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The Most Essential Photography Tips

Updated on November 23, 2016
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Leading lines | Source

Top mounted swivel flash

Public Domain
Public Domain | Source

There are quite a number of things, rules and tips to pay attention to if you want to improve your photography.

But there are some tips that could be considered essential if you want your photography to excel and take your photo adventures to the next level.

Anything takes time, patience and plenty of practice but with these essential tips you should be on your way rather quickly.

Although most of these tips are really intended for amateurs they can be used by basically any expertise level. In fact most professionals know them by heart and use them constantly.

Golden hour | Source

Full frame | Source
  • First and foremost always try to photograph what you love. Yes you can do any type of photography but never lose sight of the things that really motivate you in taking a picture.

Never lose sight of what got you into photography in the first place. not only will your photography be more fun but shooting the things that you love will keep you interested.

  • Second is to practice using the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the (imaginary) guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section. This is not a hard rule that must be strictly followed but it allows you to start practicing and learning a better way to compose your shots.

Rule of thirds


Histogram sample | Source
  • Third, if you need to use a flash try to never use the camera built in flash unit. It is adequate enough for most uses plus it can create harsh shadows. It is good to use as a fill in light source when for example your subject is in the shadows on a sunny day but not for much else.

Use a top mounted flash unit better and make sure that it is a swivel model so that you can aim the light bursts to the ceiling and use the reflected light as a diffused source.

  • Fourth, try to fill the frame with your subject. If you leave too much room it de-emphasizes the subject and you lose details. If you are shooting for a commercial purpose then get closer to the subject and then you can crop less to allow the commercial buyer to add their text message.

Low angle

CC0 License
CC0 License | Source

Use of reflector

  • Fifth, do change your perspective and use different angle. Most people take a picture while standing and looking at the subject normally as how everyone sees it.

By changing your perspectives like for example using a low angle you can add interest and show your images in a more interesting way.

If everything is photographed the same way you images can become boring eventually. Keep changing things and give your viewers something new.

  • Sixth, sometimes you are going to come upon scenes that are either too bright or too dark or maybe you want to experiment. Understand exposure compensation and how to use it.

This way you can manipulate the shots in camera and not need to do anything digitally in post production. Plus it can help save a good shot even if the lighting if not ideal and lets you be creative.

  • Seventh, if doing portraits use the lowest possible aperture. F 2.8 to f.5,8 are good settings. This allows you to make everything behind the subject more blurry thus focusing the attention squarely in the subject and lessen any possible distractions.
  • Eight, try to never use a shutter speed that is lower than the focal point of your lens. For example a lens ranging at about 80mm should be used with a shutter speed of about 1/125.

Anything lower and you run the risk of causing movement and the longer the lens is physically the more that this can happen. If you use a tripod this might be fine but not if not using one.

Exposure samples | Source

Composition | Source
  • Ninth, study how the best photographers compose their shots. Keep in mind that they have honed their skills through years of practice. Look at how they compose their shots and try to emulate their style whenever possible.
  • Tenth, take some shots during what we photographers call the golden hour. In photography, the golden hour, also called the magic hour, is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during, about half an hour before and after, in which daylight is redder and softer, more diffused than when the Sun is higher in the sky.

This time is great for landscapes, nature shots and for portraits. The same holds true, so far as using a softer light, when the sky is overcast. You will find that harsh shadows are mostly eliminated and the light produces a more natural result.

Alternate perspective | Source

Digital composition | Source
  • Eleventh, I know some of you might find this difficult to do but it is always a good idea to keep both eyes open when looking through the viewfinder. You can see everything besides the subject and within the frame so basically you can compose a better shot. This might take some practice to get used to but it's worth it.

I shoot Olympic archery and the best advice I ever got what to shoot with both eyes open; one on the sight and the other one on the target. Sure it took some time to get used to doing this but the results were beyond what I expected.

  • Twelve, for product shots and even for portraits try to use a reflector to enhance the appearance of the subject. A reflector reflects ambient light on the subject and helps show more detail as well as a better texture.

It need not be a fancy one. A simple white card will do the trick nicely. Reflectors are also useful to fill in shadows where the main light does not fall directly or if portions of the subject are in the shadows.

For example if a model is posing under a tree during a sunny day, using a flash might give you results that show an unnatural look. By using a reflector instead of a flash the portrait looks more natural .

Will you take some of these tips into consideration?

See results
  • Thirteenth, learn what the histogram is and how to read it properly. In the digital age a histogram when seen in the camera right before you take the shot lets you see if the scene or parts of it are being consumed by too bright or too dark areas.

Learning how to adjust the histogram can go a long way in saving a photo and getting better results. It can help avoid overexposing bright areas and underexposing darker ones.

  • Fourteenth, If the scene has lines then use them. Leading lines lead the eye towards an important part of the scene. They guide the eye towards one part of the frame or the composition and creates more interesting pieces. By using lines you control where the viewer's eyes go.

Lines that converge at one spot within the scene thus the frame, help give the composition depth. Even though you are showing something in a two dimensional plane lines can pretend to show a three dimensional view.

© 2016 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 14 months ago from Miami, Florida

      Deborah Demander: Thank you. Glad it helps and yes, pick up the camera!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 14 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      These are great tips. I spent about five years working as a newspaper reporter. I never quite got the hang of photography.

      Your tip about changing perspective is my favorite. This is imperative in life, in general, and in photography as well.

      Now that I've found you, maybe I'll pick up my camera again.

      Thanks for writing