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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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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
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.
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.
- How is the subject positioned?
A shot of a single tree is often best done as a "portrait" type shot so that it remains the focus of the shot without a lot of distracting area on either side of it. A row of ducklings following their mother, however, might be shot in a "landscape" or a horizontal fashion to eliminate all of the wasted space above and below them.
- What is the subject's direction of movement?
Obviously, capturing a rocket blasting off into the sky would best be highlighted with a vertical orientation while a horse race would be better represented with a horizontal orientation.
When taking a picture of someone who doesn't really want to pose or dislikes the whole process, try taking the shot when their attention is focused on something else; a task, a hobby, playing with a pet, interacting with another person, or something similar.
Tip #9: Learn How to Get Close Photos
Here are a few beginning photography tips for getting those up close shots.
- Check the camera to determine it's focusing range.
- If the camera has a macro mode, or close up mode, switch it on.
- Turn off the flash. In most instances, up close images are overexposed when flash is used. If flash is necessary, diffuse the light by covering the flash with a tissue to reduce the intensity of the light.
- It is best to use a tripod to assure a steady, focused shot. At close range, slight movements are more apparent.
For the best night time shots be sure to use a tripod and switch your digital camera to the night mode for the best exposure. In most instances, don't use a flash, turn it off. The best time to catch a shot is just before sunset when there is more available light or just as the moon is rising.
Tip #10: Get the Best Shot of Everyone in a Group
Taking pictures of friends and family is one of the most common uses of our cameras. Here are some tips to make the best of those shots.
- Most of us have taken photos of people only to find that their eyes were closed as the shot was being taken. This is particularly problematic when you're trying to capture multiple people in the same photo.
One technique which works well is to ask everyone to close their eyes. Then just as you're ready to press the button, ask them to open their eyes (and smile, if you wish). Blinking at the wrong moment is much less likely in this instance.
- If your camera has a significant delay, you can focus on your subject(s), press the button down halfway, and then after signaling that it's photo time, press the button down completely to take the shot. This will significantly reduce the delay.
- Tips for getting in close enough and at the same level of your subject which were mentioned above stand true as well.
Images look best when the horizon isn't centered perfectly, but instead is 2/3 from the top or bottom. Be sure to check carefully through the viewfinder to assure the horizon isn't tilted. Some people use a bubble level or tripod with a bubble level. Photo editing can also eliminate tilted horizons.
© 2008 Ruth Coffee
Beginning Photography Tips: Was this helpful? Let Us Know!
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on June 23, 2013:
Thanks for all the great tips...these are good for both the beginning photographer and as a refresher for the more experienced photographer.
anonymous on December 07, 2012:
How do you make a camera shoot in the dark or early in the morning when there isnt a whole lot of light without dragging out all the extra lights.
anonymous on July 16, 2012:
These are great tips and hints! I love that you have example photos and products right in the articles. Here is another great website with tips for beginning photographers you should check out. http://phototipsforbeginners.net/
anonymous on May 03, 2012:
thanks for the tips! i am also a beginning photographer can you guys check out my photos and tell me what you think ? http://www.tumblr.com/blog/fotagafi
anonymous on April 02, 2012:
These tips are what really helped me as a beginner to take good pictures http://howtofixstuff.blogspot.ca/2012/04/ten-tips-...
OrganicMom247 on July 28, 2011:
Great information, I found it really useful.
blackfin on July 23, 2011:
great info for startup photographers Wedding Photography Contract
Patricia on July 06, 2011:
MaxL on July 06, 2011:
Great lens! It's good to go back to the basic once in a while ;)
I'm trying to create a photographical community on Squidoo. Feel free to join!
anonymous on June 07, 2011:
Very helpful photography tips thanks for sharing... ;)
anonymous on May 24, 2011:
Thanks VERY helpful!! :)
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on May 06, 2011:
Lots of great tips here. blessed
Patricia on April 14, 2011:
This lens is featured on Ten Great Photography Tips
WhiteOak50 on April 01, 2011:
I had to revisit this page and I am dropping off an April Fools Day SquidAngel Blessing!!!!!
deyanis from Oz on March 03, 2011:
Yes, it is indeed very useful. --- Blessed and this lens is now being showcased on my baby squid angel lens ---
Patricia on February 11, 2011:
Great tips! I am blessing this lens and putting it on my Photography Angel lens!
JohnBaldwin on January 27, 2011:
I love photography and I could say that this is one of my greatest hobbies! I'm not a full time photographer, but still, I earn extra income with my photography skill. My dad has a business. When he decided to build a website, he used my creative photos as a theme for social network web design. Usually, users are get attracted with colorful and amazing pictures in a certain website. That's why my dad's idea for using some of my photos for social networking website design really works! There are lots of potential clients that has gotten interested in his business' services.
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on December 22, 2010:
Thanks for the help. Great lens. I particularly enjoyed the lighting tips.
photographytipsforbeginners on December 20, 2010:
This is a great lens. I love the way you have used the yellow post-it notes to break up the content. I'll make sure to update my blog with some of your tips:
John Dyhouse from UK on October 28, 2010:
wow, a great lens. I am just a holiday snapper with a longing to get better photos from my camera. I will be taking note of the tips here . Will be back often I guess to make sure that I have the information properly digested
anonymous on October 23, 2010:
You have provided a quantum leap of knowledge for the novice.
Now with digital cameras,
a very fast progression to more advanced stages is possible.
Nicely done. BG
SubtleMoon on October 20, 2010:
This is a very nicely done lens and is great for beginning photographers. I think you hit all of the good tips!
anonymous on September 20, 2010:
Taking pictures is not my best skill, but would love to learn someday, getting out and taking nature and landscape pictures. Your tips sound great and just what I need to get started! - Kathy
JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on July 26, 2010:
I am really enjoying my hobby of photography! Thanks for your excellent tips. I will certainly keep them in mind when I'm having fun snapping photos in the future. : )
Myrle-Beach-Photography on May 24, 2010:
This is a great lens. Very nice photos. If anyone is in the myrtle beach area, come check me out at Myrtle Beach Photography
ElizabethJeanAl on May 23, 2010:
I just bought a new camera and a telophoto lens. I'm having fun learning how to use it. Some (many) of my shots are blurry but the nice thing about digital photography is that you are not limited to one shot. It's been an experience.
MissPuppy on May 04, 2010:
Very Good lens. I LOVE photography! thanks for the tips. 5*
Tarra99 on April 17, 2010:
5* Great hints and tips...my sister is starting to turn her photography hobby into a side-career...I enjoy creating Zazzle products with my pics...it's a fun hobby! Love your cameras for kids lens too...my eldest is showing an interest in it too. Thanks btw, for popping into my fruit smoothie lens...I always appreciate your comments :o)
Sue Dixon from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK on March 04, 2010:
This is really helpful for me- I'm favoriting it to come back to. ( I know I have a tripod somewhere- I'm going to try to find it now!)
Watamyr on January 20, 2010:
I really like the way you put this together. Very usefull.
TheCampingTipster on January 16, 2010:
I found your lens very helpful. I featured it on a lens I recently made. You give good information in organized parts. Thank you.
anonymous on January 13, 2010:
Great info, 5*
WhiteOak50 on January 11, 2010:
I really enjoyed this lens when I visited it before, so I had to come back except this time, I get to: "Blessed by a SquidAngel" This lens does have some excellent tips for people who are wanting to get started with photography. Very nicely done!!
Peterdaniel on January 06, 2010:
Well learning a professional photography is a tough thing just need to go threw the basics This is a huge field and you'll have lots of fun â the rule of thumb is the more money you spend, the more you can do. But here's great writeup on printing photos outside: http://tictacdo.com/ttd/Print-Photographs-in-the-S... - let me know what you think.
oldbird on January 05, 2010:
Great lens to help me with my real "lens"!
"5" stars to your super lens... 'tis a lot of work and expertise you put into this - it shows!
Andy-Po on January 03, 2010:
Patricia on December 08, 2009:
These are great tips! I love photography! Blessed!
Linda Hoxie from Idaho on November 24, 2009:
Fantastic tips for any novice photographer, you have covered so many issues that come up in photography! Great info!
Mihaela Vrban from Croatia on November 03, 2009:
Great tips! Blessed by an Angel!
GrowWear on October 17, 2009:
Linking this from my Photo Studio group at the Giant Squid Challenge Ning. And Angel blessed. :)
kimmanleyort on August 25, 2009:
Thanks for your thoughtful comments on my seeing and creativity lens. Very much appreciated. This is a very good lens with lots of good tips. Lensrolling to my photography and creativity lenses.
Delia on August 07, 2009:
great hints and tips...5*
karen550 lm on June 24, 2009:
Looks like you covered all the basis. This is very nice, I like all the different problems you included. Nice job.
Tobbie LM on June 23, 2009:
Great portrait tip....who would have thought to have the subject close and then open their eyes before pressing the button? 5 *
GrowWear on June 17, 2009:
Just what I need. ...Going to break out the old camera more and more and want to take the best pix I can. Love these tips!
seashell2 on June 16, 2009:
Fabulous tips, I love photography also! Thanks for your great comments on my 'hydrangea' lens too!
inkserotica on June 01, 2009:
Excellent tips :) Will lensroll you to my photography debate :) 5*
HenryE LM on May 14, 2009:
This has a lot of great information. I'm not ever going to be a photographer but it's helpful just for snapping a few pictures with my digital camera even.
jaye3000 on May 04, 2009:
I recently purchased my first digital camera and have been obsessed with getting good pictures. I've been tinkering with settings quite a bit. This is a really helpful lens and one I'm sure to come back to...thanks!
maurogoncalo on March 16, 2009:
Personally, I'm an amateur photographer and love photography so much. Although I already knew some of those tips, they are still very good... Very good indeed...
Very good lens, very good work! 5 stars!
Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on February 21, 2009:
Very helpful. Great tips, I'm going to lensroll this to one of my royalty free photos lenses.
SideSplitters on January 04, 2009:
Great information, I need to use a tripod more often, especially for those end of day sunset shots. Thankfully we've all moved to digital, so I don't have have different speeds of film (what a waste!) lying around for different circumstances. It's so much easier now. These are definitely tips that will be put to good use. Thanks!
anonymous on November 13, 2008:
Bottle cap tripod? Who knew! If I get a good shot, it's strictly luck. I'm doing well if people can tell what the heck the shot is. These tips will be a big help. 5*
ElizabethJeanAl on November 08, 2008:
Welcome to the Totally Awesome Lenses Group.
WhiteOak50 on October 27, 2008:
This lens is great! I have just recently became real interested in photography and I am teaching myself. So finding this lens is a great find for me. My husband bought me tripod several months ago, and yet have I used it. I need to learn to work with that too. I am lensrolling this over to a few of my art lenses. In your opinion, is there a secret to using tripods?
kathypi lm on October 17, 2008:
GREAT PHOTO INFO LENS, I DID A LENSROLL TO MY LENS, MY INTERPRETATION, I LOVE NATURE AND PHOTOGRAPHY, KATHY
ElitePoetz LM on October 17, 2008:
Great lense! Lots of content, very helpful thanks!
packetlog on October 10, 2008:
excellent lens !!
starlitparlit on September 28, 2008:
I am newer to photography (about a year into it) and this is a very helpful lens. Feel free to look at some of my photography shots on
ChristiannaGarrett-Martin on September 23, 2008:
A fantastic Lens with excellent information. I love photography.
5 stars from me :)
Frankie Kangas from California on September 23, 2008:
Wow. Excellent lens with great information. Wish I'd seen it a week ago (before I went to Alaska with my new digital camera). Oh well, I learned a lot here and will put it to use immediately! I'll be back for more tips. 5 stars and a favorite (I'm already a fan.) Bear hugs, Frankie
packetlog on September 20, 2008:
very nice lens. thanks
Debbie from England on September 17, 2008:
Super tips on here...now I need to practise! 5 flashing stars for you!
VBright on September 17, 2008:
Wonderful tips! I have always wanted to take some of those breathtaking pictures that I see sometimes.
cappuccino136 on September 14, 2008:
Great tips and a nicely built lens!
dc64 lm on September 08, 2008:
Super lens! A good friend of mine dabbles in photography and I have even put one of his pic on my "Our Astounding Universe" lens. Me? My camera somehow broke when it was dropped onto a tiled floor from a height of about 5 feet :0
Anyways, 5 stars and now I'm a fan!
Mayflowerblood on September 07, 2008:
Bryan from Mayflowerblood
Tiddledeewinks LM on September 04, 2008:
Wonderful! Now I'll get my teen boys into this. Thanks for the info.
Tiddledeewinks LM on September 04, 2008:
Wonderful! Now I'll get my teen boys into this. Thanks for the info.
A RovingReporter on August 31, 2008:
Great tips in this five-star lens for those aspiring to be a photographer. Remember a journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.
Rob Hemphill from Ireland on August 27, 2008:
Great lens, and useful advice! 5*
Thanks for dropping by my Wine lens.
Patricia on August 25, 2008:
Love this lens! Great tips! 5 *****
anonymous on August 25, 2008:
Yes! It was very helpful, thanks!
LucyVet on August 19, 2008:
Great tips, thanks for sharing!
anonymous on July 24, 2008:
i like camras
anonymous on July 24, 2008:
Great information. Thanks for providing these tips for good photography. As a scrapbooker, I am always interested in creating better quality photos
amymort lm on May 28, 2008:
The tips on upclose photos helped a lot. I never knew what the macro setting was for.(duh) Thanks!!!
Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on May 18, 2008:
These are always a good reference to come back to. I think we often get too comfortable with today's digital camera and think it will take care of everything for us.
Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on May 17, 2008:
I'm back to read more. Very good information here. Did you forget to emphasize "Keep the horizon straight"? (Or did I just miss it?) This is Will Borden's pet peeve. 5 stars,favorite, lensrolled to my lenses. (Already a fan.)
Gregory-and-Shelina on May 08, 2008:
Photography is one of our favorite things to do, especially with a digital since you can pick which ones you like so easy. Didn't know you can push the button down halfway and wait. Thanks for the tip! Great article! ...Shelina
krisManuel on May 06, 2008:
Photography is one of my hobbies. 5-stars!
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on May 04, 2008:
A Fairy Tale Wolf was checking out your lens and liked it so well that he is sending you a virtual cup of coffee to hang on your wall.
June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on April 23, 2008:
Great information. Thanks for providing these tips for good photography. As a scrapbooker, I am always interested in creating better quality photos.
ElizabethJeanAl on April 18, 2008:
I'm getting better at taking pictures but I have a long way to go. Thanks for the tips.
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Robin S from USA on April 02, 2008:
Very helpful information here. Thank you again!
anonymous on March 22, 2008:
I just started in photography...thanks for your very helpful lens...5 stars!
rockycha on March 21, 2008:
Love this lens!
The Eclectic Muse on March 21, 2008:
anonymous on March 20, 2008:
great lens, lots of great tips!
TriviaChamp on March 20, 2008:
You have a knack for creating very interesting lens with useful topics. I am not much of a photographer but, maybe with a few of the tips I have read here I'll improve. Thanks.
All the best!