So, you’ve bought yourself a fancy new camera, but still your photos look pretty average? Where’s it going wrong? Read on for our top tips on how to take a great photo.
The most obvious rookie mistake is putting the subject right in the middle of your frame. A rock-star should be centre stage, but that’s it. Move your subject to one side, and that could be top or bottom, too, and instantly add more interest.
Rule of Thirds
Many professional photographers use the “Rule of Thirds” and it’s a really easy tool to adopt to improve your composition immediately. Imagine dividing your frame into nine squares using two vertical lines and two horizontal. Position your subject where the lines cross to make the overall image a lot more interesting.
The Thirds rule works whether you’re photographing landscapes or people, or anything else. Imagine a boat on a lake, smack bang in the middle of your shot. Pretty dull. Now, alter your composition so your boat is in the bottom right corner, where your two imaginary lines cross, and immediately the image is more pleasing to the eye. You might be able to capture some spectacular cloud formations, or anything else that adds interest to the shot.
If you’re taking a portrait shot, use the Thirds. Try to put an eye – the focal point in a face – on an intersection, or along one of the horizontal lines, even if that means cropping the head. It looks deliberate, and it creates a far more memorable image.
If you’re using auto-focus, make sure to lock it as cameras will tend to focus on the centre of the viewfinder. Focus in the middle, lock, and then recompose with your subject off-centre.
Try and keep the background simple. If it’s busy or cluttered, your eye will be distracted. It might be as simple as blurring the background or adjusting your angle, but it’s worth it if it means there’s no pole sticking out of a loved one’s head or something ugly like rubbish bins behind them.
Light the Photograph Well
How the light hits your subject will make a huge difference. If you’re taking photos of people on a very bright, sunny day, take them out of direct sunlight because they’ll be squinting in your shot. Slightly shaded and you’ll get a much better image with their eyes on show.
Flash light can be very harsh and unflattering, so bear in mind people might not be impressed by having wrinkles highlighted. Better to find a softer, natural light if you can, perhaps by a window.
Taking landscapes, you might find that the most flattering light is very early in the morning, or just before sunset, when it is soft and warm.
Turn a Corner
One of the simplest ways to improve composition is to shift your camera 90 degrees and take the picture in portrait mode! Great for full length shots of people or buildings, and even just a head and shoulders shot.
The key thing is to practice. There is always editing software for afterwards, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time if you take the photo right the first time.