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Top 10 Ways To Instantly Improve Your Photos

Updated on September 15, 2014

"A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words" ~ Want To Improve Your Vocabulary?

Taking great pictures comes naturally only to a blessed few photographers. But if you are not one of those who are blessed with the ability to capture excellent images without a struggle, you have definitely come to the right place. You CAN learn to take better pictures!

Not only can you take great pictures, you don't always need to know the rules. (But read this article before you toss 'em all out)

Perhaps the finest nature photographer of all time, Ansel Adams, said this: "The so-called rules of composition are, in my mind, invalid, irrelevant and immaterial." So, if you have tried to follow all the rules, and they aren't working for you, just shoot from your heart for the fun of it.

Photography is one of the most popular and fastest growing art forms in our current society. With the advent of the digital camera, more and more folks are taking an interest. But if your pictures are dull and uninteresting, you might lose heart.

Stick with it! You can learn to take better pictures, and you can do it quickly. You don't have to attend the New York School of Photography to improve your images.

These 10 tips are meant to give you some ideas about how to get better fast. Read 'em all. Then pick the ones that you can implement right now. But don't forget about the others. Work patiently, and you will get better.

Happy shooting!

Photo with permission - all photos on this lens were taken with the Canon EOS Rebel T3i or Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS7 (Now the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8).

Quick Tip For Instant Gratification

Improve the number of good, blur-free pictures you take by using the best shutter button technique. It's actually simple. Before you take the picture, press the shutter button half-way down to allow the camera to focus. Then gently push the rest of the way to get the picture.

Don't MASH the button. That will just cause more movement and blurry photos. And, you can avoid shutter lag with this method, also improving the number of good shots you will want to keep.

If you are old enough to remember back when movie making was a kind of "glamor" job, you may have walked around making believe you were a cinematographer with your hands situated like a TV or movie frame. It was fun and creative. You could block out the clutter and distractions to focus on the main idea of your "movie."

That is still a valid way to decide what will look good as a photograph. It is a lot easier than walking around with your camera up to your face, looking for interesting shots.

The idea is that you can take control of your composition. In the example here, you will notice that the image on the left has too much clutter with part of the adjoining wall and a rain downspout spoiling the picture. I just increased the range on my telephoto lens (you can also move forward) a bit to get the shot on the right. It is much more visually appealing in its simplicity.

Here is another example of taking control of the composition. After viewing the image below in the LCD panel, I decided I was not happy about the chair on the left side.

So, again, I simply increased the zoom on my lens and took the shot again. The second shot does not include the distracting chair or the stepping stones in the foreground.

Many times the simplest of adjustments can result in dramatic differences.

Above we see a dad watching his son in the pool. You see a young boy with flotation devices on his arms. This type of photo will stir some imagination and emotion in the viewer. What is Dad thinking? Is he watching to make sure his son is going to be safe, or is he feeling a sense of love and pride? Either way, the viewer gets involved in a much deeper way.

This picture of an abandoned building is also interesting. The signs are a paradox to the walls which are showing their age with their crumbling stucco.. The "No Parking" signs in front of the parked car are another paradox. You can find scenes like this that will bring the viewer into the story everywhere.

Books To Improve As A Photographer And Take Better Pictures

I have the books of both of these authors. They are the top selling photography writers on Amazon. The books are excellent resources for photographers who want to take better pictures.

Both of these authors are highly regarded in photography circles as teachers and mentors.

#3 Change Your Perspective - How to avoid boring, ho-hum shots

Choose Your Angle of View
Choose Your Angle of View

Sometimes you see a scene that you know will be a fantastic shot. However, when you get it onto your computer, you are disappointed that there is no interest at all. You can make a minor adjustment in your position and get BIG results. The two pictures above feature the same two daffodils. You will probably admit that the image on the right is much more interesting.

The shot on the left was taken at a normal level, one that most of us would assume is the correct perspective. After all, this is the way the flowers look to an average person walking by the garden.

By simply lowering the camera to the ground and using the adjustable LCD screen, I was able to get the picture on the right with a beautiful sky as the background. If you don't have an LCD that will tilt for you, you can experiment until you get the shot you want. That is the beauty of digital.

In the pictures above, I took the shot on the left from the ground. Then I went to the second floor of the art gallery next door and took the shot on the right using my 12x zoom. It is the same window (shown in the red square). Which shot has more interest?

Sometimes you have to put forth some energy and move around.

#4 Use a Tripod

Even the cheapest tripod can help.

Use a tripod for close-ups. As you get closer you get to your subject, any movement gets multiplied much more than normal shots. Also, you want to shoot macro at a small aperture which slows down the shutter speed. So you really need to steady the camera some way, and a tripod is the most useful and reliable way to do that.

Above is a close-up of some flox taken early in the morning. Tripod is supporting the camera.

When you want to take pictures at dusk or at night, it is even more important to steady your camera. The photo of the Inter-coastal waterway above was taken just after the sun went down. The camera was resting on one of the dock pilings. So sometimes you can improvise when your tripod is not handy.

The final shot is taken in a dark room. It requires a long shutter speed, so it is practically impossible to hand-hold a camera in such a situation.

Tripod - A Photographer's Friend

Ravelli APGL4 New Professional 70" Tripod with Adjustable Pistol Grip Head and Heavy Duty Carry Bag
Ravelli APGL4 New Professional 70" Tripod with Adjustable Pistol Grip Head and Heavy Duty Carry Bag

If you do not currently own a tripod, check this one out.

One thing I like about this particular tripod is the ability to turn the center post upside down in order to get very low. You would think that just putting the camera on the ground would work, but having control over the exact angle of the camera is critical.

And check the price.. The list price is $399. What a savings!!!


#5 Frame It!

We are not talking about a wall mounted photo here.

Another powerful composition strategy you can use to add punch to a picture is framing. Frames are normally found around the pictures in your house. The frame acts as a device that adds value to the picture in the frame. The same thing can be done using natural objects. By using natural frames, you can really increase the interest and importance to the subject of your pictures.

This will mean that you have to examine the area where you are shooting to find unique angles with natural frames. It is not always possible, but when you can find them, they will pay off in spades.

This cemetary bench would not be nearly as nice if it were not for the natural frame provided by the oak tree.

Here we see a wrought iron fence providing a frame for the foliage in the garden beyond. Notice how your attention naturally goes right into the "hole" in the fence.

#6 Use The Rule Of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most powerful techniques at your disposal for improving your photography. In fact, it is so important that some camera makers now include a grid in the LCD screen to help you line up your shots. My Canon Rebel T3i has such a grid. When I use "Live View" to compose my shot, I can see the grid and reposition myself or my camera to move the subject off-center and onto one of the gird lines.

Basically, what you want to do is position the subject of your picture in such a way as to get out of the center. We all have a tendency to try to get the subject in the absolute center of the photo, but that simply leads to dull and boring shots most of the time. When you see a picture that sparks your interest, look at it closely to see what it is that caught your attention. My guess is that a high percentage of those interesting pictures have a subject that is not in the dead center of the photo.

If you can use the cross hairs of the grid, you will add even more interest.

Notice how the young photographer above is aligned on the grid line? And also her head is at the cross hair of one of the third lines. This is very subtle in most cases, but it is also very helpful.

In the photo above, the water drop is on the lower, right cross hair. Can you see how much more interesting that is than if the bud was in the center of the frame?

This takes practice, but if you keep reminding yourself about the Rule of Thirds, you will be one step closer to having many more "Wow" images. Sometimes, you can do a simple crop once you get the picture onto your computer to achieve this effect. In a digital age, that is not cheating LOL.

Canon Rebel T4i - Improve Your Photos With A Great "User Friendly" Camera

The Canon Rebel T4i (and other cameras) has a grid you can turn on so you can frame your shots using the "Rule of Thirds."

Canon EOS Rebel T4i 18.0 MP Digital SLR with 18-135mm EF-S IS STM Lens (OLD MODEL)
Canon EOS Rebel T4i 18.0 MP Digital SLR with 18-135mm EF-S IS STM Lens (OLD MODEL)

The T4i is Canon's newest Rebel. It is the perfect camera for those who are just getting into digital SLR photography. Many of the photos in this article were taken with a Canon Rebel, either the T3i or the T4i.


#7 Be Prepared

Boy Scouts can teach photographers something.

I can't tell you how many times I hear this cry, "Quick, get your camera!"

As a photographer, you should always be ready to "get the shot."

Sometimes this is just impossible, but there are other times when it is, and when that happens you should be prepared. There are a couple of things you can do to "advance the cause."

  • First, you can keep your camera close by. This may take some training. But when you do get the shot, you will be so glad you did not miss the golden opportunity. I usually carry a point and shoot camera with me when I can't take the Canon Rebel. It has saved the day quite a few times.
  • Second, when you are done with one photographic experience, make sure you reset your camera to a "normal" group of settings. Again, I can't tell you how many times I have failed to do this, and it has ended up in getting horrible photos.

    An example of this is when you have been shooting in an unusual place, such as a dark room, so you have boosted the ISO to a really high number, and when you take a shot in normal conditions, it will be much too over-exposed. Or vise versa, you are in a darker situation and, thinking your camera is on auto, you take a shot and the shutter speed is far too slow to hand hold the camera and you end up with a giant blur.

    But, for me, the most common mistake is when I have been using the camera's timer and forgotten to reset it to normal shooting. I see a fantastic picture, I compose the shot, and I press the shutter button. That's when I hear the dreaded beeping of the timer, and 10 seconds later the camera takes the shot of some blank area. Very disappointing.

When our cat and dog are in a playful mood, the photo opportunity does not last very long. I have to have the camera ready and handy.

And wouldn't it be a shame to miss the shot when your grandson stood up for the first time on his surfboard?

Cameras with fast frame rates to capture the action

#8 Fill The Frame

This is one technique that can prove to be very powerful. You do it by moving closer or using the zoom capability of your lens.

Experiment with your camera. Take a picture, then move closer and take it again. Keep moving closer and taking more pictures. When you get the pictures on your computer, examine them to see which ones are more compelling. You may be surprised that a picture that does not even have the entire subject in the frame because you were so close might be the best of the lot.

In the picture of the church door on the right, there were some distracting elements on each side, but when I was able to get just the door, it took on a whole new sense of interest.

The photo of the tree below is another way to fill the frame. I noticed that the tree looked a lot like a cartoon face when I filled the frame with just part of the tree. It is much more obvious in this photo than if you are simply looking the the tree in its entirety.

Insects are another subject that have much more interest if you are able to get up close and personal, filling the camera frame. In fact, they also do well when you can focus on body parts, such as eyes and wings, because most folks will not have seen the insect that way.

Travel Cameras with Super Zoom Capacity

Travel and vacation cameras offer lots of flexibility. They have excellent still image and video recording.

But when you want to fill the frame with your subject, a super-zoom lens "fills" the bill.

#9 Use Leading Lines To Take Better Pictures

This is another rather subtle photography technique that adds power and interest to your images. Lines lead the eye, whether we realize or not. Sometimes the lines lead the eye away from the subject or out of the frame. These are not the kind that have power. The ones that have power are the ones that draw the viewer into the photo.

Leading lines can be things like streets vanishing into the distance or a fence line or a babbling brook. But sometimes they can be much more subtle like a line of buildings that gets smaller as it draws your attention into the background. Again, you can study some of the photos that you find interesting to see that the interest is indeed leading lines.

Bugs and insects can sometimes have leading lines. Can you see them in the Monarch Butterfly?

#10 Put Aside That Foolish Pride

You will never take better pictures if you aren't shooting.

You have to be bold. Depending on your personality, this could take some practice. Don't be ashamed to let folks know you have a camera. And, more importantly, don't be afraid to use it. Having your camera out in plain view could also lead to some interesting opportunities. Some folks love to be in front of the lens and will volunteer or even beg you to take their picture. I have found this particularly true of teenagers.

Of course, there are those who would not want their picture taken if their life depended on it. You should usually honor their wishes, and try not to make them feel uncomfortable.

But what I am really referring to here is taking pictures in public. It could be pictures of people or perhaps pictures where people are around you.

Take the shot below, for instance. It is a picture of a manhole cover. I was standing the the middle of a street when I shot this. Sometimes you will feel a bit foolish, but in the end, you may wind up with some pretty good stuff.

Panasonic Is A Leader In Point and Shoot Cameras

I carry my Panasonic Point-and-Shoot camera wherever I go. It takes great shots, too.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 14.1 MP Digital Camera with 16x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (OLD MODEL)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 14.1 MP Digital Camera with 16x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (OLD MODEL)

My model (only I have the ZS7). I can not speak highly enough about this camera for the price.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD - Black (OLD MODEL)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD - Black (OLD MODEL)

Near-pro quality. In fact, it is the number one choice of pros who carry a compact camera.


Credit For Photos

All the photos in this article are property of the author. They are actually posted on where you can find more photography tips and training.

The pictures were taken with either a Canon Rebel T3i digital SLR camera or a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 (Now the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8). Both cameras are well worth looking into for personal use.

Panasonic does not receive the advertising hype of Canon and Nikon, but they produce some of the top Point and Shoot cameras on the market. In fact, the Panasonic LX7 is considered by many pros to be the finest digital compact available, and many of them carry it as their preferred pocket camera.

More About The Canon Rebel T3i

As mentioned, I personally own this little Digital SLR. I also mentioned that you can get one from Amazon, and if you don't think it's right for you, send it back. That was my intention when I ordered mine. The Canon Rebel T3i was just an experiment that I would return after I tried it out. I totally intended to get the Canon 60D after my Rebel trial.

Well, I still have the Rebel. I was so totally impressed with it that I kept it. That's my story, and I'm stinkin' with it. If you want to see more about what I consider to be the number one cheap digital SLR on the planet, please visit

Did I Miss Your Personal Favorite? Or Just Let Me Know You Were Here! - There are many ways to improve your photo skills, but if there is one that particularly

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    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 2 years ago

      Thanks Audrey,

      I'm not sure what happened, but I will be fixing the missing photos problem right away.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      What a great article on photography and getting better pictures. I remember some of the rules like not putting the person in the center and not having clutter in the photo. However, some of the photos you describe are not visible to me, which is disappointing. Something must be wrong. Thanks for sharing these tips that I will definitely use. Sharing, Blessings, Audrey

    • mrgrosky profile image

      mrgrosky 4 years ago

      Great info here for the beginning photographer! I really enjoyed your article, especially since I recently wrote my first-ever lens for Squidoo--also about ten tips to improving your photography. I agree with each of your 10 points here--clearly expressed and explained. I'd be interested in your opinion of my own lens--if you get a chance ( Thanks a lot. ---Mitch

    • mrgrosky profile image

      mrgrosky 4 years ago

      @sherioz: Just set your self-timer for either the 2-second or 10-second setting. It works just as well as a shutter release.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Excellent tips. Every photographer should read this lens. It's very helpful.

    • Fridayonmymind LM profile image

      Fridayonmymind LM 4 years ago

      Great tips, my photo taking is hit and miss but now I can see how I can make some impreovments.

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 4 years ago from Ireland

      Another interesting lens with useful tips and advice.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      Great advice. All of these tips can help improve your photos considerably.

    • Carashops profile image

      Cara 4 years ago

      Some great tips here. I love taking photographs and like to think I'm slowly getting better. I love the fact that I can keep on learning from others.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 5 years ago from U.S.

      This is such good information! I'm a very amateur photographer and your 10 tips for improving photos are very helpful. As one of the other commenters said, thanks for discussing the rule of thirds. That's going to be a very useful tip for me.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent lens. I just got into photography last year when I replaced my point and shoot with a DSLR. I agree with you about Scott Kelby's books. Another book that helped me is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Your photos are impressive.

    • rasnasah profile image

      rasnasah 5 years ago

      Great lens on photos.Thanks for sharing.I really liked your lens.

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this remarkable lens "Top 10 Ways To Instantly Improve Your Photos"

    • profile image

      Traveller579 5 years ago

      Superb lens!!!!! I am really enjoy to visit your lens. Very nice info.

    • SusanRDavis profile image

      Susan R. Davis 5 years ago from Vancouver

      Thanks for discussing the rule of thirds. I understand it better now.

    • cellphonezone lm profile image

      cellphonezone lm 5 years ago

      A lot of info, thanks for sharing.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Great information...I'm really enjoying my visits to your lenses.

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 5 years ago from USA

      This lens is very helpful; thanks for the tips!

    • profile image

      sherioz 5 years ago

      When your camera does not have the capacity to accept a cord that releases the shutter, how do you achieve a photo like your candle one here?

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Excellent tips - and excellent photos, as well! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @JeanJohnson LM: Jean, you are totally welcome. This was one of my favorite lenses to write. As you can tell, I love photography :-)

    • JeanJohnson LM profile image

      JeanJohnson LM 5 years ago

      Thanks for some very helpful advice

    • profile image

      jawdropfilms 5 years ago

      Awesome tips!

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      They were all awesome but i will go with the dog and cat

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great pics and great tips!

    • Loulie LM profile image

      Loulie LM 5 years ago

      I really enjoyed these tips! Super lens. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Brilliant snapshots and awesome tips! Thank you!

    • GeekGirl1 profile image

      GeekGirl1 5 years ago

      Helpful tips on improving photos.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have learned so much reading your lens. Well written and presented that reading it is enjoyable.

    • gatornic15 profile image

      gatornic15 5 years ago

      You have some really great tips here.

    • gatornic15 profile image

      gatornic15 5 years ago

      You have some really great tips here.

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Very nice lens and informative with great captures! :)

      Thanks for sharing!

    • PBJasen profile image

      PBJasen 5 years ago

      Great photography lens.

    • PuttinUpWithSuzy profile image

      PuttinUpWithSuzy 5 years ago

      Loved reading this!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Some great suggestions! Nice article!

    • teristazko profile image

      teristazko 5 years ago

      Great photography lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • CNelson01 profile image

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      Well said!

    • profile image

      MarionElodie 5 years ago

      Thank you for those great tips! I don't take pictures very often but I'll keep some of them in mind next time.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @Elyn MacInnis: Hey elynmac, I know exactly what you mean. I am the same way. Happy shooting!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      This lens was good for me - I get reminded of things I know already, but forget! I love taking photos, but sometimes I forget to do things like change the angle. Recently I have been playing with that, and it makes such a difference. Thank you thank you for this great lens!

    • RuthieDenise profile image

      RuthieDenise 5 years ago

      Thank you for the tips on taking photos. I know I need help with my picture taking skills. I think these ideas will help me. Nice lens.

    • SoniaCarew profile image

      SoniaCarew 5 years ago

      I love your pictures! My favorite,... one too many,...but the old building with the Laugh, Love and Hope signs,... and the garden bench under the tree. Gorgeous!

      Fantastic lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love photography, I have done a couple of lens on photography also

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for the photography tips! Awesome photos!

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      Wow, thanks for the fine article and the tips. Simply presented, lovely photos and quite helpful.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Beautiful article and very helpful tips! :)

    • BetsyGorman profile image

      BetsyGorman 5 years ago

      So concise yet practical! Thank you, it's going to be a beautiful week and you have got me inspired to take pictures. Thanks!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      I don't have a great camera but just used some of these tips for my newest lens. I did crop some of the pictures that I wouldn't have normally. Also, I have grid lines but didn't know what they were for. Great tips!

    • Mim Art profile image

      Mim Art 5 years ago

      Great photos - Great lens! Very informative (I'm going to have to come back to this one once Spring decides to bloom here).

    • Mim Art profile image

      Mim Art 5 years ago

      Great photos - Great lens! Very informative (I'm going to have to come back to this one once Spring decides to bloom here).

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 5 years ago

      So impressive! I learned quite a bit out of this. Mostly, I take photos of animals to be adopted, but I can see how much I can improve my photos. Tripod on my wish list!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Love the tips and, especially, the examples. Beautifully done!

    • profile image

      bdkz 5 years ago

      Beautiful photos and a great list of tips.

    • profile image

      Gala98 5 years ago

      Fantastic info for all beginner photographers & great images to illustrate your points too. Actually meshes nicely with my lens for Rocket Squids this week which is how I found yours :) I'm sure this will become a very popular lens for you, good luck xx

    • suzy-t profile image

      suzy-t 5 years ago

      Beautiful photos and great tips...Thanks for sharing these with us. Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      Your photos are incredible, and thanks for providing tips that all of us can use to improve our photography!

    • Scriber1 LM profile image

      Scriber1 LM 5 years ago

      Great information and some beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing this!

    • serendipity831 profile image

      Drake McSherry 5 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      Wonderful info. I want to get into photography and this has given me more inspiration to do so. Thanks for the lens.

    • JEMArtistry profile image

      JEMArtistry 5 years ago

      Great Information! Thanks for sharing. :)

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 5 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Nice photography tips! thank you for sharing. I need to try to apply some of these.

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 5 years ago

      I learned a lot from this lens. Thank you for useful information!

    • smithlights profile image

      smithlights 5 years ago

      Great tips! Thanks for sharing with us!

    • Riosamba Gallery profile image

      Riosamba Gallery 5 years ago

      I am a photo enthusiast enjoyed reading your lens very informative.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @SusannaDuffy: And your comment has encouraged me! Thank you so much for stopping by.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      After reading through your excellent resource on how to instantly improve your photos, I'm taking my camera (and a thermos) out for a walk this afternoon. Your 10 tips have inspired me!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @mary lighthouse15: Thanks Mary.. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • mary lighthouse15 profile image

      mary lighthouse15 5 years ago

      Im a photo hobbyist myself. I enjoyed reading your lens.