How to take nice photographs?
Hai Jie Zhu
Understanding your camera
In order to take good photographs, use a
high quality camera is very important. A
better quality camera will help you to take
better photographs. So understand the
functions of your camera is the first thing
you need to do before take photographs.
You need to learn what each control, switch,
button, and menu item does. And the basic
actions, such as using the flash (on, off, and
auto), zooming in and out, and using the
shutter button. Some cameras come with a
printed beginners manual but also offer a
free larger manual on the manufacturer's
Set the camera's resolution to take high quality
photos at the highest resolution possible. Lowresolution images are more difficult to alter later; it
also means that you cannot crop as
enthusiastically as you could with a higherresolution version (and still end with something
printable). Upgrade to a bigger memory card. If
you don't want to or can't afford to buy a new one,
then use the "fine" quality setting, if your camera
has one, with a smaller resolution.
Start with setting your camera to one of its
automatic modes, if you have a choice. Most
useful is "Program" or "P" mode on digital SLRs.
Ignore advice to the contrary which suggests that
you operate your camera fully manually; the
advances in the last fifty years in automatic
focusing and metering have not happened for
nothing. If your photos come out poorly focused or
poorly exposed, then start operating certain
Finding photo opportunities
Take your camera everywhere. You will
look for and find opportunities to take
great photographs. Because of this, you
will end taking more photographs; and the
more you take, the better a photographer
you will become. Remember to bring
spare batteries or charge it if you are
using a digital camera.
Get outside. Motivate yourself to get out
and take photographs in natural light.
Take several normal 'point and shoot'
pictures to get a feel for the lighting at
different times of the day and night.
Using your camera
Keep the lens clear of caps, thumbs,
straps and other obstructions. It is basic,
yes, but any of these (often unnoticed)
obstructions can ruin a photograph. This
is less of a problem with modern livepreview digital cameras, and even less
of a problem with an SLR camera.
However, people still make these
mistakes, especially when in a rush to
take the image.
Set your white balance. Put simply, the
human eye automatically compensates
for different kinds of lighting; white looks
white to us in almost any lighting. A
digital camera compensates for this by
shifting the colours certain ways.
Taking good photographs
Compose your shot thoughtfully. Frame the
photo in your mind before framing it in the
viewfinder. Consider the following rules, but
especially the last one:
Use the Rule of Thirds, where the primary points
of interest in your scene sits along "third" lines.
Try not to let any horizon or other lines "cut the
picture in half."
Get rid of distracting backgrounds and clutter.
Move positions to avoid trees looking like they
are growing out of heads, when they are in the
background. Change angles to avoid window
glares from across the street. If you are taking
vacation photographs, take a moment to get
your family to put down all the junk they may be
carrying around with them and to remove
backpacks or hip packs as well. Keep that mess
well out of the frame of the picture, and you will
end with much nicer, less cluttered photos. If
you can blur the background in a portrait, then
do so. And so on.
Avoiding Blurry Photos
If you are in a situation where it would be nice to use a
tripod, but you don't have a tripod at the time, try one or
more of the following to reduce camera shake:
Turn on image stabilization on your camera (only some
digital cameras have this) or lens (generally only some
expensive lenses have this).
Zoom out (or substitute a wider lens) and get closer.
This will de-magnify the effect of a small change
towards the camera, and increase your maximum
aperture for a shorter exposure.
Hold the camera at two points away from its centre,
such as the handle near the shutter button and the
opposite corner, or toward the end of the lens. (Do not
hold a delicate collapsible lens such as on a point-andshoot, or obstruct something the camera will try to move
on its own such as a focusing ring, or obstruct the view
from the front of the lens.) This will decrease the angle,
which the camera moves for a given distance your
Squeeze the shutter slowly, steadily, and gently, and do
not stop until shortly after the picture has taken. Place
your index finger over the top of the camera. Squeeze
the shutter button with the second joint of the finger for a
steadier motion; you are pushing on the top of the
camera all along.
Brace the camera against something (or your hand
against something if you are concerned about
scratching it), and/or brace your arms against your body
or sit down and brace them against your knees.
Using the Flash
Avoid red eye. Red-eye is caused when
your eyes dilate in lower lighting. When
your pupils are big, the flash lights the
blood vessels on the back wall of your
eyeball, which is why it looks red. If you
must use a flash in poor light, try to get
the person to not look directly at the
camera, or consider using a "bounce
flash". Aiming your flash above the heads
of your subjects, especially if the walls
surrounding are light, will keep red-eye
out. If you don't have a separate flash
gun which is adjustable in this way, use
the red-eye reduction feature of your
camera if available. The red-eye
reduction feature flashes a couple of
times before opening the shutter, which
causes your subject's pupils to contract,
thus minimizing red-eye. Better yet, do
not take photographs which require a
flash to be used; find somewhere with
Keeping Organised and Gaining
Go through your photos and look for the best ones. Look for what
makes the best photos and continue using the methods that got
the best shots. Don't be afraid to throw away or delete photos,
either. Be brutal about it; if it doesn't strike you as a pleasing shot,
then ditch it. If you, like most people, are shooting on a digital
camera, then it would not have cost you anything but your time.
Before you delete them, remember you can learn a lot from your
worst photos; discover why they don't look good, then don't do
Practice, practice, and practice. Take many photos -- aim to fill
your memory card or to use up as much film as you can afford to
have developed. Avoid messing with film until you can get decent
pictures often with a simple digital camera. Until then, you need to
make many glaring mistakes to learn from them. It is convenient to
make them free and find out immediately, when you can figure out
exactly what you did and why under the current circumstances it is
wrong). The more pictures you take, the better you will get, and
the more you (and everyone) will like your pictures.
Shoot from new or different angles, and find new subjects to take
pictures of, and keep at it. You can make even the most boring,
everyday thing look amazing if you're creative enough about
Get to know your camera's limitations, too; how well it performs in
different kinds of lighting, how well auto-focus performs at various
distances, how well it handles moving subjects, and so on.
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.