As professional photographers we wanted to share the industries best photography tips with you who may be wondering how to take better pictures. It is always a let down when pictures turn out less than what we expected. So, sharpen your photo skills with these 20 ways to start taking better pictures now without a new camera.
We gathered some of the best tips from other pro photographers to put them into one article to help you fine tune your photo taking skills. This article is intended for an amateur to novice audience using a smartphone or a camera.
Enjoy and start shooting!
1. Get Acquainted with Your Camera’s Flash
Kodak Moments suggest that you, as the photographer should get to know the range of your camera’s flash. It’s OK to step it up a notch, meaning take a step closer to make sure the flash covers the focus of the picture you are taking.
Kodak Moments recommends standing no further than 10 feet away from the focus to make sure the flash covers it entirely and that it’s not left in the dark. To perfect the function of the flash, always seek your camera’s manual for best use practices, tips, recommendations, and specification that you can take advantage of for best photo quality outcomes.
2. Don’t Miss the Perfect Photo Op!!
Try to get into the habit of checking your photos after the photography session, not during. And, don’t fall prey to the one and done photo snap. Say you are at a family reunion with long distance relatives that took months of coordination. It is really a rare, and a could be once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture this wonderful family photography moment.
Petapixel recommends that you keep snapping to get a bunch of photo options that may just result in that one, perfect, precious memory that gets captured. If it’s a one and done, or if you’re too busy looking at the camera after each picture, the perfect moment may have passed you by without you even knowing it! Keep calm and snap on!
3. Don’t Leave Home Without It!
If you are wanting to be a professional photographer, you have to start thinking like one. PhotographyLife hits the nail on the head with the advice: always have your camera with you. Life is full of precious moments, especially when captured through the lens of your camera. Having your camera at your right (or left) hand will help you to practice taking shots at different times of the day and in different settings and lighting. Practice makes perfect pictures!
4. Using a Smartphone? Try the HDR Mode
If your smartphone is your go-to camera then check out the High Dynamic Range mode. Popular Science explains that HDR will enhance the photo by detailing the light and dark areas in the picture for a better balance of the colors. They recommend trying this feature on landscape and portrait photography instead of fast-action images because the phone will take a little longer to process the image opposed to the standard mode. Try it out on your next family portrait photography session and see what you think.
5. Fill the Frame
Are you loving the facial expression on your friend’s face after she took a bite of super sour candy? Get right up in there and capture that puppy! Sometimes the background can be distracting, and you want to capture the essence of the action, the emotion and the feeling right in the frame – then make that the ultimate focus.
Nikon USA emphasizes capturing the special, unique characteristics of the moment, letting that tell the story. Take advantage of a rare moment, let that fill the frame for a fantastic finish.
6. Get on Their Level
As a learning professional photographer, you will soon find out that you are not the same height as the people you are taking photos of. One of the most moving images is of a person looking eye level right into the camera. Angles, or taking the shot from above or beneath the individual can make the finish piece look distorted, unnatural or have unattractive shadows or lighting.
Photography Talk recommends getting on the same eye level. For instance, working for a family photography shoot with little ones, drop a knee to make the camera eye-to-eye with them. As you do so, make sure the camera is ready to snap pictures right away as they look at you with wonder of what you are doing. Oh, the precious moments!
7. Did Someone Say Selfie?
Sometimes there is a moment that you want to remember yourself in, a place, a time, an event, a setting, or you are just feeling on top of the world and want to share that with all your Insta-buddies! Got it, we’ve been there too! Here are some tips from Finding the Universe that we wanted to share to help you improve the selfie photo-finish.
Selfie sticks do come in quite handy. They are more stable and give more leeway to get in the background if you’re wanting to tell a story with where you are. But, if this selfie capture is spur of the moment and all you have is your arm, then extend it as far as possible to decrease any chance of distorted facial features – like a big nose, a big forehead, big chin, etc.
Avoid a straight on in selfie mode, instead position the camera slightly above you. These tend to come out a little more favorable than a straight on shot. Though, if you are shooting a selfie in the mirror to show off an adorable outfit, for example, then position the camera a little lower than straight on.
Practice with this one and see what works best for you but remember to keep it natural and comfortable.
8. Light It Up!
To enhance the subjects in the picture, make sure the lighting works in their favor. Say you are trying to capture the perfect engagement photography at an outdoor afternoon venue. Have the couple face into a light source so their happy, in-love faces are radiantly beaming in the picture. It’s a joyful event that’s meant to be happy and uplifting, not drowned out and brought down by dreary shadows that place gloom on the happy couple.
Especially if you are shooting with your handy smartphone, light is your best friend to make those pictures really stand out. Your smartphone does not come with the enhanced features compared to the traditional point and shoot cameras. They are not equipped to handle taking pictures in low or poor light settings. So, as the professional photographer you are starting to become, taking pictures with a smartphone will require special attention for purposefully positioned subjects to get the best lighting.
9. Get to Know Your Camera and its Settings
The name of this article is to take better pictures without a new camera – that means use what you have and take advantage of its features and settings. The features and settings are meant for you to take better photos according to the setting and purpose of the photoshoot.
Nor do the settings on your camera have to be intimidating. The manual for your camera is a great tool to reference and to get better acquainted with your camera. It may even be helpful to take notes.
Test out each setting on the camera, review what they are good for, what it will enhance or the perfect scenario to use it for. Having a cheat sheet may remind you of when and where to use these settings. Settings that you may see are ISO, white balance, dynamic range, etc. Get to know the lingo and have these tools ready in your back pocket to enhance your photography sessions.
10. Check Your Surroundings
Let’s face it, we have the luxury of editing software and apps if we take not so perfect pictures. We can touch up and correct most mistakes in photography. One way to avoid any extra clean up and editing after the photo shoot is to make sure that what is in your shot you want in your shot. When you are ready to point and click a rule of thumb is to view the entire area that is in your screen.
Check the edges of the what’s in the shot and make any adjustments at that point rather than editing it out later. Unwanted clutter on the edges could be your thumb, a strand of hair, a sign, building, another person or anything else that takes away from the main focus or just doesn’t belong. This is a good habit to get into and will save you time later too.
11. Hi Res is the Best Bet
Choosing the higher resolution on your camera, including on your smartphone, will really enhance the quality of your photos. First off, what is a hi res, or a high resolution photo? It refers to the pixel density of the image. The more pixels in the image, the denser it will be thus the clearer and sharper it looks. A hi res photo also enables for it to be enlarged without deteriorating the quality by getting a pixelated appearance that creates blurry and muffled photos.
Hi res photos allow for more flexibility with what you can do with it too, opposed to low res images. Low-res quality images may limit your printing size to be able to print no larger than a 4×6 before losing the integrity. Or the image may only be quality enough for online use only. With a hi-res image you can always downsize if it is too big for applications, but still print for larger quality prints.
12. May as well Take a Vacation!
To enhance your skills as a professional photographer, or to just get better at taking pictures, working in different environments, scenery and with different focus objects will get you more comfortable, knowledgeable, and skilled at the profession or hobby.
Step outside your comfort zone and play with different lighting, backgrounds, settings and photoshoot scenarios. How good are you on the fly? What is your demeanor and attitude like in a setting that isn’t your usual, like a ballroom at a hotel for wedding photography, or a studio for newborn photography? If you were asked to snap photos on a safari for some adventurous engagement photos, could you accept the challenge?
Take a few day trips or mix up your usual vacation spot to hone in on some of your photo-taking skills and get to know those settings and features to enhance the shots!!
13. Use the Grid to Square Up Your Shot
Composition is key for unique and stunning photos. A method to achieve this is to employ the grid lines on your camera. This will guide you to place the focal point in the center of the frame or off balance to create a more visually appealing picture.
Exposure Guide shares the “Rule of Thirds” method which can help you get that jaw-dropping effect with your photo. With the grid setting turned on you will see a grid made up of nine squares. You can easily place the focal point in the middle of the frame which is the center square. You can also get creative with storytelling imagery by placing the focal point in the first third or the last third of the grid. Exposure Guide explains that this creates the eyes to wonder over the imagery to create a more visually appealing result.
14. More on Composition
Let’s further explain what the composition of a photo means. It is how the photo is composed, like a piece of literature or a symphony – there are many elements that go into the finished piece. Textures, dynamics, contrasts, the use of creative elements to produce an emotional response from the audience viewing it the photo.
Expert Vagabond shares different methods to create different composition using the same focal point. Getting active in the scenery is one way to experiment with the composition. Get on different levels – on the floor, in a tree, up a ladder, straight on, different angles, etc. Each angle can tell a different story. Different angles use the lighting differently too, with shadows shifting. Changing up the angle and where the focal point is placed in the shot will also tell the story more vividly for the viewer or create an altogether different vibe for the image. Examples being getting more sky, less background, incorporating a field of flowers, a brick walkway, a natural landscape overhand that compliments the focal point.
The more angles you try the keener your eye will get to pick out unique photo opportunities. You want your photos to be different than others. It’s easy to point, click and walk away with a general idea of the imagery. With further experimentation and spending a little more time your final pieces will be worth another look rather than a skim over.
15. Ah, the Golden Hour
What is the Golden Hour? Actually, there are two of them: the natural beauty of the sunrise and the majestic realm of the sunset. These are highly desirable events to capture on their own, but the lighting during these two times of day are very favorable for photographers. They provide the perfect cast of light without the hassle of shadows or uneven lighting.
The golden hour can create a dreamy, memorabilia, nostalgic glow to your photos. With streams of light to highlight features or emotions; to capturing sparkling diamonds of light off the shoreline or to get the individual rays of the sun beaming out of a towering mountain. Halos of light can be used to surround the angelic face of a child or to create a silhouette kiss for romantic wedding photos.
Use your creative spark to take advantage of these dazzling picturesque moments. All you have to do is Google the sunrise and sunset to plan your photoshoot and get out there before it occurs, so you don’t miss anything.
16. Picture Perfect with Less is More
Consider your background for your portrait shots. Let’s paint a picture, your daughter just danced the best recital she ever danced. Capture her bright, shiny smile in front of an uncluttered, plain background to really make her stand out and to be the focus.
Busy backgrounds takeaway from the main focus of the picture which is the person your photographing. You want the viewers eyes to go directly to the purpose of the image, not trying to figure out where they are or why the buildings décor is from the ‘50s…
Widen gives a good before and after of what a cluttered background looks like in a portrait photo and how the subject is enhanced as the main focal point with a neutral background.
17. Prop It Up!
Free yourself from the camera to see how your shots differ than when you hold your camera throughout the photo session. Using a tripod, or a prop to place the camera on for hands-free shooting, allows for more freedom between you and your subjects.
This is very true for family portraits. Professional photographers will set the frame accordingly and then engage with the family being photographed to suggest positioning and proper placement. While directing the scene, the hands-free camera prop allows the photographer to check in the screen to see if the instructions given are creating the desired outcome in camera.
The Digital Photo Mentor suggests that students try out this experiment to see how their pictures differ between hand-held photography and by use of a tri-pod. More often than not there is more engagement and relationship building between the photographer and the subjects when the camera is on the tripod, for an end result of more relaxed and natural looking portraits.
18. For the Smartphone Photographer Pro
There is no denying that most images taken today are with the quick, simple and convenient smartphone that is tethered to most everyone’s hands. Some will even get a new smartphone based on the quality of the camera. With that said, there are a lot of camera apps out there that can really enhance your photo abilities.
Trending has been the use of filters on the standard camera app in the phone. Whitewashing, blurring, highlighting – the smartphone photographer tends to choose a filter that puts the subjects in the best light, so to speak. But, to be totally different, unique and unfiltered, Popular Photography suggests getting a photo editing app that can make adjustments opposed to totally changing the dynamics of the shot.
Editing can cover up dark circles under eyes, a pimple, or remove someone or something from the background. This way the basic integrity of the original photo is mostly there. And, you won’t have the same filter as the rest of the images on Instagram – let’s hashtag #unfiltered for a hot minute!
19. Tripod and Selfies
Do you oppose the selfie stick or don’t want to be that person getting the best selfie shot in your stick and end up walking into traffic or off a cliff? Some people do find the selfie stick obnoxious. If that is you but you still want professional looking photos of yourself, then a tripod may be a good addition to your photographer tools.
Cameras typically come with timer options which will get you in position in time for the flash, usually…and sometimes with an unnatural look on your face as you try to beat the clock. Anna Everywhere recommends applying the burst option on your camera if setting up the timer to give you more options to choose from.
Though, a more convenient strategy she recommends is to get a wireless remote to connect to your camera, so you know that you are full and ready to day cheese. Ah, a more relaxed and a more natural photo taken when you are truly ready, that’s more like it!
20. Wide Angles to Get More in the Shot
While the focus is on your subject, sometimes the surroundings can help to highlight the scenario. The scenery can play into the elements or the emotions of the photo. For instance, a couple holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes as they overlook a scenic landscape.
If you are a wedding photographer, taking maternity photos, or engagement photos. The album can get a little monotonous with the focus always on the subjects. Getting the elements of the background can create texture, tone and dynamic to the album. As recommended by Cole’s Classroom, this technique can be done with your professional camera using lenses at 24mm, 35mm and 50mm in order to capture the landscape as well as the subjects.
If you are a professional smartphone photographer, make sure to incorporate some horizontal shots into your album as well to shake it up a bit.
If you tried any of these tips let us know how they worked out for you! We would love for you to leave a comment below with your experiences.
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Duet Denny Photography are professional photographers who love to work with clients to photograph all their special occasions including, wedding photography, engagement photos, newborn photos, maternity photos, senior portrait photos, and family portraits.
Give us a call. We look forward to planning your next photo session!