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20 Essential Tips for Better Photos

Whether you are a professional photographer or an amateur, one thing you will always be striving for is taking better photographs. We’ve put together this list of the 20 most essential tips for photographers, which will help your images really come to life. Try out these and you will find your work improving hugely. Even someone with a lot of experience can benefit from reminding themselves of these key points!


  1. Know your camera – it’s really important that you know how to use your equipment. Your camera is the backbone of everything you do, and if you don’t know it inside out, you have room to improve. What does this setting change? How do you solve that warning message? Spend some time with your manual to figure it all out.


  1. Shoot in manual, then priority – first, you should learn how to shoot in manual mode. Then, when you have done that, you can start using one of the priority modes – aperture or shutter speed. This gives you greater control combined with a better adaptability in changing situations.


  1. Talk to your subject – almost everyone gets nervous during a photoshoot, and even a professional model can stiffen up without the right encouragement. Learn to talk to your subject, even if you are only saying encouraging words over and again – they will always respond. A friendly nature gets your subject to relax and provide a better portrait.


  1. Use a wide aperture for portraits – creating a shallow depth of field in your portraits will allow the background to fade away and blur, while your subject remains sharp. Take it down as low as you dare with a f-stop of around f1.8 or below in the best situations. Be careful not to substitute a wide aperture for quality – figure out how to use this to your advantage so that you can adapt on set.


  1. Be creative – you don’t need to have a full professional lighting kit so long as you have some kind of light. You don’t need to buy a reflector so long as you have something reflective. And you can always create a beautiful photograph whatever situation you are presented with. Open your creative mind and practice exercises which will help you to use it more effectively.


  1. Study photography – we don’t necessarily mean that it’s time to go back to school, but you should definitely be learning as much about photography as you can. Read up on the classic masters, or find out who the latest big name is. What makes their work so great? Apply what you learn to your own work.


  1. Create your own style – having your own unique style is the easiest way to start building a solid business from the ground up. If you shoot in such a way that everyone can tell you are behind the lens, then no one will ever be able to steal your customer base. When you have a unique style, you will find your popularity soaring.


  1. Use filters – filters are essential first of all for protecting the lens, especially if you drop it. Secondly, they can really enhance the effects of the images that you are taking. With a filter you can smooth out dark shadows, shoot day for night, bring out the blue of the sky, or so much more. The possibilities are almost endless with a full kit of filters.


  1. Know how to edit – you could be the best shooter in the world, but it won’t matter if you don’t know how to select photos and edit them properly. An unedited shot from in-camera might look good, but it will always look better with a little colour-correction and some contrast balancing.


  1. Use the golden hour – this magical time of day gives you a golden light in your photographs which makes portraits glow. It’s especially essential for portraits, family photos, and fashion shots. Landscape photographers should make it their favourite time of day, too.


  1. Use actions and filters – how much time do you spend in Photoshop? The answer should probably be longer than it is, but you just don’t have the time. Using actions and filters cuts down on the time that you need to spend editing, and you can achieve much better results than doing it all manually. It doesn’t make sense to ignore them.


  1. Know your framing – your model might be beautiful, but if everyone’s eyes are drawn to the bright red fire hydrant or post box just at the edge of the frame, it will be wasted. Know how to spot a good frame, and what to look out for in your backgrounds. Don’t let a stray moment ruin your shot.


  1. Focus on the eyes – what makes a great portrait? There are a lot of possible answers to this question, but one that you should never ignore is a good focus on the eyes. If the eyes are out of focus, the portrait is lost. Always keep that focus sharp on the eyes.


  1. Always have backups – your camera bag should contain plenty of spares. Spare memory cards and spare batteries are essential, and you should always have at least a second lens with you. What happens if the card stops working, the battery runs out, or you break the lens? Don’t let it ruin the shoot and leave you with no results.


  1. Don’t be afraid of the camera – handle it with respect, but never fear. You’re in charge.


  1. Calibrate your screen – editing for print? Always calibrate your screen first to avoid unwanted colour casts or contrast errors.


  1. Keep it stable – use your elbows tucked in against your body to keep your camera stable when not shooting on a tripod. This avoids camera shake, which can be a problem even at 1/125.


  1. Make plans – shooting an outdoor portrait session? Have a back-up location in case of rain. Always make plans for what you will do if it all goes wrong.


  1. Believe in yourself – if you want to be a professional, you have to act like one. Don’t try to give excuses or talk yourself down. You’re only as good as you think you are, so have some confidence in yourself and your abilities.


  1. Practice everything – don’t ever stop shooting. The more you shoot, the better you will get. Don’t let your skills go rusty, even if you’re taking a break from paid clients – keep your arm in whenever possible.


So there you have it – our top 20 tips! Anything essential you would like to add? Comment below!

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