5 Simple Tips for Taking Better Photos {with any camera!} | Photography Tips & Tricks

You don't take a photograph, you make it.
 - Ansel Adams

When it comes to photography, people often think that if they have a great camera, they'll automatically take great photos. And while it's true that a good camera (paired with a good lens) can definitely improve the quality of your image, it won't necessarily make you take great photos. Any photographer worth their salt can take an interesting and engaging photo, with whatever camera they have to hand, whether it be a top-of-the-line pro-level camera, an iPhone camera or a disposable film camera.

If you've found yourself with a lovely new camera, but you're disappointed that your photos still aren't turning out the way you hoped, don't despair. There are a few simple things you can start practising today to help you take better photos in future.
Keep in mind that most professional photographers (myself included) have spent years and years self-educating and practising before they ever thought they were good enough to take photos for a living. So even if you don't want to become a professional, you just want to be able to document your life a little better, the best thing you can do is to read and practise as much as possible.

While all of these tips can be used and practised for any sort of photography with any kind of camera, I have included extra info with some of them for those of you shooting with a DSLR. So with that in mind, read on for 5 simple things you can start practising today to make your photos better tomorrow...

Tip 1. When photographing people, focus on their eyes

This is the number one thing you need to do to make photos of your kids and other people better! It sounds simple but it's easy to forget, especially when you're just starting out. Unless you purposely want to draw attention to something else in the frame, or you're experimenting with other techniques (see tip 5), you want to make sure that you're getting your camera to focus specifically on people's eyes. Pretty much all cameras these days give you a way to choose which part of the scene your camera focuses on. Make sure you take advantage of this and nail that focus on the eyes.

For the DSLR users... you don't just have to use the middle focus point, you can select another focus point. If you're composing your image according to the rule of thirds (see tip 4) then you may want to select one of the focus points on either side of the middle one to make sure that your focus is on their eyes. Check your camera manual to find out how to switch between focus points and practise. You should be able to change the focus point without taking your eye away from the viewfinder, and the more you practise changing focus points the better you'll get at nailing that focus right on their eyes.

Tip 2. Don't forget the details

When it comes to documenting your kids' childhood or other aspects of your life, you want to include the details. Physical attributes like long eyelashes or squishy lips, especially on babies, favourite toys, hobbies, skills, dirty fingers and toes, a smudge of their favourite sandwich filling on their chin, include it all. One of my favourite things to photograph on children is their eyelashes. Long or short they are gorgeous and I always try to get at least one eyelash shot on every child I photograph.

When you go somewhere new or special take a moment to really look around and see those details. When photographing things that are everyday, or very popular (like a famous landmark) try to think outside the box and hone in on one particular aspect of the scene or subject. Look for patterns & shapes, shadows & light, don't be afraid to try new things and perspectives. Which leads in well to my next tip...

Tip 3. Move yourself!

This is probably the easiest tip to practice but one that is also the easiest to forget. Instead of shooting at eye-level, straight on looking slightly down, try holding the camera above your head for a bird's eye view, or have your subject lie down on the ground and stand over them to take a photo. Lie down on the ground yourself and shoot up in to the sky or ceiling.

When photographing kids & people, getting down on their level or even lower can make for an interesting viewpoint and make your composition much more engaging. When I photograph kids and families I will often spend a good deal of the session lying on the ground or crawling around, especially if the family includes children who aren't yet mobile. Being on the same level as your subject helps to bring the viewer in to their world and engage them in the action of the image. When shooting from below, be aware of shooting up nostrils and change your angle slightly if necessary.

Get in close or step right back! Don't be afraid to get in close rather than sitting at middle distance and relying on your zoom to get you closer to the action.  The flip side of this is to take a few more steps back and include the larger scene in your image as well. I always try to shoot a number of images from different distances to really tell the story of the scene in front of me.

Tip 4. Remember the rule of thirds (and then break it!)

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic composition techniques there is. Having your subject to the left or right of centre can often create a much more interesting composition than having them right in the middle. The negative space (empty space) to the right or left of your subject can help lead your viewers eye to your main point of interest.

The beautiful thing about rules however is that they are meant to be broken, especially when it comes to photography. Sometimes having your subject in the middle of the frame can make for great storytelling and striking images. You can still apply the rule of thirds in these cases by having your subject in the bottom third or top third of the frame, instead of to the left or right third. (You'll notice that the images I've used in this post are a combo of photos that either strictly stick to the Rule of Thirds or break it in some way.)

For the DSLR users... If you're shooting using your DSLR's Live View mode then you often have the option of having a grid overlay the screen. This will help you position your subject according to the rule of thirds.

Tip 5. Embrace experimentation

Don't be afraid to experiment. Experiment with fast & slow shutter speeds, shallow depths of field and rules of composition (rule of thirds, leading lines, golden ratio). If you have a DSLR set it to aperture or shutter priority modes and get creative. Once you've finished shooting, experiment with cropping in post-production, using software such as Photoshop or Lightroom (I highly recommend Lightroom and will be writing more about it in an upcoming post) or even free online editors such as PicMonkey.

The beauty of digital photography means we can take almost unlimited numbers of images until we get them right. When you do get it right, take the time to think about what you did when you took the photo. What settings did you use? Did the image turn out the way you expected? What can you do next time to make it even better? Whether you're using your iPhone camera or a fancy DSLR, take the time to read up on the basics of photography. Doing this will help you understand how your camera works, and it will definitely improve your photos in the long run.
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Above all else, have fun taking photos! Don't stress about getting the perfect shot every time because that stress will show in your images. If you have a DSLR, have a read through my Photography Basics posts to help you understand how your camera works and how you can apply that knowledge to your photo-taking. I would also recommend checking out sites like Clickin' Moms and Digital Photography School, both of which have great info and articles for photographers of all levels.

What's the best tip you've been given to help improve your photography? Do you have any tips of your own that might help others to take better photos? Let me know your tips or questions in the comments.

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT

Want more photography tips and tricks? Look no further...

Photography basics, how a camera works
Learn how your camera actually works
how to understand shutter speed in photography
Shutter Speed, sorted

Everything you need to know about ISO, what is ISO, how does ISO work
Everything you need to know about ISO
What is aperture, how does the aperture work, aperture and photography
It's all about aperture, all the time

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