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21 Things You Should Know to be a Good Photographer

Updated on January 7, 2014
A 1 2/3" CCD sensor which is commonly used in compact cameras.
A 1 2/3" CCD sensor which is commonly used in compact cameras. | Source


Photography is art and to be good at it, you need to know a few basic things. These are the fundamental things a photographer should know about composition and camera settings and how cameras react to light. This article will also include some techniques to give you an idea of what you can do and what you can achieve with your camera. Learning these things will help you as you improve your skills and learn the art of photography.


The Basics

1 - The Rule of Thirds.

The rule states that the subject must not always be at the center of the frame (picture). Imagine two lines dividing the frame of your picture into 3. There are horizontal and vertical lines. They cross at four parts of the picture or frame. The subject of the photograph must be at these intersections. The picture or artwork will look more interesting than if it is at the center – makes it boring. Take a look at the good looking and great pictures online, most of them follow this rule.

2 - Proper Exposure.

A photograph must have the proper amount of brightness – not too bright and not to dark. Use the exposure compensation control of your camera – the one that has a plus and minus sign, to adjust the brightness. Remember, If you increase the brightness the exposure time also increases making the shot more susceptible to blur.

3 - Correct White Balance.

Choose the right white balance. Some camera makes are poor in computing the white balance of a scene. If it’s cloudy, choose cloudy. If you are indoors and use fluorescent lighting, use florescent white balance. White balance is a compensation for the color of the light source so as to make a white paper in a scene appear white in a picture. Our eyes do this perfectly but cameras do not.

4 - Avoid using Flash.

As much as possible, unless you really need it, do not use flash. It will make the picture appear unnatural. If the subject is in motion or your hands are too shaky, increase the ISO sensitivity – however this will introduce noise in the image so choose a reasonable level of ISO. Exception to this is backlit subjects and when it’s dark, when you use slow-sync flash or when it’s very bright and you want to even out the shadows.

5 - Take Many Shots.

Don’t just take one shot, take many shots! Taking many shots increases your chance of getting the right shot – the one that has the right composition, the right exposure and the right angle. Of course while you shoot the same subject, try changing your angel and some settings in the process. Fill up your cards! Then just choose the right photo and delete the bad ones. A great picture most often is taken among other not-so-great pictures. Take a series so that the chance of getting the right shot is bigger.

Compact Camera Photography Tips

If you are using compact cameras – those small ones, you need to keep in mind that your hardware is limited and if you really want to take some great pictures you need to learn these critical skills.

ISO settings and equivalent noise
ISO settings and equivalent noise | Source
Exposure compensation button
Exposure compensation button | Source

Learn more about ISO settings!

ISO in digital photography means International Standards Organization. It is the measure of how sensitive a camera sensor is to light. Read this article to learn more about ISO settings and how you can properly use it to take stunning photographs.

Compact Camera Photography: Making the best out of a compact camera

One of the great things about photography is that you do not need to own high end DSLRs to take awesome pictures. Of course, those high end DSLRs take more defect-free images that is prerequisite to commercial photography but even if you own a humble point and shoot camera, you can take great looking pictures too. Keep in mind though that there is a reason why DSLR prices are sky high and compact point and shoots are cheaper and that’s performance and output quality. Don’t expect a compact camera to line up with a DSLR. However, you can get the most out of it using these easy tips:

6 - Read the Manual

Sounds boring? It might to some. But reading the manual does 2 very important things. The first is it saves you time spent on guessing the controls on your compact camera. Yes, even compact cameras have a lot of controls, functions and menus which sometimes will get really confusing. The second is you get to know the capabilities of a camera. All functions are listed in the manual and if you want to get the most out of your compact camera, then the manual is a must read. I find it useful to read the manual twice if you bought a new camera made by a brand you have not used before. Each brand too has its special features. Example: Canon compacts can shoot continuously with the flash on while Nikon compacts have the Best Shot Selector feature.

7 - Understand ISO and Shutter Speed

The ISO setting of all digital cameras is the sensitivity of the image sensor to light - The higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed. And don’t bother yourself with apertures because you can’t control them in compact point and shoot cameras – I’m talking about those that look like a small brick not those that pretend to be DSLRs. The downside of using higher ISO setting is the introduction of noise in the images. Digital noise are bright randomly spaced specks you see in an image. Higher ISO setting also tend to make the image have softer edges regardless of how good a camera handles digital noise. For a more detailed explanation, read the article: ISO settings and Noise.

8 - Frame the Subject Properly

Follow the rule of thirds which states that any image will look more interesting if the subject is not at the center of the frame. It is called the rule of thirds because it uses two horizontal lines and two vertical lines intersecting each other, dividing the frame into three (nine sections in total). The intersections are used as a guide to frame subjects.

9 - Use exposure Compensation

Assuming your camera only supports evaluative metering, the only way you can get the exposure you want is by changing the exposure compensation. Usually it is in the range of -2EV to +2EV at 1/3 steps. A positive number overexposes an image. Use this if you want more detail in dark areas of an image. A negative value underexposes the image. Use this if you want detail in brightly lit areas of an image. Exposure compensation is represented by a box and a plus and a minus sign.

10 - Manually set your White balance

The white balance tells the camera what is white in an image. Due to light sources that are not white like tungsten bulbs, fluorescent light and others, what appears to be white, will not appear white in a photograph. To tell the camera that a white shirt under a fluorescent light should be white in the picture, you should set the white balance to fluorescent. Auto white balance is accurate for many cases but many times too it will not make a correct measurement. Even if your image does not have any white in it, incorrect white balance will affect the colors in an image.

11 - Play with the Camera

Last but not the least, you should play with your camera. I don’t mean play with it like a 3-year old but you should play around with the controls and settings. This will help you get comfortable with any camera, not just compact cameras. You’ll find it easier to change settings quickly when you have experimented and played with your camera. By this way, you will also learn what setting is good for a certain scene and what is not. You will gain experience in using your equipment and in taking pictures too.


Do you submit photographs to stock agencies or just share them for free?

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Making money with your Photographs through Microstock Photography

Tips for great stock photographs

Microstock photography is just one of the great ways you can earn money with your pictures. However, your income relies greatly on if designers choose your pictures and download them. Plus, Microstock agents have a certain standard which requires your pictures to be of high quality. Here are some points for making great stock photos.

12 - Light. First you need to have a lot of light. That’s why studios have at least two strobe lights. It makes the photograph more interesting and attracting. Flash won’t do. It will make your picture unnatural. The light from flash isn’t balanced – i.e. it makes shadows when you take a picture. You need even light on your subject. Try making a light box for your subjects. A light box is a box covered with white material which purpose is to contain the light in the box. Usually, you have a light source at the top. It makes the light just bounce back and forth to make even lighting for your subject. Reflectors also help. Increasing the exposure setting your camera by exposure compensation or longer shutter speeds is not enough. It introduces noise and you’re likely to have a blurred image. The more light you have, the better.

13 - People. People pictures are the best. They are ones that always sell. Designers always look for these. Compose your human subjects as to have an interesting feel. Apply the rule of thirds which states that the subject of a photograph must not be at the center – it may be at the intersection of the lines dividing the frame by three. And don’t forget to have model releases signed by the people you shoot.

14 - Image Defects. Chromatic aberrations, JPEG artifacts, noise, blur, lens flare, uneven sharpness, etc are not good for microstock photography. You might not even get your pictures approved by your agent when you have these. Commercial pictures have to be at their best quality. When you have a good picture yoi want to upload but it has one of these. Try removing it first with Adobe Photoshop or GIMP. Remember that even if you can edit your pictures or post-process them, blur and lens flare are very difficult to remove from an image. So during the picture taking process, find ways to avoid these things. Use a lens cover to prevent lens flare. Use a tripod to avoid blur. Lower your ISO setting for less noise. Set your image mode to fine or maximum quality to prevent JPEG artifacts resulting from compressing an image too much.

Learn more about chromatic aberrations here.

15 - Concept. Stock images should have a concept – a concept that can be used by the designers in their projects. Scan through a magazine. Look at the pictures there in the articles and in the advertisements. Some of them are stock photos. Try to think of what do you want to show and who would be using the picture for. There should always be an idea in the picture.

16 - Practice. Taking good photographs including those for microstock photography always takes practice. Like any skill, practice will always help you improve. Learn from your mistakes and try to find ways to avoid them in the future.

Imaging Sensors

Imaging sensors are the heart of digital photography. They capture light and turn them into pixels which make up a digital picture. There are two major types of imaging sensors. The first and oldest is the CCD sensor and the other is the newer CMOS sensor.

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A CCD Sensor
A CCD Sensor | Source

CCD Sensors

17 - What does CCD mean?

CCD stands for charge-coupled device. It is a device or a component that is widely used in imaging products and devices including compact digital cameras, imaging telescopes and observatories, and even scanners. The CCD was invented by William Boyle and George E. Smith in 1969 at the AT&T Bell labs. It was thought, at that time, to be able to work as a shift register, a linear imaging device or an area imaging device. Linear imaging devices are what we know now as scanners and area imaging devices are our cameras. Since its invention, the CCD has undergone a lot of development and that development led to the rise of digital cameras.

18 - How does a CCD sensor work?

A CCD or charge-coupled device is composed of a photoactive region and a shift register. The shift register also acts as capacitor and that’s why it is sometimes called a capacitor array. The photoactive region is made of a p-type silicon material – a semiconductor capable of producing electrons through the photoelectric effect.

The photoelectric effect is a phenomenon where electrons are “produced” when light strikes a medium, in this case a p-type silicon. Electrons are not exactly produced. They are ejected from their atomic orbits when light or photons hit the atoms in the material. The more light or photons striking a material, the more electrons are produced.

When light hits a CCD sensor, electrons are produced. The shift register acting as capacitors keeps the charges from leaking somewhere else. Then the electrons are shifted into another location in the circuit where they are amplified into voltages and then read and interpreted as images. Then after that, they are stored.

19 - Types of CCD sensors

There are three major types of CCD sensors: the full-frame CCD sensor, the frame-transfer CCD sensor and the interline CCD sensor.

The full frame CCD sensor is the most commonly used sensor in digital photography. In this type of CCD sensor, all photosites of the device are used to expose an image. There is no electronic shutter so a mechanical shutter is needed to prevent smearing in the images taken. This type of CCD sensor is efficient but reads images slowly.

In a frame-transfer CCD sensor, half of the photosites are covered by a opaque material like aluminum. These covered photosites are used as buffers so that when an image is exposed, the electrons are quickly transferred to this covered region. The transferred electrons can be read while another image is exposed. This type of sensor does not require a mechanical shutter, the images can be taken at a much faster rate but it costs about twice than a full-frame CCD sensor.

The interline CCD sensor is similar to a frame-transfer CCD sensor. The difference is that in an interline CCD sensor, every other photosite is covered such that when an image is exposed, the electrons in all photosites can be quickly transferred to neighboring covered photosites then read as another image is exposed.

20 - Application in Photography

What was discussed so far are the basics of operation of a CCD sensor. To be used in photography, there are several other elements that are needed to be integrated with the sensor.

The first is a color filter or a Bayer filter. Since CCD sensors are color-blind, filters are used to separate light so each component of light – red, green and blue, can be measured. There are also microlenses which focus light to the photosites to increase their efficiency. And there are also infrared filters that filter infrared radiation which CCD sensors are sensitive to.

Another type of Imaging sensor is the CMOS sensor. It is a newer technology than the CCD sensor. To learn more about it read this article about CMOS sensors.

CMOS Sensor
CMOS Sensor | Source

CMOS Sensors

21 - What does CMOS mean?

CMOS stands for Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor. It uses Transistors and Optical transducers to translate light into digital information. They are faster and use less power. They are also called Active Pixel Sensor. I have a separate article about this newer imaging sensor technology which you can find here.

If you are also looking for a comparison between the two, read this article about CCD and CMOS sensors.


Now let us put those things into practice. Take your camera out and start taking pictures of people, animals, mountains, oceans, rivers, beaches, flowers, and even stuff you can find in your home! If you are interested in taking pictures of fire, check out this article which will teach you how to take great pictures of fire and flames.


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