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The Basics of Taking Good Pictures

Key picture taking tips to improve your photography!

This is a really simple, introductory guide to taking good pictures for beginners. I want to lead those of you beginning to move away from point and shoot photography towards a better understanding of how to set up a shot.

The basics of digital photography are incredibly simple, but once you've got them under your belt you can be sure of consistently good photos.

Getting to grips with digital camera settings will enable you to explore photography creatively and take better digital pictures. So let's look at the 4 basic steps involved in taking a picture.


1. Finding a Subject

taking good pictures

Don't be trigger happy with your camera! When you are first learning to take good pictures with your digital camera it can be tempting to search for a photo in everything you see.

I think it's important to recognise that, even with full control of digital camera settings, some things are just boring! A subject should catch your eye. It should make you really want to capture it.


Photography is nothing - it's life that interests me - Henri Cartier-Bresson

That quote by one of the best photographers of all time pretty much sums it up! It's also why you should take your camera with you everywhere. Finding a subject is more about opportunism than searching.

Whether it's an expression on someone's face, a street scene or the evening light falling on a landscape, taking better digital pictures is about artfully capturing what you see not creating something out of nothing.


2. Composition

taking good picturesComposition is on of the basics of digital photography and often determines whether a picture works or not.

It's important to understand that there's a difference between looking at something interesting or beautiful in front of you and looking at a brilliant photograph.

A photograph is a rectangle. It excludes a lot of what you see when looking at your subject. Trust me - even the best have succeeded in taking an inspiring subject and reducing it to a dull flat photo!

Photography, in my experience, has the miraculous power of transferring wine into water - Oscar Wilde

Sadly, that can be true of photos. But they can also be amazingly beautiful reproductions of the world. So what makes some photos work?

Well, a big part of taking good pictures is thinking about composition. Essentially this is the arrangement of the various parts of an image. Use trial and errorto get it right. Play around with composition until you find one that looks balanced and pleasing.

Here are some picture taking tips on photography composition which look at the rule of thirds and the golden mean.


3. Focus

taking good picturesLearning to take good pictures means thinking about how you focus on a subject. Firstly, what is your focal point? What made you want to take the picture? What is the main point of interest that first draws in the viewer's eye?

Once you know that, decide how you want to present it. Composition is one part of this, but another is depth of field. Depth of field is one of the basics of digital photography and refers to the area in focus.

It's determined by the size of aperture selected. The aperture is one of the most important digital camera settings and will help you take better digital pictures, so here is a full guide to it.

Basically, a wide aperture that lets in lots of light produces a narrow depth of field: The area of sharpness either side of the point you focus the camera on is small. Conversely a small aperture produces a photo with a larger area of sharp focus.

So think about the effect you want to achieve.

Do you want to intensify the subject and draw it forward, by blurring the background, with a small depth of field? I think this works really well with portrait photos. Or perhaps you are taking landscape shots and would like a large area to be clear and sharp?

4. Exposure

taking good picturesGetting the hang of manual exposure is one of the most important steps in learning to take good pictures. Fortunately, it's extremely simple.

You will find lots of useful picture taking tips on mastering the digital camera settings involved in manual exposure here. There are several tools at your disposal: aperture, shutter speed, light meter mode and ISO speed.

When shooting in a JPEG file format it's important to be sure you get the perfect exposure for the most important parts of your image. Sometimes this may involve leaving other parts a little too bright or shadowy - but it's about finding the right balance.

When shooting in a Raw file format (which allows you to fine tune exposure in the conversion software later) it's best to err on the side of underexposing, if necessary, since dark patches are easier to save than burnt out ones.

Exposure is a creative area. There are no rules about how light or dark any image should be. One of the most important picture taking tips is to go with your own instincts of what looks best, and to use digital camera settings creatively.

Taking account of these 4 basic steps will help you take better digital pictures and avoid uninspiring point-and-shoot snaps!

The Photography Crash Course: 17 Short Lessons To Camera Mastery

Where Next?

My Best Photography Books

Online Digital Photography Courses

Best Photoshop Tutorials

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