10 Tips for a Better Photograph

(photo of Anhinga with days old chicks taken at Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, February 20, 2015)

Recently, I took a day long course in photography down in Ft. Lauderdale hosted by the amazing photographer Scott Kelby. The tour was called How to Shoot Like A Pro. The following tips were compiled from his seminar.

1. Sharpen Every Photo

Every photo you see in a magazine or on the Web, has been sharpened through Photoshop, Lightroom and others. It’s a critical step in making your photo stand out.

2. Use a Tripod or Raise your ISO

Most people can hand hold a shot down to about 1/60 of a second. Below that, you are just asking for blurry photos. If you can’t use a tripod or have to shoot hand held, like in a museum for instance, try raising your ISO to get to at least 1/60 of a second. Most DSLR’s today can handle 1600 ISO without much noise.

3. Use Your Camera’s Built-in Self Timer

When using a tripod, even just the act of pressing the shutter can cause movement. Set your timer on 2 second delay or use a cable release specific to your camera.

4. Get Creative

If you want more creative control over your images, try shooting in AV mode or Aperture Priority. It’s so simple because you just choose the f-stop and the camera will do everything else for you. Here’s a simple guideline for f-stops. If you want your subject in focus like a person or a flower and your background out of focus, use the lowest number your lens will allow (like f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, etc.) If you want to shoot a landscape/cityscape and have everything in focus, use a high-numbered f-stop like f/16 or f/22. Just remember, the higher the number, the slower the shutter speed will be, so a tripod may be necessary.

5. Make a Better Portrait

Use 85mm or more when zooming in on a person’s head and shoulders. It will have zero distortion and be more flattering to your subject.

6. Check the LCD on the Back of Your Camera - OFTEN

Today’s LCD screens are VERY good. Zoom in as much as possible when checking for sharpness and subject matter. It could save you when you are at an event such as a wedding and you thought you had the perfect shot only to find out later that it was blurry or your cousin’s hand was covering up a portion of the frame.

7. Create Better Landscapes

There are only 2 rules to great landscape photography. 1) Shoot in the right light: DAWN OR DUSK. Any other time is just wrong. 2) IT TAKES A GREAT LANDSCAPE TO MAKE A GREAT LANDSCAPE. Your back yard is not amazing, unless you live in Page, Arizona. Oh, and use a wide angle lens and set it to at least f/22. And did I mention that a tripod is a must?

8. Make a Better Composition

Use the rule of thirds when composing your photo. For landscapes, this is helpful to determine where to put the horizon line. Here is the rule of thumb: if the sky is more interesting, show more of it by putting the horizon line at the bottom third of the grid. If the foreground is more interesting, show more of it by putting the horizon line along the top horizontal grid line. And use a strong foreground element like rocks or fallen trees that can lead the eye into the frame.

9. Keep it Simple

When traveling, try to minimize gear. There are some great lenses out there that will do just about all you want in one small lens. The 18-200 lens (cropped sensor) or the 28-300 (full frame) are excellent to take you from super wide to telephoto in an instant.

10. Aim at Better Things

And finally, if you want your photos to be more interesting, you will need to aim at more interesting things. Your subject matter is the single most important part of your photo. Make it WOW. Amaze people with your dynamic composition. Show them something beautiful, unique and special. So much so, they may even want to purchase it.