Ten Tips to Better Photos by Jacob James

UK local hero Jacob James is a young and talented travel photographer currently studying at Leeds University who will be sharing with you a series of 8 weekly articles covering in an informal way an Introduction to Photography – in this first in the series Jacob looks at some easy tips to take better images, whether that is with your camera phone, a basic compact or more advanced DSLR.

Slow Down

‘Quality over quantity’ is essential when taking photographs. Slowing down when taking photos and considering the tips and principles we will be discussing below will turn your ordinary snapshots into great photos.

Focus

Making sure your images are sharp is essential if you want photographs that will look good in print and on the web. When taking portrait photographs it is important that the subject’s eyes are in focus as the viewer is naturally drawn to the eyes in a portrait. For many cameras the focus point may not be in an easy place for focusing on the eyes but by focussing and holding the shutter button half way you can then move the camera to get great composition too.

Light

Photography is essentially about capturing light. When shooting outdoors the best light is found one hour either side of sunrise or sunset. Unfortunately most people don’t have the luxury of waiting all day, so if you are stuck with that harsh midday sun there are a few things you can do; for landscape photos position yourself with the sun behind you, this will help to stop the sky overexposing. For portraits, it is a good idea to take your subject into areas of shade to create softer more flattering shadows.

Be Aware

Most photographs are a record of a tiny split second in time. Often the subject of a great photo can come and go in the blink of an eye. Being aware of what is going on around you and keeping your eyes open for a quick moment of action can make all the difference

Composition

In photography there are a few ‘rules’ that help to produce naturally pleasing well composed images. The main composition ‘rule’ is the rule of thirds. It requires you to imagine the image divided into 3 parts horizontally and vertically.

By placing the main subject of your image on, or as close to, the ‘thirds’ you will produce an image that is naturally pleasing to the eye. An easy way of doing this is by switching on the grid lines in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen of your camera before taking the image to make composition simple.

Explore

You can’t just sit at home and expect good pictures. When exploring you don’t necessarily have to trek to the other side of the world. Just exploring your local neighbourhood or surrounding town in detail will open your eyes to new things you have never seen before.

Perspective

Great photographs are often the result of getting a different perspective. Try getting low down or close to your subject to exaggerate its size in the frame. Looking out for alternative and different perspectives on simple subjects can create great photographs. A good and challenging way to practice this skill is to pick a simple household item such as a mug and trying to take 50 different photos without repeating an image.

Ignore gear

‘It’s the photographer, not the camera that makes great images’. Regardless of whether you are shooting with a small compact or a big Pro DSLR, the principle remains the same. Despite what many people may think, an inexperienced photographer with a top of the range camera is unlikely to take any better images than an experienced photographer with a basic camera.

Interact

A good photograph could be a candid moment with the subject laughing or similarly a portrait with a child smiling. Knowing when to remain hidden to grab that candid laugh or when to  act a fool behind the camera to get a smile can be really handy for taking photos at family gatherings and other social occasions.

Practice

‘Practice makes perfect’ may be a cliché but when it comes to learning how to take great images, there is no better way than by learning from your mistakes. The more time you spend taking photographs, the faster you will develop an eye for a good image

Please post your feedback, questions and views on this article or related topics and we will do our very best to answer them for you!

Look out for Jacob’s next article in the 8-part series: ‘Understanding the basics of Exposure’.

For more information visit Jacob’s blog at: http://jacobjamesphotography.co.uk or Twitter: @JacobJamesPhoto