Top 10 Tips for Taking Better Pictures
An Easy to Understand Guide™ to Better Photography
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Photo Tip #1: Don't Sleep In
If you want to get some of the best pictures you will have to fight the desire to hit that snooze button we all love so much. Getting up before the sun rises and getting to your location is critical if you are to get some of that golden glow that you see in many professional photographs. Here is an image that I got of the Turret Arch through the North Window that shows how a sunrise upon an already beautiful landscape can really make it pop.
Nikon D60 and Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens - 26mm 1/160 seconds f/22, ISO 200
Photo Tip #2: Use the Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is a simple rule of photography composition that tells us to put the main subject of our photograph off center in order to give a more pleasing look to an image. I find that this rule has helped me to make some potentially ordinary images look more appealing in a quick! To read a more detailed explanation read my article on the rule of thirds here)
"War Eagle Bridge and Mill, Arkansas"
Nikon D60 and Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens - 34mm 1/500 second f/5, ISO 800
Photo Tip #3: Get Eye to Eye
Whether you are taking pictures of people, pets or wildlife you can get a much more interesting look if you will just get down on their level...eye level that is! Getting face to face with your subject can be a great way to show the emotion and detail of your subject and give your viewers a sense that they are actually behind the camera with you.
Photo Tip #4: Lock the Focus
One thing that used to bug me was when I would go to all the trouble to set up a shot and lock in the focus and get the exact composition I wanted then only to get home and to find out that the image was blurry. What I realized was that it wasn't that I didn't get my subject originally in focus, but instead that the focal point somehow moved enough to throw the auto-focus of the camera off just enough to give me an unusable picture!
So now what I do, especially if I am not certain that my subject will not move forwards or backwards, is I first get the focus range I want and then unlock the auto-focus feature. This helps to keep the focal point the same regardless of what happens to my subject.
Photo Tip #5: Slow it Down
In order to capture the "milky" look of flowing water you will need to use a slower shutter speed. A shutter speed between 1 to 2 seconds is usually preferred to give the water enough time to create the desired effect. If I am not in full Manual mode, I really like to use the Shutter Priority function due to the ability it gives me to dial in my own shutter speed while the camera adjusts the aperture to create a good exposure with little effort. Sometimes it might take a couple attempts to really get the look I am going for, but it's nice to let the camera do some of the thinking for me so I can focus on things like composition and keeping my feet dry!
Just note that as long as your camera's shutter is open it is constantly taking in information to the camera's sensor. So you have to be careful not to overexpose the water (make it too bright) by allowing too much light to hit the sensor. If you are using Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority then the camera will adjust the ISO or aperture to try to keep from any overexposure, but if you are in Manual Mode you will have to do all the adjustments.
One quick way to tell if you have overexposed areas on your image is to look on your cameras monitor and see if the water seems way too bright. Some cameras have a nifty tool where you can actually just click a button and marching ants (moving dashes) will appear wherever overexposure has occurred. If your water is overexposed then try speeding the shutter speed up a bit until you get a good even silky look to the water or add a polarizing filter or some other filter which will allow you to darken the scene (which we will look at more shortly).
|Nikon D60 and Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens - 18mm 1.6 seconds f/22, ISO 100|
Photo Tip: #6 Take a Good Sturdy Tripod
You can have the best subject in the world to photograph but if you get home and the photos aren't clear and sharp then it really doesn't matter. As I like to say, it's better to have a sharp run-of-the-mill picture you can use than a blurry beautiful one you cannot! While most people like to flexibility of hand-holding their camera for most of their photographs, there are times when a good tripod can save the day! Regardless of whether I think I will use my tripod, I almost always take it with me just in case I get in a pinch. (Note: I even use my tripod as a walking stick if I am needing to climb up or down steep grades!)
Hopefully you have one that will adequately hold the weight of your camera well for long periods of time without moving or shaking. If not, then you can get a really good one for a decent price at any of the following online retailers - B&H, Adorama or Amazon.
Photo Tip #7: Go Vertical
A very simple, yet effective trick to creating a unique composition is to simply turn the camera vertically! This can really create a different angle or look on an image that might otherwise look just like everyone else's. In the photograph below I was out shooting at Grand Canyon and I wanted to get a little different look than everyone else who photographs this iconic location.
Nikon D60 and Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens - 24mm 1/100 seconds f/9, ISO 200
Photo Tip #8: Do Some Homework
Doing a little scouting before you go to a location is, in my opinion, to getting great shots. Now while some of the best photographs can be totally unplanned, you can increase the chances of getting better images by simply doing a little research. Some things that I usually look at before I go shooting on location are:
These are just a few of the things I do, but hopefully they will get you thinking about the type of research I do in order to increase my odds of getting better images on location.
Photo Tip #9: Stay Up Past Your Bedtime
One of my growing interests is by far night photography. In the last few years I have really become interested in staying out after sunset and capturing the beauty of our world under the stars. Night photography can be extremely rewarding, although difficult as well, even if you know what you are doing. Below is an image I took almost an hour after sunset:
|Nikon D700 12.1MP and Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor Lens - 105mm 104.0 seconds f/13, ISO 100 (photographed almost 40 minutes after sunset)|
Click here if you would like to read an article I wrote about some tips to great night photography.
Photo Tip #10: Never Give Up
The final tip I have is to never give up on a photo shoot and to always keep your camera in hand until you are driving away from your location. The reason is because you just never know when that magic moment will happen. One of my favorite photographs I have ever taken was in San Antonio, Texas inside of a Nature Preserve and was totally unplanned.
I had been trying to capture some of the unique landscapes and streams inside of the park all to no avail. I was almost in the parking lot, and had pretty much chalked the day up as a photo-shoot-dud, when out of the blue this little squirrel came running up a tree right beside me and just looked at me as if it to say "Cheese!!!"
I luckily was able to snap a couple shots right before that little critter ran down the tree and off into the park. That day I learned to never give up when I am out photographing because you just never know what might happen! To say the least, that little squirrel saved my day and taught me a great lesson indeed.
Nikon D60 and Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Nikkor Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras - 135mm 1/100 second f/5, ISO 800