Here’s some two-cent advice regarding how to improve your photography. You’d be surprised how far a few basic rules will take you:
- Understand and use the Rule of Thirds composition strategy. Most cameras have a setting to overlay a Rule of Thirds grid on the viewfinder / screen.
- Understand, look for, and use Leading Lines.
- Simplify the scene as much as possible. Focus on a particular subject and eliminate distractions from the frame. See also: Fill the Frame
- Limit background distractions – move around if necessary to eliminate distracting items from the background. Zoom in from a distance, or use a wide aperture to blur the background.
USING YOUR CAMERA
- You can blur distracting backgrounds by using a wide aperture (lower f-stop) to create a short depth of field. Most cameras have a setting labeled “A” which means “Aperture Priority”. This allows you to set the aperture, while the camera automatically sets the shutter speed, white balance, etc. You can also create a shorter depth of field by backing away from your subject and zooming in. (On a side note – if you enjoy learning the inner workings of a new technology, you can spend countless hours studying aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings, etc., but you don’t HAVE to.)
- If you plan to post-process your photos on a computer, always shoot RAW. Here are some reasons why.
MY PERSONAL TIPS
- PRACTICE – take your camera out somewhere for the express purpose of practicing your composition and DOF techniques. Take lots of pictures.
- CHECK THE CORNERS – Before clicking the shutter button, look at the corners of your image to make sure that (A) they don’t contain distracting noise, and (B) any leading lines you’re trying to use enter/exit the image where you want them to.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO SQUAT – Shooting from a low perspective can give you a more interesting image, and can sometimes help in composition, by eliminating or aligning objects in the frame.
- TELL THE STORY – For both travel photography and when shooting at family events, I try to focus on “documenting” as much as “taking pictures”. That is, I try to capture memorable moments, experiences, etc., rather than just lining everybody up in a row to take their picture. Suppose the barbecue goes up in flames during the family reunion – if you have your camera in hand during the conflagration, take pictures of it and the attempts to put it out. If you don’t have your camera handy (or decide that helping put out the fire would be a better use of your time,) then take pictures of the immediate aftermath (Uncle Bob proudly holding up the charred meat next to the carbonized grill, etc.)
- MOVE AROUND – Usually, the first vantage point from which you see something doesn’t provide the best perspective or light. Move around until you get a composition you like.
- LIGHT PEOPLE FROM THE SIDE – When taking a photo of people, move yourself and your subjects until they are lit from one side and slightly to the front. Do everything you can to avoid back-lighting people, unless you’re using a flash or are going for a particular artistic look.