With the powerful tools in our pockets, everyone has the chance to be a photographer! As technology advanced we went from large single-use bulbs and stands to a dedicated portable handheld camera, and now to combining the elements of photography into our telephones – along with a whole bunch of other features! Anyways, the point is this: everyone can take photos, so we want to give some basic tips to help you take the best photos you can!
Note about tools: These tips will work with any kind photography, so while the camera power in your phone might be lacking, these tips will still help you produce your best work yet!
Photo Tips for the Beginner Photog
Use What You Have
This follows off our previous note about tools. If you’re just getting started into photography, don’t spend a ton of money on new tools, lenses, etc. Those things will help you take better photos, but it’s enough to master the basics first. So start with your phone, your old digital camera. Even the finest painters started with pencils and paper.
Work with Your Composition
Taking good photos means taking photos intentionally. It’s knowing what makes for a good photo as opposed to a bad one. Here are some basics:
- Don’t cut off important parts of the subject with the frame
- Keep the horizons level
- Get rid of distracting elements
- Look for a sense of balance, a sense of simplicity
The Rule of Thirds
While we’re talking about composition, a big piece of making an aesthetically pleasing photo involves following the rule of thirds. There’s a lot out there written about this so we’ll keep it brief here. The idea is that an image should be divided into 9 equal parts, using two lines vertically and two lines horizontally that break up the image into thirds. The subject or interesting elements of the photo should be along these imagined lines and where they intersect. Many cameras (and most phones) have this feature that will impose a grid layout over your screen as you layout the shot, don’t hesitate to use it, it’s not cheating! Take a few shots minding the rule of thirds and see how it compares. Chances are you’ll find it makes for more captivating photos.
Look to the Light
Light is, without a doubt, the single most important piece of photography. If your pictures have good light, you’re already half way to having a good photo! Haha, ok, maybe not halfway but seriously, you can’t discount how big of an influence lighting has. Photos lacking in light well end up bland, discolored, or so muted they lose all detail.
You want to try and balance the light’s intensity between the background and the subject. The easiest way to do this is to look at the softness and direction of the light. If it’s too bright you can end up with bad shadows, for instance. Lighting from certain angles can also be unflattering, ruining the effect you’re after.
If you’re shooting photos handheld the most likely hurdle you need to overcome is that there isn’t enough light. Use a flash or reposition to get more light on the subject. If you are lucky enough to be working in a studio, moving the light source is easier than waiting for the sun to rise further so you got that going for ya!
Look at Your Old Photos
Just like any creative or skill endeavor, there’s plenty you can do when you’re not out shooting to improve! The biggest thing? Look at your previous work. What do you like about the photo? What don’t you like? Why is that? Recognize what you did to create that photo you like and replicate it. Refine your skill. There might be certain settings that really sing to you, or ones you absolutely hate the way the photo turned out. With these thoughts in your mind, the next time you set up a shot you’ll remember “This is the way I want to lay it out to get that.”
Listen, getting better isn’t worth it if you’re not enjoying yourself! So get out there and experiment. Shoot different photos and styles. Try out a ton of different options, settings, styles. Relax and enjoy it! Your best photos are going to come when you’re enjoying what you’re doing, not rushing to get it done.