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10 Beginning Photography Tips

I've been researching and writing about consumer electronics for over 13 years.

Want Great Photos? Maybe You Need Some Good Basic Photography Tips

This article is dedicated to anyone who has experienced envy upon viewing someone else's photos; photos which receive acclaim from all who see them. The first question is always "what camera did you use?" but in reality, the quality of the picture often has more to do with the skill of the person capturing the photo.

Most of us don't care to study photography for months but do hope to learn some basic photography tips that will result in images we're proud to share. Below you will find many useful tidbits which could yield much better results. These tips and hints are directed toward those who are true beginners and are using a basic point and shoot camera with few manual adjustments. If you have the time, please be sure to share your own words of wisdom and tips.

Tip #1: Get A Steady Shot

Probably the most frequent problem for a true novice is blurry shots. The good news is it is easy to correct this problem and my beginning photography tips addresses this issue.

  • The easiest solution is to use a tripod. Many are adjustable and can accommodate any type of surface. They are an absolute necessity when shooting up close or taking nighttime images due to the slower shutter speed.
  • But face it, you don't always have a tripod with you. A fallback option is to use another solid/level surface if it is available. I've been known to use the roof of my car or a picnic table.
  • While not imperfect, an even more readily available method is to learn to hold the camera properly. Although generally inadequate for low light situations, it suffices in many other instances.
    -- When standing or sitting, grasping the camera with two hands is generally best, holding your elbows in close to your body.
    -- Your stance can assure stability overall. Standing with legs apart to provide a wide base of support or perhaps bracing against a tree or other structure are both good options.
    -- When a lower stance is appropriate, it's possible to kneel with one knee up, bracing your elbows on your knee to provide the needed stability.

Tip #2: You Need to Reduce Distractions

Now that you have a clear shot, the next point addresses what you want in the picture. Generally, you want to be sure the subject of your photograph is indeed the subject. Reducing distractions in the background is important.

  • Look through the viewfinder (or perhaps on the LCD screen) before taking the shot and assure that there are no other objects, people, or activity that will draw attention away from your subject. The background should be uncluttered in most instances.
  • If the subject of your shot can't be moved to a better location perhaps you, the photographer, can change your position. For instance, consider stepping in closer or zooming in to reduce distractions in the surrounding area.

Hint

Take multiple shots to assure you get a good one. With digital photography, you just delete what you don't want.

Tip #3: Get the Right Perspective

Another common mistake beginners make is to stand too far away when a subject is a person, animal, or object.

  • If you want to see the kind of detail that really impresses, step closer, or use zoom if necessary. Check your camera though as it can probably only focus within a certain range; closer than a few feet may require a macro mode and/or special lenses and certainly, shots taken too close can be unflattering.
  • You also need to be at eye level in most instances. Don't be afraid to get down on your knees or on the ground when your subject (a pet or child for instance) requires it.

Hint

Use the correction lines you see through the viewfinder (or use the electronic viewfinder if your camera has one) to be sure you have framed the shot correctly; otherwise what you see may not be what you get!

Tip #4: Put the Sun In It's Place

No list of beginning photography tips would be complete without discussing lighting.

When taking pictures outdoors, home photographers have to be careful about direct sunlight. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If the sun is at the photographer's back, the subject may be forced to face the sun, resulting in squinting. In addition, the photographer's shadow may become a distraction in the resulting image.
  • Bright sunlight, present at mid-day, may create harsh shadows on the subjects face.
  • If the photographer faces the sun there may well be a great deal of glare created, obscuring the subject. In addition, with the sun facing the photographer lighting is behind the subject. This results in backlighting which may darken the face of the subject.

There are three basic things a home photographer can do to help remedy these problems:

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  • Take pictures early or late in the day versus at mid-day or make use of shaded areas.
  • Use fill flash or forced flash mode in an outdoor shot to lighten shadows created by bright sunlight (this works only if the photographer is within flash range) or use a reflector to bounce light on the subject.
  • Position themselves so that the sun is at the photographers right or left shoulder to avoid backlighting or forcing subjects to squint.

Tip #5: Be Careful Using the Flash Indoors

Because lighting is so important, using a flash can be vital indoors.

  • Remember that flash is useless beyond a certain distance from the subject. The range varies by the camera but is typically around 13 to 15 feet, so use it only when it will improve the shot.
  • To avoid photos in which your subject has "red eyes" when using flash photography, be sure to have them avoid looking directly into the camera when shooting.
  • Many cameras also have a "red eye reduction" feature which is usually effective.

Hint

Drawing attention to a subject can be the extra touch you need. Framing them in a doorway, on a swing, surrounded by blooms, and so forth can focus attention on them.

Tip #6: Avoid Glare

Glare is a problem that beginners often encounter, especially when indoors and making use of the flash feature. Avoiding glare is simple in most instances and can be achieved by assuring that the camera is not pointed directly toward any reflective surface such as a television screen, mirror, or window.

The same issue can also occur outdoors when photographing near water. For this reason, care must be taken even when the flash is not in use. Choosing the right time of day, careful positioning, a camera filter, or using shade can help in these outdoor situations

Hint

In many instances, the most visually interesting shot is one in which your subject is slightly left or right of center unless they fill the frame entirely.

Tip #7: Get in the Right Mode

If you're a novice you probably don't want to deal with manual controls. Luckily, there are digital camera scene modes which allow us to adjust things with a little less precision but with significantly improved results. Another great beginning photography tip I know is to learn about these commonly used settings so that you can take advantage of what they offer.

  • Landscape Mode
    This mode allows more of a scene to be in focus; thus a scene of a rock-strewn stream with a mountain in the background will allow both elements to be clear.
  • Nighttime Mode
    This mode makes use of all available light in a dark scene. Assuring a steady camera is critical in such shots.
  • Portrait Mode
    To be used in photographing people or pets. It results in a sharp focus on the subject versus the background.
  • Beach/Snow Modes
    This mode will keep true colors despite extreme lighting conditions.
  • Sports/Action Mode
    This mode helps the photographer capture rapid movement without blurring.
  • Macro Mode
    This mode is used to get good focus when shooting a subject/object within less than a few feet of the camera.

Hint

Some digital cameras are slow. If you are waiting for a precise moment, such as a child blowing out candles, hold the button halfway down as you wait, then the camera will respond faster when you depress it completely to capture a specific moment.

Tip #8: Choose A Vertical or Horizontal Shot Based on Your Subject

There are two things to consider when deciding whether to take a "portrait" (vertical) shot or a "landscape" (horizontal) shot.