, thats all the viewer will be looking

    at. The only way you can prevent your images from being stolen is to not publish them on the internet.

    Read Open producer Luke Wongs blog post on watermarks here (https://open.abc.net.au/openregions/nsw-


    16. Be present

    This means make eye-contact, engage and listen to your subject. With the eyes lower that camera and be

    human. Bring the camera up for a decisive shot. But remember to lower it, like youre coming up for air, to

    check in with your subject. Dont treat them like a science experiment under a microscope. Being there with

    your subject shows them respect, levels the playing field in terms of power dynamics, and calms them down.

    Youll get much more natural images this way. Heather Faulkner

    Heather Faulkner is a photographer who convenes the ePhotojournalism major at QCA, Griffith University.

    She is also the executive director of The Argus (http://theargus.net.au/), a student-run, visual journalism

    online magazine. See her personal work here (http://heatherfaulkner.com.au/).

    17. Shutter speed

    Being aware of your shutter speed means the difference between taking a blurry photo and a sharp photo. It

    all depends on what you are after. If you are shooting a sporting event or children running around in the

    backyard, you probably want your subjects to be in focus. To capture fast action you will have to use a

    shutter speed over 1/500th of a second, if not 1/1000th to 1/2000th. On the opposite end of the scale, you

    might want to capture the long streaks of a cars tail lights running through your shot. Therefore you would

    change your cameras shutter speed to a long exposure. This could be one second, ten seconds, or even


  • 18. Charge your batteries

    This seems like a simple one, but pretty much every photographer on the face of the planet has been caught

    out before. Including myself. The trick is to put the battery onto the charger as soon as you get home from

    your photo shoot. The only thing then is to make sure you remember to put it back into the camera after it

    has been recharged

    19. Focal length

    Keep it simple. I shoot with two prime lenses and one camera; A 28mm and a 35mm. For everything. I use the

    35mm lens 70% and the 28mm lens 30% of time. It takes some time to get used to it, but once you work it out,

    shooting primes is the only way to go. It means you have to work with what you have and you cant be lazy.

    Basically, this means more pictures and less fiddling around with zooming and maybe missing moments. It

    also helps for consistency. If youre working on a project or a series, keeping the same focal lengths is a

    great way to maintain a powerful sense of consistency. Justin Wilkes

    Justin Wilkes quit his job in Sydney this year to cover the political and social change in post revolution Egypt.

    He has since had his photographs published in The New York Times, TIME magazine, and The Jakata

    Globe to name but a few. You can see his amazing documentary work here


    20. Be part of a photographic community

    Like ABC Open (https://open.abc.net.au/explore)! Not only will you be able to publish your photos for the rest

    of the country to see, youll be part of an active group that offers feedback on how great you are going. You

    can learn new things to help you improve your technique, and you might even make some new photography


    21. Shoot with your mind

    Even when youre not shooting, shoot with your mind. Practice noticing expressions and light conditions.

    Work out how youd compose a picture of that scene over there that interests you, and what sort of exposure

    you might use to capture it best. Leah Robertson

    22. Return the favor

    Always remember that if you are shooting people in a different country, they are probably doing you a favor

    by posing. So the least you can do is return this favor some way or another.

    I often return to the same places year after year, so I bring along prints and look for the people I

    photographed previously. In some areas people do not have a picture of themselves. Imagine not having a

    picture of you and your family? Strange dont you think? Yet many people dont. So a $0.50 print can really

    make someone happy. It also opens doors for more photography further down the track. Andrea Francolini

    23. Have a camera on you at all times

    You cant take great photos if you dont have a camera on you, can you? DSLR, point-and-shoot or smart

    phone, it doesnt really matter. As long as you have access to a camera, youre able to capture those

    spontaneous and unique moments in life that you might have otherwise missed.

  • 24. The golden hour

    Shoot portraits and landscapes in the golden hours the light is softer and the colours are more vibrant.

    Dean Bottrell

    25. Keep it simple

    Dont try to pack too many elements into your image; it will just end up looking messy. If you just include one

    or two points of interest, your audience wont be confused at where they should be looking or what they

    should be looking at.

    26. Dont get bogged down by equipment

    Weve all seen these types of photographers out and about. They usually have three or four different

    cameras strapped around their necks with lenses long enough for an African safari. In reality, theres

    probably no need for all that equipment. One body with one or two lenses means that youll be freer in your

    movements to capture interesting angles or subjects on the move.

    27. Perspective

    Minimize the belly-button photograph. This is a reference to Moholy Nagy (http://www.moholy-nagy.com/) of

    the Bauhaus (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/phbh/hd_phbh.htm) movement in photography (which was

    all about lines of perspective). In other words, perspectives are more engaging when we crouch down, or lie

    down, or elevate our position in reference to the subject. Look at how changing your perspective can change

    the visual language and implied power dynamics of the image. Crouching low can make your subject more

    dynamic, whereas gaining height on your subject can often minimize their presence in the image. One of my

    favorite exercises is to make my students lie down and take pictures, often in the dirt. I am a little cheeky.

    Heather Faulkner

    28. Be aware of backgrounds

    Whats in your frame? So often I see great photos and think didnt they see that garba...