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How to take good photos

 3rd Jun 2012


grassThere are three main things you have to understand, composition, light and how to use your zoom. We've got loads of good stuff on the site to help you take good photos. I suggest you start with our Masterclass in Photography - from boring to brilliant.

In this how to get good photos tip I'm going to give you some basics which will have you taking excellent photos with any camera from top of the range DSLRs to mobile phones.

Getting good photos isn't even about the subject, the photo on the right is just some blades of grass but because I know all about light, composition and how to use a zoom it works. So let's start with the camera.

1. How to take good photos - ­ The Camera

If you want to know how to take good photos take heart - because it doesn’t matter what sort of camera you have. It’s not the camera that takes good photos it’s the photographer and this is true for everything from a mobile phone to a DSLR.

I took this picture with a cheap compact camera that cost less than £120.

good photos compact

And this one with £7000 worth of DSLR and professional lens!

good photos Professional camera

Would you have known if I hadn’t told you?

So why would you buy a DSLR and lenses if you can get great shots with a cheap compact or phone?  A DSLR gives you more control over the way your photos look. By changing lenses, shutter speeds and apertures you can make fuzzy backgrounds, freeze or blur movement and change the field of view. By that I mean includes lots of things or concentrate on one element in your photo. The more money you spend the better quality the camera will be.

There’s more to it than this and we explain it all in our tutorials elsewhere on the site, but these are the fundamentals which will make the biggest difference and without which you'll never get good photos.

2. How to take good photos - Composition

Composition is all about where you place elements of your photos in the viewfinder of your camera, and the place to begin is with what’s called the ‘Rule of Thirds’. Here's one of the videos from our site which explains how it works. (We've got loads more in the photography videos section. This is one of only a handful we release as free samples each year.)


When you’ve mastered this you can begin to combine other things like adding some foreground to a photo by getting close to something and placing it in the front of the photo, like I did with this boat and sunset.

how to take good photos composition

See how the photo isn't as powerful looking without the boat. This is because the boat in the foreground adds a sense of depth to what would otherwise be a very 'flat' photo. To put the boat and sunset onto the places where the thirds meet I had to move myself back and forth and side to side until everything lined up the way I wanted them to.

Don't just look at the subject of your photo. Look all around the viewfinder, think about where the elements are placed within it and ask yourself if it looks good. If it doesn't then adjust them by making slight movements to the camera (like in the video) and move yourself about until they do. It's amazing how much difference a small movement of only a few inches can make to a composition.

Think about your point of view because an unusual angle is more eye catching. In the photo of the grass at the top I had my face pressed into the ground to get low enough to look at it side on instead of downwards.

3. How to take good photos - ­ Light

It doesn’t matter how great your composition is, if you have ‘bad’ light it simply won't look great. By ‘bad’ light I mean light that doesn’t work for the photo you’re taking.

Soft delicate things like flowers or people work best in soft light like you'd get on a cloudy day, in shade or from a window that faces away from the sun.

sun and shade

Subjects with harder edges and bold colours work best in sunshine because it makes the shadows and colours stand out. And the best time of day is early morning or late evening because the sun's not too high in the sky and is coming from the side. Don't be afraid to take photos into the light either because that can look great too. The old saying about having the sun behind you isn't often true.

how to take good photos sunshine


4. How to take good photos - Using Your Zoom Properly

How often have you lined up the camera then zoomed in and out to try and get it looking good? We've all done it because we're lazy by nature. But did you know that your zoom does more than just magnify things? It also changes the way a photo looks.

how to take good photos with your zoom

These two photos are of the same stone and were taken moments apart. The difference is how the zoom was set. In the first one the zoom was set as low as possible and I'm standing quite close to the stone. In the second one I set the zoom as long as possible then moved myself back further away from the stone until it filled the exact same space in the viewfinder as it did in the first one.

When you move away from the subject and use your zoom on it's most powerful setting it compresses perspective and makes things in the distance come closer. It also makes the field of view narrower - a bit like looking down a drainpipe.

mike-courses-gifSo to answer your question 'How to take good photos' you have to go out and experiment with everything above. It's best to do it alone or with a like minded friend because to begin with it takes time. If you're out with the family you'll drive them bonkers - and they'll be hurrying you up which will make it almost impossible to concentrate.

Once you've practised it a few times you'll know what to do to make your photos look the way you want them to.


PS. At the time of writing we have some huge discounts on offer so grab yourself a bargain whilst it lasts.


commasopencommascloseYour presentation and Jayne's camera work together make your videos a
great watch. All the best.

Sid Lawyer


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