How to take good photos – 5 tips

I’m not a professional on the subject of photography but I’m a keen photo-taker with both my iPhone and DSLR and I’ve been on a few courses. A few of my friends and family occasionally ask me for advice re. photography so I thought I’d share some tips.

I read a comment on Twitter earlier about how it’s important to just take ‘in the moment’ shots and not to worry so much about the ‘perfect’ picture. But if you know some of the ‘rules’ then you’ll just start taking ‘better’ pictures naturally. You may even want to print them off and frame them!

1) The Rule of Thirds
This is fundamental to all art and photography (although some artists/photographers break the rules – but it’s about knowing the rules first!) I’ll try and explain it: imagine a grid (See pics) as you take a picture. This then breaks up the image into ‘thirds’ both horizontally and vertically. If you place points of interest E.g. a person/horizon line/object/landmark etc on one of the four lines that make the grid, the picture will be more pleasing to the eye as it will be more balanced.
Think about ‘the eye’ going on a journey into the picture – the best pictures take your eye on a natural journey through the picture and create depth. One thing I see that people do wrong with landscapes is to put the horizon line in the middle of the picture – this creates frustration for the eye as it doesn’t know which bit to look at first.

2) Portraits/pictures of people
A friend of mine posts pictures of herself and husband (selfies) in front of famous monuments blocking the view of it. Argh! My advice with taking pictures of people is to either: take a close up so that the eye is not distracted by the background. Or make the subject part of the landscape. I’ll explain and see pics below: have the person stand in the landscape doing something they would naturally be doing in it E.g. walking, looking at a monument. Also, remember the Rule of Thirds and if someone is looking one way they should look ‘into’ the picture not to the other side.
Another thing to remember when taking pictures of people, is to make them feel at ease and ‘art direct’ them if possible (not easy with kids or animals!) Tell them where to stand, make them laugh, move etc.

3) Light
Light can make or break a picture. If it’s a rainy or cloudy day, I’m less likely to take pictures as I know I won’t get a good photo. Of course, really good photographers can get around it and it depends on what you’re taking pictures of. But as I mainly like to take landscapes, light is important. It adds contrast in a picture and can bring a landscape alive. With a DSLR you can use different functions such as ISO or shutter speed to create more light. For example, when I took some snow pictures this winter – I played with the ISO to give more light. On an iPhone, you can’t really do this so I generally wait for the sun to come out!
When taking pictures of people, make sure light is on their face and they are not in the shade. The perfect light is usually at sunset and it can make you look more photogenic!

4) Try a different perspective
When taking a photo, we usually stand and hold the camera at the same height. But how about kneeling down or lying on the floor looking up? Think about interesting ways to take a picture from different angles. For example, if taking pictures of flowers in a park or field, get right in among them and have one as a close up and the others in the background. If the horizon line is going through the middle of the picture – how about tilting the angle?

5) Perspective
Do you remember the basics of this from school? It’s the same principle in photography. Perspective creates depth – you’re trying to create 3D within a 2D image. It also links to the ‘Rule of Thirds’ as it’s about taking the eye on a journey into the picture. Some of my favourite photos by people I follow on Instagram have great perspective – tree lined drives or cathedrals provide good perspective. You could have the ‘vanishing point’ centrally in the picture or off to the side. If you are taking a picture of a group of the same object, E.g. columns in a Roman ruins, don’t take the picture head on – move so that the first one is in the foreground to create more of a sense of depth.

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