Seven simple tips for better photography

There are a few simple things that anyone can do to improve their pictures and have more fun. So whether you want to get really good, or just make your photography more enjoyable, this is a good place to start - the Torrid Art Photography Tips.

I couldn't come up with a hip "top ten" list, so here are my seven unordered tips. These photography tips are for anyone with any kind of camera. They will have a big effect for relatively little work. If you try them, I know you will like the result, and you will be on the path to better, more enjoyable photography.

Further discussion of the following tips can be found in any good book on beginning photography, or in my upcoming Guide to Better Photography, which will be available here in the Extras section.

1. Get closer

This could be the tip that will improve your photos the most. Many photos have a "distant" feel that was not intended! Or they look like entries in a contest of "how far away can we get and still recognize the subject."

Look at some of your photos and see if you think they would be better if you had been closer to the subject.

2. Avoid posed photos

This is the most difficult tip of the lot. For many of us, it is customary to ask our subjects to say "cheese," or "money," or whatever. (These are words that make people smile, or at least look like they are smiling.) When you are at a family gathering, it may seem like every time you point your camera at your sister, she looks at you and smiles. That's ok. There are lots of other people who wont look at you and smile, especially if they don't know you are pointing a camera at them. You know, people who don't have ESP like your sister.

Give it a try and see if you think your photos are any better.

3. Watch your background

Background? What does that have to do with good photography? Plenty! Simple, uncluttered backgrounds focus attention on the subject. This can apply to a picture of a nature scene as well as people.

When photographing people, watch out for objects behind them. The classic example would be a person with a pole or tree appearing to be coming out of the top of their head.

This tip is not that difficult to do, if you can remember it!

4. Get the subject off center

One of the first rules that many photographers learn is that the picture has edges. Well, that seems pretty obvious, right? Of course the frame has edges! (The "frame" to a photographer is the edges you see in the viewfinder, or the edges of the picture.) But it turns out that the edges of the frame are very important, much more important than most casual photographers realize. The placement of the subject within the picture is what photographers call "framing the subject." How you frame a subject has a big influence on the emotion, beauty, strength and impact of the photo. It is usually a good idea to keep your subject away from the center of the photo.

I will discuss framing and composition in my upcoming Guide to Better Photography.

5. Use foreground objects

This applies mostly to landscape photos, but is often used in many other types of photography. A foreground object can add a lot of interest to a photo. In a landscape photo, put a tree or big rock in the foreground, then see if you agree with this tip. In a photo of a building, placing a bench or hot dog stand in the foreground can really bring the photo to life.

6. Frame your subject

Ok, what the heck does this one mean? We already covered "framing" in tip number 4. Well, no, not quite. This is different from number 4. Not framing with the edges of the frame, but framing with something in the scene. Look at some professional nature photos, for example in a magazine or calendar. In many of them, you will see graphic elements near the left or right edges, sometimes both. Most commonly, when the photographer puts "frames" on the edge of the photo, they use trees. Look for this kind of framing in photos and you will find it. If you like it, try adding framing to your own photos.

7. Look for good lighting

No, not "bright" light. Good light. Light has quality and direction. For example, if you are taking a picture of a building and the sun is at your back, the building is well lit; every part of the building is in sunlight. That's good, right? Sometimes, but usually not. The building looks "flat," like it was just a flat piece of cardboard.

Go ahead, take that picture with the sun right behind you. Now, walk around the building a little so the sun is not behind you. Try finding a place to stand, facing the building, where the sun to your side. Now take that picture.

When you get your pictures printed or on your computer screen, compare the two. You will see a BIG difference. As you look at them, ask yourself if you could have stood somewhere else where the light was even better. I will bet that you can think of a place. Now you are really on the path to better photography!