Many people think that it takes a great camera to take great pictures. But the reality couldn’t be any further from the truth. While an expensive camera might give you more options, like using different lenses or shooting with virtually no light, the average person can take great pictures with an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera. And if you’re shooting digitally, you have the benefit of experimenting to your heart’s content.
Here are a few tips for taking better photos regardless of the camera you’re using:
USE THE RULE OF THIRDS
The idea here is that your image is divided into vertical and horizontal thirds. Composing along these lines and where the lines cross can help focus the eye and create a dynamic image. Experiment with this until you get a feel for it.
Also look for things like lines that help pull the viewer into the image.
ADD LEAD ROOM
If your subject is moving or doing something, give them a place to do it. Are they walking somewhere? Show where.
AVOID THE SUN
Unless you’re taking a photo of a sunset or sunrise, shooting your subject with the sun behind them will create a silhouette. Try to keep the sun behind you or shoot in the shade. Ideally you should look for an even amount of light across your entire image. Another option is to use your flash – it will help equalize bright sunlight.
That said, you can break this rule to produce some interesting results.
SHOOT DURING MAGIC HOUR
The hour before sunset is a great time to shoot portraits and landscapes. The light isn’t as harsh as during the middle of the day. It is also much warmer and can really enhance your photo. The same effect can be found just after sunrise, if you’re up that early.
Today’s cameras have come a long way when it comes to shooting with minimal light. But shooting at night can still be tricky. To prevent camera shake, steady yourself against something solid. Another option is to put the camera on a table and use the timer function.
Instead of using the zoom function on your camera, move the camera closer or further away from the subject. When you’re fully zoomed in, your camera needs more light, the image is often softer and any camera movement will likely result in a blurry image. Zoom out fully and physically move the camera to get the framing you want.
CAPTURE THE MOMENT
Ask yourself: how will this one image capture your experience? Try to focus on one main subject to draw the viewer in. In the example here, I wanted to capture a wheat field outside of Winnipeg. My goal was to show a wheat field without it being boring. How could I make a picture of a field interesting? The answer was right in front of me: a sign. So I thought about framing and what I wanted the image to say. The result is an almost humourous picture that, to me anyway, screams prairies.
Look at your subject from a different angle. Shoot low, high, frame left or right. Tilt the camera. Experiment. Have fun!
Take pictures of the little things that will remind you of your trip: the food, the hotel, the bus. Sometimes images of ordinary things will bring back a flood of memories.
This is especially important when travelling. Don’t just start taking photos of the locals. Think about the roles being reversed. Would you like someone taking your picture without being asked? Spend time with the subject until they get comfortable. Show them the “bad” images… and laugh with them. They’ll likely want you to take more. Offer up a copy of the photo as a way of saying “thanks.”
READ THE MANUAL
Just bought a new camera for a big trip? Great! But before you leave, take out the manual and learn how your camera works. The last thing you want to be doing while standing on the Great Wall is figuring out your camera. You can also bring the manual with you – either as a paper copy or download an electronic version to your laptop.
PUT THE CAMERA DOWN
One final tip: You don’t have to shoot everything. After you’ve taken a few shots that capture the scene, put away the camera and enjoy reality. Don’t experience your trip by watching it through a viewfinder. Be part of it.