Flickr Image © Arif Akhtar
How to take Stunning Pictures?
What can I do to get Great Pictures?
What are the elements of a Great Snap?
These are a common question among our readers. With almost everyone having a camera or a phone, we are taking more pictures than ever. We don’t have to carry clunky cameras and there’s less chances of missing a snap because you forgot to bring your camera along.
However, just because you can take pictures anytime and anywhere does not mean that every picture you take comes out great. There are some universal rules of photography that can help you become a better photographer, and snap great pictures every time.
Here is a compilation of 10 of my favorite tips to snap great pictures, that have worked for me and helped save the day!
1. Get up close to the Subject
Flickr Photo (c) Ineke Heesterbeek
Don’t shoot from being too far from the subject, unless you are shooting wild life. If you are using a zoom lens, you should use the zoom to frame the subject tighter. Don’t leave the frame half filled.
And move around the subject. Rather than relying on the zoom, if you take a couple of steps to get closer to the subject, you’ll get a much better fit, a tighter frame, and a more vibrant picture.
2. Frame with the rule of thirds
Most pictures have the subject right smack in the centre of the image. While it is good, it does not lead to a great picture, and may tend to look boring after a while. Try to place the subject around one third to the top or the bottom, and slightly off-centre.
Some of the newer cameras and phones can even show lines where the rule of thirds cross, and you simple frame your subject at the point of this cross section. The resulting image will be much more appealing.
3. Get Creative
In my early days of photography, I would usually place the subject in the frame, and get them to simply smile at the camera. It got some good shots, but after a while I started to run out of ideas for other poses, and the pictures started to become boring. Worse, the subject started to lose interest in the photography session altogether.
I then started to bring some toys, or props, found some great ways to get creative with the way I used the backgrounds, surroundings, trees etc. Toys work great with kid and get them playful, leading to great candid shots.
4. Remove Distracting Backgrounds
I remember the time when as a school kid, I was learning photography, and my first photo of my grand parents in our court yard had the row of bras drying on a clothes line behind them. Alas they are there no more and I lost the chance of shooting them together, in a shot without the distracting background.
Many a good pictures are marred just because there is an un-intentional object, or person in the picture spoils its beauty. Trees, lamp posts & clothes lines are the common culprits.
Just by stepping aside, framing from a different angle, or simply removing the distractions from the scene can convert an average photo into a great looking photo.
5. Get at Eye Level of The Subject
Just because we generally take pictures while standing does not mean that each picture we take must be from that point of view only. Specially when taking pictures of small children or pets, it looks quite odd to have a photo from a height, looking down at them. You can give kids and pets shots a natural, breath-taking beauty when you move to their eye level.
With you scooting down to the eye level of the child, you can get them to look into the lens, and that’s the best time to snap your masterpiece.
It is a known fact that when we look at a picture of person, we are first drawn to the eyes. If the eyes are in focus, and looking at you, the photo has a mesmerizing effect on you. Photos from a height are unable to capture the eye so engagingly.
One of the best portrait shots ever taken, is by Steve McCurry for National Geographic magazine, of a young Afghan girl. It has this visual appeal, simply because of the eyes, and the way they seem to be staring at you.
6. Use the Built-in Flash More Often
When outdoors, we often think that there is enough light, and if the flash is required, the camera’s inbuilt flash would fire automatically. Don’t leave the flash to fire off automatically… because in many situations, it may not fire at all.
Even though the day is bright, the way you frame the subject, and the placement & brightness of the background, your snap may turn out to be dull or not bright enough. This is because outside, your camera’s meting may be fooled into thinking that it is quite bright. And you end up with a underexposed shot.
Sure you can enhance it in Photoshop, but it is better to take a more balanced and natural looking shot rather than post process it with software.
It may be better to set the flash to fire deliberately rather than leaving it on auto. This way your subject will get some brightness on their face, and you will get a shot where the background and foreground are both exposed well.
7. Use a Tripod
I used to be loath to carry a tripod because it looked bulky, and seemed clunky. Further, I didn’t see the need, as I thought that my shots were spot on hand held, and did not need a tripod.
However after attending a photography workshop, I used Photoshop to zoom up in my images and was disappointed that most of the photos I had taken were blurry when zoomed in.
They looked perfectly fine on the small camera LCD screen, but were not the best when printed on a A3 size or larger. Now I don’t usually print that big, but I still wanted to get super sharp photos.
The small $26 tripod turned out to be light enough to carry, and immediately turned my photos into much sharper delights.
8. Experiment With Light
Photography is all about capturing light. A photo comes to life when there are contrasts between lights and shadows. Don’t be afraid to experiment with light.
Once you reach the site where you want to take snaps, see where he light is coming from and what is lit, and what’s not. Also look at shadows and the play between light and shadows.
You can get some amazing shots while experimenting. I learned a lot from these experimental shots, and gave me confidence to try out more…
9. Keep it Simple
Don’t try to get too much into each picture. Keep it simple is a mantra I follow from the time I started to learn photography. And to this date I try to keep it simple.
Keeping it simple is more about what you exclude. When you exclude a lot, you actually bring focus on what you really want to show in the photo.
Thus, it takes some time to actually figure out what you want in and what you want to leave out. But once you think about it, your framing becomes better, and it makes all the difference in an average and a stunning shot.
10. Take Lots of Pictures
The only way to learn and improve your photography is to take a lot of photos. Analyse them, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The more pictures you take, the higher the chance that one of the pictures will turn out to be stunning.
Back in the days of film, the high cost of film, processing, printing forced one to take less pictures. I remember the days when I used to write the setting (aperture, shutter speed) for each picture I took in a small notebook, and then once I got the prints, I’d compare them with the written settings to see what worked and what did not. It was not much good, because the opportunity to take another shot on that location was already lost. But it did teach me a lot more about choosing the right aperture to get the appropriate depth of field that I wanted.
Since today we are all using digital cameras or smart phones, the resulting picture is instantaneous. You can see the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus points etc. on the LCD panel. And if the picture did not turn out so great, you can take another one. And another one! This way, there’s possibility to get many great shots.
Don’t wait. Grab your Digital camera and start taking the pictures. You won’t improve your photography simply by reading these tips without implementing some of them from now onward. You must take the photos, get comfortable with your camera and it’s settings. The more photos you take, the more you analyze them, the more you learn.
We’d love to hear from you. What was your experience in applying these priceless principles. Do share your best pictures and experiences in the comments below.
Recommended DSLR Cameras:
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens (Read Lens Review of this beautiful & inexpensive lens)
This article was written by PhotographyChamp Founder Vinai Prakash. Vinai is an avid photographer who loves to take candid pictures and portraits. He teaches photography and Abode Photoshop Classes in Singapore.