Top Ten Tips to Make Better Photographs

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Everybody has a camera these days. Whether that is on your phone, a compact camera, a consumer SLR, or professional behemoth, there is no reason why your photos need to be constrained by your equipment. In fact, most photographers have made some of their best and favorite prints using something other than their primary equipment.

The basics of taking great photographs rests in a combination of a discerning eye, some basic compositional "rules", and the willingness to connect with your subject. By taking a few of the below tips into account, you can help elevate your photography to a higher level of quality and interest.

The Top Ten

1 Pick the Subject

If you can't look at an image and immediately tell what the subject is, there isn't one. The subject can be something within the photo like a person or car, or it can be something abstract like colors or a pattern of lines. The important thing to note is that if you, as the photographer, can't pick out the specific subject of your photo, nobody else will either.

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2 Use the Correct Aperture

Depth of field (the amount of blur to the part of the image not in focus) plays a major role in determining the subject of the photograph. For portraits you'll generally want a high aperture (low f-stop number) so the background is blurred and the person stands out. For landscapes, go the other way (f-stop of 8 or higher).

3 Compose Using the "Rule of Thirds"

Imagine a grid over your image (most cameras have something like this built into the viewfinder) that divides your photo into 3 rows and 3 columns (9 total squares). Try to place your point of interest at the intersection of 2 of these lines - don't always put your subject dead-center.

4 Get Personal with your Subject

Thinking of taking a photo of the old man sitting on a park bench feeding the birds? Instead of popping on your telephoto lens and snagging a shot from across the park, try going to talk to the man first. Get to know why he sits and feeds the birds. What his name is. This not only removes the awkwardness of "being caught" drive-by shooting but also gives you some insight into the scene. Maybe a 50 yard photo wouldn't be as good as a close up from the bench next to his.

5 Change your Vantage Point

You know how boring someone else's vacation photos can be? It's because they're taken from eye-level at the same scenic viewpoint as everyone else that has ever visited that spot. They look too normal. Try taking a picture of a tree from the ground as if you were an ant. Try moving off the beaten path and capturing that waterfall from above instead of the highway pull-out.

6 Capture the Moment that Matters

Ever seen a scene that looked just perfect only to have missed it due to fumbling with your equipment? How about those forced smiles you get when people have been posing for too long? If you are dealing with an unpredictable and dynamic subject (pretty much all people) try having your camera out and ready long before you plan snapping a photo. Then engage in conversation or other regular behaviors while holding the camera to your eye. That way you'll be ready the second your subject laughs at the punchline.

7 Uncover your Personal Vision

Anyone can be shown how to push a shutter button but not everyone can take the same photo as you. Take some time to go back over your history of photos and see what themes you can find. Look for the types of stories you typically tell through your photos. Some photos can stand alone as beautiful art, but the truly remarkable photographs evoke feeling, tell a story, and make you feel like you were there. Think of why you want the photo - what do you want to tell the viewer that nobody else but you can say?

8 Post-Process

You don't have to invest in hundreds or thousands of dollars in software, but you do need to consider the fact that very few masterpieces start and end in the camera. Even Ansel Adams spent hours and sometimes days in the darkroom making the perfect print of his images. Do everything you can in-camera but recognize that the final image might take form on the computer screen.

9 Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

If you love every shot you take then you haven't taken enough... Try taking 5 slightly different photos of every scene. Chances are, you won't end up liking the first photo every time. If you snap and run, you'll miss out on all the options you might have liked better.

10 Understand Light

Whether shooting a sunset or your kid's soccer match at noon on a sunny day, you're going to need to know what the lighting is doing. Shooting into the sun will give you silhouettes whereas having the sun behind you can make your subjects squint and look unnatural. Play with different angels and start committing to memory what settings you need to change to get the shots you want when time is running short. There is no need to get over or under exposed shots with a basic understanding of your camera's settings (unless those are what you're trying for. )

The Contenders

11 Use a Light Meter

I know that modern cameras has inbuild programs and light-correction meters but nothing beats the use of a separated lightmeter. Okay, understand light is very important before you even can use or at least trying to use a lightmeter but even if you don't understand light at 100�'% ; the use of a lightmeter will give you better photos.

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