Simple Tips To Take Better Photos
by Karl Taylor Education
As a professional photographer and educator people often ask me how they can improve their photographs. The answer to this isn’t usually as straightforward as they might have hoped because there’s usually more than one thing that can be done to achieve a better photo.
A great way to improve your photography is to look at and analyse not only your own work, but others’ as well. We can learn a lot just by considering what works, or what doesn’t, and asking ourselves “Why?”.
We hosted our first mega members picture critique recently where I looked at images sent in by our members and, after going through all the images, I’ve put together some simple tips you can use to improve your photos.
1) SUBJECT VS BACKGROUND
The subject is the key thing in a photograph, but that doesn’t mean the background should be forgotten. Not considering what surrounds your subject can easily result in the eye being drawn away from it. Think about colors — do the colors in your image contrast or compliment your subject?
Another thing to look out for is lines — where do the lines in your image lead? Do you have distracting lines that cut through or distract from your subject? This can be solved with the simple fix of moving a few steps or changing your angle of view.
Light is a key concept when it comes to photography and it changes depending on the time of day. The Magic Hour is the most popular time of day for photography and, if possible, it’s a good idea to try and make the most of these hours.
Early morning and evening light produces soft, flattering light while the hours in between often result in harsh shadows and flat coloring. Getting the timing right and making the most of the best hours of light can really transform an image. You can find out more about the different types of light in this Understanding Light class.
3) HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS
Our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest area of an image which is why it’s important to consider where the highlights and shadows of an image are. A burnt out forehead or patch of sunlight on the floor can easily draw our eyes away from the subject.
To overcome these problems you can try using a reflector to add light or, if it’s feasible, moving your subject to get in the light right, or introduce your own lighting such as flash.
While these can be remedied with some post production (see my later point), I always encourage getting the image as close to perfect as possible in camera.
If you’re going to add a prop to your image, it should always add some meaning. If it doesn’t add anything you might want to think twice about whether to include it.
A few sprinkled walnuts alongside a slice of carrot cake tell you about the ingredients and the process of making the cake, in the same way a book about magic and a pack of cards on a table can tell you something about an individual. Remember the narrative of the shot is often important.
5) POST PRODUCTION
While I advocate getting the image right in camera, this is not to say I think you should completely avoid post production. Sometimes the smallest adjustments, like simply adjusting color balance or removing flecks of dirt in a macro shot, can make a big difference to an image.
If you’re new to editing or just want to brush up on your skills, make sure to have a look at our Post Production section — this covers everything from optimizing your workflow to techniques such as burning and dodging.
6) THE POINT OF THE IMAGE
This may seem like an obvious point but it’s one that is easily overlooked, especially as it’s easy to get caught in the moment when photographing. One of the most important questions you have to ask yourself is “Why am I taking this picture?” What purpose are you trying to achieve, what is the story you want to tell?
Once you’ve answered that you’ll need to think about the framing, the lighting, the mood, the props you’ll need and ways to make your image different. In other words, you’ll have given at least some thought to many of the points above.
It’s always clear when an image has been taken without a clear purpose in mind, so make sure to spend some time thinking everything through beforehand.
These are just a few ways you can improve your images. If you want to see what else was covered in the critique you can watch the replay here.