Digital photography has made photography more accessible to everyone. People are shooting more images than ever before and sharing them with friends and family in unprecedented numbers. If your photos aren’t as good as those you see online, it’s tempting to blame the camera (or your smartphone), but by following a few principles, you can enhance the quality of your photos without having to spend a lot of money on a new camera. Keep these ten simple pointers in mind the next time you go out to photograph the world around you. Also, please share any tips you’ve learned that have helped you capture better photos in the comments section.
1. Master the fundamentals of composition
The composition of a photograph—the placement of various objects in a frame—is at its core. The Rule of Thirds is the simplest rule to learn and remember. Essentially, you’ll want to divide your frame into nine fairly equal squares. Try to place your photo’s topic along these lines and intersections, and visualize the main image is divided into nine boxes. This creates a more dramatic and visually appealing photo than if your subject is in the middle of the frame. When photographing, many cameras and smartphones have a rule of thirds grid overlay that you can use.
2. Make exposure compensation adjustments
As long as you aren’t shooting in full manual mode, your digital camera is making decisions about how light or dark a photo is exposed. In general, a camera examines a picture and attempts to determine the proper exposure based on the optimal illumination of a grey card, which is why special scene settings for snow exist—without them, the camera would attempt to turn white snow grey.
You can either explore through the hundreds of scene settings available in current point-and-shoot cameras or just dial in a bit of exposure correction if a photo is overly bright or dark. Many cameras contain a +/- symbol on a physical button or dial for this. Lower the scale-up above 0 if your photo is too dark; if it’s too light, move it down a little.
3. Select the Appropriate Shooting Mode
Your camera’s shooting modes are likely to be numerous, ranging from entirely automatic to extremely precise scene modes. If you’re shooting fast action, switch to Shutter Priority (“S” or “Tv”) mode and increase the shutter speed—1/125 second or faster will help to freeze action, and for really fast subjects (like the hummingbird below), use the shortest shutter speed possible to freeze motion or a longer one to add motion blur to the flapping wings.
In low light, utilize Aperture Priority (“A” or “Av”) mode to ensure that as much light as possible enters the lens, or close the lens’s iris to improve depth of field, keeping everything in perfect focus from the foreground to the horizon if you’re shooting landscapes on a tripod. If you shoot with a DSLR, you’re more likely to use the A or S modes, although point-and-shoot cameras often have more particular modes for sports, low-light shooting, or landscape photography.
4. Consider Lighting
When taking images, pay attention to how much light you have and where it comes from. If you’re shooting outside, avoid photographing people with the sun behind them unless you want to create a portrait with dramatic flare (make sure to dial in positive EV adjustment if you do). If you’re taking a picture in front of a monument or landmark and don’t want it to be overexposed, use fills flash to make your backlit subject as bright as the background. On a bright day, you might have to manually activate the flash because the camera could think it’s unneeded.
5. Make judicious use of your flash.
A flash fired too near to a subject has ruined many a photograph. If your friends and family look like Casper the Friendly Ghost when you picture them, you’re probably photographing them too close together. If you need to use the flash, step back and zoom in a little to achieve the right framing. Check to see if flash correction is available if things are still too bright—or too dark. Many cameras let you change the flash’s power, which can help your flash-assisted photographs look more balanced. It’s possible to fill in shadows with only a little bit of light, resulting in a more natural-looking photo.
6. Shift your viewpoint
The majority of snapshooters and beginners will stand on two legs and take pictures at eye level. While this is acceptable for many photographs, it is not always the best option. You can more easily film from a low or high angle to gain a different perspective on your subject if you have a camera with a tilting screen.
If your camera doesn’t have a tilting LCD, consider going down low to the ground to obtain the greatest images of pets and toddlers, the camera should be at their eye level for a striking image. With a digital camera, you don’t have to pay for every image, so experiment with different perspectives and camera settings until you find one that catches a moment and stands out from the crowd.
7. Keep an eye on your white balance
Based on the sort of light you’re shooting in, your camera will attempt to set white balance automatically. Distinct types of light cast different colors: sunlight is highly blue, tungsten lighting is yellow, and fluorescent lighting is slightly green. In many circumstances, the camera will recognize the sort of lighting you’re in and alter the colour in your images to make them look more realistic.
When White Balance is incorrect, though, you can get results like the one above—the image on the left is balanced appropriately, while the one on the right is completely off. You can manually set the white balance if you’re shooting in different lighting conditions or if the camera is having trouble figuring things out. To change the White Balance on most point-and-shoot cameras, you’ll have to go into the shooting menu, although many SLRs include a dedicated White Balance button, often branded “WB.” You can fix colour in the accompanying Mac or Windows photo editing apps later, but getting the white balance right the first time will result in better-looking photographs.
8. Use a Monopod or Tripod
Taking a little extra time can sometimes be the greatest way to get your shot just right. A tripod, combined with your camera’s self-timer, will allow you to set up framing and will help you get that photo of you and the kids in front of Mount Rushmore. If you use a point-and-shoot camera, you can get away with an inexpensive tripod, but investing a little more on a brand like Manfrotto or MeFoto can save you a lot of hassle compared to bargain brands you’ll find at the local five and dime. Owners of mirrorless systems and SLR cameras should choose a tripod carefully, as a set of legs and a head that are solid enough to hold the camera are essential.
A monopod—which is exactly what it sounds like, a tripod with two of its legs missing—will help you stabilize your shots if you’re more of a run-and-gun photographer. A monopod is supplemented by your two legs to add stability to your camera—without the sometimes-complicated setup and breakdown required with a good tripod. Great for use at zoos and sporting events, a monopod is supplemented by your two legs to add stability to your camera without the sometimes-complicated setup and breakdown required with a good tripod.
9. Pick your battles.
When shooting digitally, it’s simple to take hundreds of photographs in a few hours. But don’t just delete everything from your memory card and upload anything to Facebook. Spend some time searching through your images to get rid of any duplicates and remove any photos that are out of focus or poorly arranged. It’s preferable to upload a few dozen amazing images all by themselves rather than a few dozen good photos buried among hundreds of bad ones.
10. Don’t Forget to Post-Process Your Work
To organize and edit your images, consider using the software. Basic organization and editing features are available in Apple Photos and Microsoft Photos. Check out VSCO or Snapseed if you like to edit your photos on your phone. A photo’s quality can be substantially improved by performing some simple modifications. Cropping and rotating a photo such that the horizon lines are straight might help with composition. It’s a tall objective to get immaculate images in camera; there’s no harm in a little tweaking.