4 Basic Steps to Improve Your Photography Skills

Anyone can take good photographs, regardless of experience, training, or even equipment. What it all comes down to is how well a person understands the art of taking a photo. And as it turns out, there really are only a few things that are absolutely essential. Now, this article might not launch your National Geographic career, but it certainly could make your photos stand out amongst the sea of drab images that flood Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

1. Focus On The Upper Third

Our eyes don’t naturally go to the center of a picture when we first look at it; they scan the thirds of the images. Simply by placing the main focus of your picture in the upper third area you can drastically improve the quality of your photograph. It’s really that simple; just put someone’s eyes in the upper third of a photo the next time you take their picture.

portrait composition

“Fog” captured by Yekaterina Zaikina (Click image to see more from Zaikina.)

2. Think Before Using Your Flash

Next time you’re more than 20 feet away from whatever you’re taking a picture of remember the following analogy and think whether or not your flash is actually going to help:

If you had a flashlight and pointed it at a truck that was driving away from you, how far do you think the truck would drive before the flashlight no longer illuminated the back of the truck? Ten feet? One hundred feet? Either way, we can all acknowledge that eventually the truck would be too far away for the flashlight to illuminate it properly. The flash on your camera is actually really similar, except that unlike a flashlight it’s meant to flood a relatively small area with a lot of light, whereas a flashlight usually covers a much greater distance with a narrow beam of light.

This is important because if the camera fires the flash it will assume that whatever you were aiming at was lit by the flash, leaving you with underexposed (dark) photos if your subject was too far away.

portrait with flash

“Giampaolo” captured by Daniel Zedda

3. Read Your Camera’s Manual

As simple as a camera is (light is focused by the lens on a sensor, which records the information) the software that operates the camera usually has dozens of controls and strange names for operations. This is true if you’re using anything better than a cell phone, and even more true if you’re using a DSLR. So make sure you keep the manual handy at all times.

If you, like most people, threw your camera’s manual away, or lost it somewhere amongst countless other manuals that you never read, don’t panic. Pretty much any manual for anything ever can be found online, usually on the manufacturer’s website. Just go ahead and Google the exact name of your camera and you’ll probably find all kinds of interesting information. The task may seem daunting, but try to look at it as a learning opportunity.

4. Keep It Fun

Taking pictures should be fun above all else. The tips provided above are good tips that will help you improve your technique, but they are by no means a comprehensive guide on how to be a better artist. Try not to take advice or implement practices that make photography feel less enjoyable.

fun photography

“Hello, Sunshine!” captured by Luci Correia

So, we’re interested—have you read your camera’s manual? If so, did you find it useful? If not, why not? What other fundamentals would you suggest to a novice photographer?

About the Author
Daniela Brannon is an Account Manager for Swagger Media. They have a blog on marketing skills. Swagger Media offers video production services, post-production services, animation, marketing and strategy, and everything in between. Reach out to us with any questions, comments, or rate inquiries.

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4 Comments

  1. John T Wylie Jr says:

    I get what you were going for , but the flashlight theory is flawed.
    While that may apply for a $7 flashlight , it certainly doesn’t apply to my $200 flashlight.

    I can easily illuminate people at 75 yards with it.

    With a speedlite, know its power and range , and how to most effectively use it , zoom the head , flash exp compensation , etc , that info would have been a great suggestion for people to learn.

  2. George Sutton says:

    I recently bought a Fujifilm bridge camera but the manual was on a disc that came with it, I couldn’t carry that with me so I downloaded the PDF file to my phone which I’m never without, sorted.

  3. Kismet says:

    I’ve read my manual multiple times and I always discover something new. I also found some you-tube videos by the ‘Fuji-guys’ that are very helpful.

  4. Sharyn says:

    Saved as a favorite, I like yur web site!

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