If you find that you are often unhappy with the photos you’re taking, here are four simple steps that will quickly improve your pictures:
Find your focal point. Before taking a picture, mentally step back and ask yourself two questions: What are you photographing and why? And, once you’ve answered those questions, ask yourself one more question: Does the scene that you are capturing make the two first answers clear to your viewer? Many beginning photographers will often make go for what I call ‘kitchen sink photography’—they want to include way too much in their composition and the result is that the image has no well-defined focal point. The viewer is left to wonder what the image is all about.
Instead, try simplifying your composition. When it comes to photography, less is often better. Leave anything that isn’t relevant to the story out. A more simple composition will help to give the photo a focal point and will make for a stronger image.
Set your main subject off-center. Photos with the main subject placed directly in the center of the composition tend to be static and one-dimensional. Instead, try placing your subject off-center. The ”rule-of-thirds”, a tried and true method for placing your subject off center, can help you with your subject placement in off-center compositions.
This is not to say that you should never center your subject. Sometimes a centered image works. But, more often than not, you will find that moving your subject off-center creates a more balanced composition and a stronger image.
Take another step closer. Probably the easiest way to improve your photos is to get closer to your subject. People often set up shots that are too far from their subject. Getting closer to your subject by either physically moving closer or zooming in allows you to fill the frame with your subject and that makes for a more compelling and stronger image.
So, the next time you’re out photographing, frame your scene and snap the picture. Then, take a few steps closer or zoom in closer to your subject and snap another photo. Then, repeat the process, getting even closer and snapping again. Chances are you’ll see an improvement in the photo as you move in closer.
Watch the light. Photography is all about capturing light. So, it’s not really that surprising that the quality of the light you’re working in has a big effect on the quality of your images. Light has characteristics that change throughout the day and with the weather. Not all light is created equal, at least when it comes to photography. And some light creates better, warmer, more striking images than other light.
With that said, here are a couple of rules that will help you capture the best light in your photography.
Avoid shooting in bright overhead sunlight because that type of light creates harsh shadows and too much contrast in your images. Instead, look to shoot in bright, overcast lighting. Or if it’s sunny out, look to move your subject into the shade. If you are still having trouble with shadows, try using your camera’s fill flash to ‘fill in’ the dark spots.
Try shooting during the “golden hours”—the 1-2 hours before and after sunrise and sunset. The light during the golden hours is soft and warm. The result is an image that is beautiful, warm, almost magical.
If you are shooting indoors, try to avoid using your camera’s flash and instead move your subject close to an open window or door. During evening hours, turn on indoor lighting. And if you do need to use the flash, avoid harsh shadows by keeping your subject a distance from walls and other background surfaces. And keep in mind that the flash on most cameras is only effective for about 10 feet.