How To Take Good Pictures | 24 Photography Tips For BEST Results

Do you know how to take good pictures? Perhaps you’re struggling to get to grips with a complex new camera, or you’re lacking inspiration? Don’t worry – we’ve all been there! Photography can be bewildering, but there are some simple things you can do to help you progress.

Fifteen years ago I was new to photography and going through the same process you are now. I learned by reading photography books, watching videos, joining a camera club, and most importantly, by taking photos….. all the time! For ten years I took and shared a new photo every single day and it’s done wonders for my photography.

To help you get to grips with your photography I’ve compiled a list of simple things that’ll help you create better pictures. Some are easy, while others may take a little more work. One thing’s for sure though – you’ll have fun trying them and you’ll come out the other end a better photographer!

Let’s start with the most basic one of all…..

1. Always carry a camera

This should be obvious really. After all, how are you going to improve your photography without one?! Remember, you don’t have to lug around loads of heavy gear if you don’t want to either. Even having a smartphone to hand is useful if you want to capture that spur of the moment image. Photographer Chase Jarvis once said, “The best camera is the one you have with you”.

Related Article: Best camera for beginners

A photo of a mirrorless digital camera
Photo by Math

2. Move closer!

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough!”

The great war photographer, Robert Capa

Undoubtedly a bold statement from someone used to shooting in war zones. There’s a degree of truth here though. Getting closer will focus the viewer on the subject of your photo, and will also help you exclude distracting elements from the background.

Photo by Helen Hooker

3. Always Check Your Background

Always check right around the frame before you take a photo. Shifting your position just half a step left or right will often remove distractions and result in a stronger picture.

4. Use a tripod

A tripod allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds without camera shake. Perfect for low light conditions or capturing motions. Carrying one also slows you down. However, this can be a good thing because you have to consider your compositions more carefully. Which results in better thought out images.

Pro Tip: Save and buy a quality one that’s really stable, but small/light enough that you’ll actually be willing to carry it around.

Related Articles: Best Travel Tripods & Best Tripods for iPhones

A slow shutter image of a waterfall made possible by the use of a tripod.
Use a tripod to steady your camera when you are shooting at slow shutter speeds.

5. Don’t Rush

Think for a moment about the type of image you want to create, rather than just blindly clicking the shutter button. Ask yourself the following questions next time you take a photo, and I can guarantee you’ll get some great results!

  1. How do you want to compose your picture?
  2. What sort of emotion or message do you want to convey to your viewer?
Being present helps you envision your final image. Which allows you to come up with good compositions.

6. Get out of Automatic Mode!

If you truly want to take control of your photography don’t shoot in your camera’s Auto mode. You don’t need to shoot in full manual mode yet – that can come later if you wish. Instead, select Aperture Priority Mode (A or AV on the mode dial). This allows you to choose the aperture and let you set the depth of field. Which then determines how much of your image is sharply in focus. So you can either choose to create beautiful bokeh (best for portraits) or keep it sharp throughout the depth (best for landscapes)

Alternatively, you can use Shutter Priority Mode when you need to control your shutter speed.

a photograph of a camera's mode dial

7. Look for Interesting Light

Take time to look for interesting light that adds vivid colors to your subject, reveals hidden textures, or create a mood. Once you begin to see such light, you’ll find it’s addictive! You are most likely to find such light during the golden hour (sunset or sunrise). This is why most photographers shoot during the golden hour.

A beautiful photo of the Taj Mahal during the golden morning hours.
Photography is all about capturing light. A photo by AC Almelor.

8. Compose Your Pictures with Care

Photography composition is all about emphasizing and leading viewers to your subject. So don’t just point and shoot, use photography composition rules to create more interesting images. Your options are almost endless – the rule of thirds, leading lines, rule of odds, using frames.

photoshoot idea reflections in water
A reflection in the water can contribute to the composition (symmetry) and create balanced photos

9. Shoot from a New Perspective

The majority of photos are taken from a height of between five and six feet – the elevation of our heads when standing. This is the way we generally see the world, but you can create much more dramatic images by choosing a new perspective. Perhaps shoot really low, to capture a snail’s eye view of the world. Or lift your camera above your head for a high-level perspective.

Children and animals are almost always better photographed from a low level, as you get to share their view of the world, but this can work for many other subjects too.

A mud racing motorcyclist photographed from a low angle.
Shooting low down or high up can give a more dynamic look to your photos. Photo by Helen Hooker

10. Keep Your Horizons Straight

Ever taken a picture by the sea, only to find you’ve got a wonky horizon? Yes, me too! It’s easy to fix in post-processing, but you’ll be throwing away pixels as you do so. Use either LCD panel’s gridlines or electronic level and need never have a crooked horizon again.

Having leveled horizons helps to create a balanced photo. After all, the human eye is hard-wired to expect a leveled horizon.

11. Work the Scene

How do you shoot? Do you look at a subject that interests you, take your picture and move on? Instead, work the scene, wring every last drop of photographic interest from it.

Start off with a wide shot, setting the scene and showing a sense of context. Then zoom in and focus more on the central subject of your image. Finally, get in really close and find some details that interest you. This technique works on pretty well any subject – landscape, people, architecture. This way you create a coherent series of images which you could display together.

Look for all the angles to tell the story about the places you visit. Photo by Helen Hooker

12. Use Your Camera’s Histogram

The histogram can be a powerful tool that helps you achieve a good exposure in your pictures, but it’s often overlooked. As you can see from the next photo, a photography histogram graphs the brightness of your pixels.

Looking at the histogram instantly tell you if any portion of the image is losing details due to being extremely bright or dark. Go ahead and enable histogram in your camera’s live view settings.

A camera histogram with labels
On a histogram, darkest shades are shown on the left-hand side of the graph and they gradually become lighter until you reach absolute white at the far right-hand edge.

13. Set Your White Balance Correctly

Our eyes are amazing miracles of natural engineering. They see a huge range of color shades and compensate for different colors of light. For instance, sodium street lights have an orange hue, while fluorescent lights often make things look slightly green. By contrast, our cameras need to be told what color the light is. Auto White Balance (AWB) will often do a good job. But, for better results, select a White Balance (WB) setting that’s appropriate to the light you’re shooting under.

If you shoot in the RAW format you can set your white balance in post-processing, but in JPG mode you need to get it right in camera.

An image showing the white balance scale in photography
White balance specifies the temperature of your light source to your camera. Which allows for accurate color grading.

14. Use ISO to Your Advantage — but Know Your Limits

Don’t forget to increase your ISO if you’re shooting in dark places. It’ll increase your sensor’s sensitivity to light and help you achieve a faster shutter speed. Which keeps your pictures sharp.

Most cameras offer an Auto ISO option, where the camera ensures the shutter speed set is always fast enough for you to achieve a sharp shot on whatever lens you’re using. Some also offer the option to set a minimum shutter speed of your own. Yes, a high ISO setting will introduce more noise (or grain) into your pictures. But a sharp noisy image is better than a clean but blurred one!

Two monks side by side. Captured with high ISO
Increasing the ISO has allowed photographing these playful novice monks with sharp details.

15. Take control of focusing

Most cameras come from the factory with all the focus points enabled. This means the camera focus on what it thinks is the subject of your photo – usually whatever is closest to the lens.

A better strategy is to select one focus point and use that to focus on what you think is the subject. Do check your user manual if you’re not sure how to do this. When photographing people and animals, always focus on the nearest eye, as it’s the eyes that draw your viewer in first. After you achieve focus, you can recompose as needed (while still pressing the shutter button halfway).

An even better technique is to use the back button focus. Which allows you to press the shutter button without losing focus.

Always be in control of where your camera is focusing on.

16. Get Creative in Post-Processing

You should always edit your photos after you take them. Use either Adobe Lightroom or a free photo editing software. If you mostly shoot with a smartphone use some of these best photo editing apps to edit your photos.

This is especially true if you are shooting in RAW format. The camera will capture a lot of information about a scene. However, as artists, it is up to the photographer to create the final vision using that information. Here are some of the best Lightroom Tutorials to help you create amazing photos in post-processing.

Long-exposure photo at sunset
During post-processing, you are able to reduce your highlights, bring more shadow details, sharpen your images, and intensify colors to match the natural scene or your vision.

17. Share your photos and seek feedback

Don’t take loads of photos and leave them quietly festering on a hard drive. Instead, share them with the world and ask for constructive feedback.

This is best done in a photography-focused community–like PhotoBlog. Post your photos and ask others what they would do differently, what do they think of your edits, cropping, or composition. This kind of dialog is sure to yield valuable insights.

Sharing your photos with the world is a great way to get feedback and improve your photography.

18. Give Your Camera a Spring Clean!

After we’ve been using our cameras for a while they tend to get a bit dusty and grimy. Once in awhile take a few minutes to give your camera a clean, knocking off any dust and gently wiping greasy spots from the lens.

Inside, dust spots can gather on your camera’s sensor, creating dark shadows on your images. You can easily buy sensor cleaning kits. But if you’re not brave enough to meddle inside your camera, most good camera stores will do it for you for a modest fee.

19. Read Your Camera Manual

When we first get a new camera, we’re so keen to get out shooting, it’s easy to leave the user manual in the box, unread. Manuals may not be the most scintillating read, but they will help you use your new tool more effectively.

Make sure you have your camera handy when you do this, so you can try the various settings out.

20. Take photos as often as possible

Do you want to know how to take good pictures?

Use a camera every day!

You are guaranteed to see your pictures improve over time. If you need a reason to shoot, why not start a 365 project, sharing a new image every day for a year? We have a great 365 project calendar here on Photoblog to help inspire you.

365 project 2019 cover image

21. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

It’s easy to get into a rut, always shooting the same things. Every so often get out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Perhaps shoot only in manual mode for a day or set a slow shutter speed and see what happens when you slow the world down. Try different techniques such as HDR, or Focus Stacking, or perhaps try your hand at an entirely different genre of photography.

Experiment with new techniques and genres of photography to expand your horizons.

22. Check Your Posture

This may sound obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t hold their cameras correctly.

Here’s how to take a good photo:

  1. Your right-hand goes on the camera’s grip.
  2. With your left hand, cup it beneath the lens (rather than holding the other side of the camera)
  3. Keep the heel of your hand under the camera body. This spreads the load and gives you better control.
  4. Breathe steadily and keep your feet hip-width apart to aid stability.
a person taking a photo at a frozen lake

23. Never Stop Learning

As well as taking photos of your own, make sure you observe photographers that you admire.

  1. Look critically at their images and ask yourself why they work so well.
  2. What can you do to emulate that?

Don’t forget, learning can also encompass reading photography books, watching video tutorials or listening to photography podcasts.

A black and white photo of my photography book collection
A small selection of my library of photography books – full of endless inspiration and education. Photo by Helen Hooker

And finally…..

24. Don’t be afraid to fail!

In the digital age, making photography mistakes aren’t financially costly (you don’t waste film). So there’s no harm in making mistakes. Every bad shot you take can teach you something. Don’t be afraid to experiment and fail, but try to learn from those mistakes!

Related Article: Best film cameras

Conclusion

Which of these tips did you find most helpful? We’d love to hear how you used them to take better photos. Perhaps you have other tips we didn’t cover? If so, please take a moment to share them in the comments below, perhaps with an image or two to show what you’ve learned.

Happy shooting!

How to take good photos cover image
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About the author

Helen Hooker

Helen Hooker is a musician and photographer based in the UK. Helen has been photoblogging every single day since November 2008 and has a particular passion for architectural and wildlife photography.

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