Tips you wished everyone knew

This is about capturing only. I will start:

  1. rule of thirds is a good start for framing. there are other rules you can follow but this is an easy starter. and many cameras got guidelines for it.
  2. go down to your subject. (or up) especially with kids or pets this makes a huge difference and gives the viewer the feeling they are in the scene.
  3. Use the trick with the jaw line in your portraits
  4. Prefer Aperture priority as aperture can have a huge impact on your photos look. more so than the other parameters. The camera can handle the rest for you.
  5. Shutter speed: you should aim for “1/focal length” or faster to minimize motion blur in your photos. Be it from fast moving subjects or you not being 100% steady. Image stabilization gives you a bit more room but this is a good rule of thumb. ( 1/50th if you use a 50mm lens e.g.)
  6. Use exposure compensation: It can often save you from going fully manual to get the right exposure.
  1. Focus on the eye(s) when taking a portrait-like picture, especially with rather shallow depth of field. When taking a portrait with such a shallow depth of field, focus on the front eye. Modern camera’s often have eye recognition/autofocus that helps with this.
  2. When doing a landscape, remember the rule of thirds (as a start for framing) and pick the most interesting part as the 2/3rds option, so for example choose the sky (clouds are always good :wink: ) over some boring expanse of sand or concrete.
  3. When taking a quick snapshot of someone from farther away, don’t forget their feet or top of the head (odd how many people accidentally crop off body parts unintentionally).
  4. In addition to darix’ point 2: Going up to the subject instead of using zoom generally results in better images.
  5. Underexposure is better/easier to fix than overexposure. Slightly underexpose your photos by default and maybe lighten them up a bit in post.
  6. Shoot RAW :slight_smile:

Tips #1 to #5: watch the subject’s background. What you exclude from the shot is as important as what you leave in.

  • if you’re composing quickly, take two steps back and give yourself room to crop
  • before pressing the shutter, look around the edges of your frame
  • don’t crop people’s limbs out of the frame at their joints: ankles, knees, waist, elbow, wrist, and neck are generally bad cropping points.
  • shoot at golden/blue hour, better light makes better photos
  • capture more frames, not less
  1. ABC - Always Be Capturing.
    I’m the worst for this, but shooting however, whenever as much as possible can really help build an eye for composition and getting shots. Like most things in life, practice, practice, practice. Camera, phone, imagination, just shoot with whatever you have with you and don’t let lack of stuff (equipment) be a barrier to just doing it.

  2. “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” --Robert Capa
    As already mentioned by @darix and @aquatix , zoom with your feet if possible. This is particularly helpful in creating a more “intimate” feeling - especially with wider angle lenses. The feeling is almost of the viewer being involved in what’s presented to them.

  3. Sometimes “Auto” mode is just fine.
    I know some gearheads will twitch, but you can have the most technically perfect photo that lacks any heart or ability to evoke any feeling in the viewer, while on the other hand you can have an awful technical photo that can just floor you. Have fun taking photographs, not fiddling with knobs and numbers. (I think ƒ/8 and be there” is the old-school version of using “auto exposure” mode… It allows you to focus (hah!) on composition and scene.)


Yes. Yes. Yes.
For all the study I do to learn the ins and outs of digital photography, when I document family events, “P” is the setting (well, can’t bring myself to go all the way to “A”), but I let the camera figure out exposure. I do pick my ISO, and I’ll pop the flash if I see a sufficient difference in dynamic range, say, from an exterior window. Otherwise, let the camera do its thing. Oh, that’s right, I don’t do “A” because the camera wants to decide to use the flash in that mode…

This lets me concentrate on the subject, and composing it/them in the frame…

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Re point 2: when scanning around the edges, start at the right and work to the left (unless your native language goes from right to left, in which case go from left to right.) Forcing your eye to move in a way that’s unfamiliar can help prevent skipping over things that should be noticed.


When composing, look through the view finder, it’ll help isolate your scene better.

When capturing digitally be sure what you intend to present as the subject is close-in enough. Are you photographing a rodeo or just the cowboy? When outputting one thinks of the dime rule for PMT (the subject’s face must be larger than a dime to reproduce well on newsprint). If the image is thus properly composed a resizing won’t be necessary and won’t degrade the image.

Cover the viewfinder eyepiece when doing long exposures if your camera leaks in light there like mine. Apparently the problem is so bad the camera shoulder strap comes with the eyepiece cover attached to it.

Do not fear the changing of the lens. Unless you have a separate camera for each one.

Pressing the shutter release button causes a little camera shake. Use the two second delay to get sharper tripod captures. The mirror causes some shake and there functions to mitigate the effect, although it is not as major as shutter-button-press shake.

It is basically making sure the subject is sufficiently large. Could you elaborate on how to use a dime?

It’s from the analog days on preparing photographs for newsprint. To result in a recognizable print, the subject’s face on the mechanical transfer sheet had to be larger than a US Dime. Therefor we loose resolution on the image overall if we need to zoom during the transfer exposure. The problem was the final printed output wanted to look sharp on all images across the board, so photographers must keep in mind the proper composition.
Many times many ways, are you close enough?

Auto is never fine.

Stop studying and practice instead. It’s not a thinking exercise, its a doing exercise.
For one week shoot only using the Sunny 16 rule. Set the shutter speed to 1/250 and the ISO to 200.
Use the sunny 16 rule to set the aperture. Only shoot jpeg set all picture controls to off or neutral, no chimping allowed. Always have a subject but just shoot anything. Keep a log of which rule you used and why.
Go home home a judge the exposure. Rinse and repeat until you get it.

Just delete’em if the suck. If you are unwilling to try this, they just give it up.
Then the next week, use you meter same rules.
My 8 year old learned to shoot manual, you can too.

In many cases and for many people, it is perfectly fine.

This is obviously terrible advice, as is the general feeling of “don’t use the tools you have” that your response gives. Chimping, as it is so derogatorily called, is perhaps the best feature of digital over film. If you want to shoot film, that is great, go for it, but this type of advice is just bad.


I constantly remind myself of these two tips.

1. Know your camera: what it can and cannot do. Not just the specs but practically in the field. That means getting out there, trying different things and not being afraid of getting it wrong. Edit: This implies knowing yourself as well, and knowing your limitations and inexperience. Once you know the parameters, you would know what is possible, and be able to laugh in the face of that once you become confident in your art. :stuck_out_tongue:

2. Imagine a scenario where you would like to be in the scene yourself, but don’t have anywhere to place the camera. There is a willing bystander who could help you take the shot and you are willing to have them take the photo (hoping that they won’t steal or drop your camera).

a) What settings would you configure?
b) What instructions would you ask the complete stranger to follow?

Having a plan for such a scenario is important. I can’t count how many times I end up with a mangled image because I failed to change the camera settings or give easy to follow instructions.

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Jim, I know what you’re after, ‘in firm control of the exposure, focus and composition’. I lived that on your terms in the '70s, with a Nikon F2 Photomic and a set of lenses that didn’t do anything different unless I dialed it in. Fair enough, that was the state of the technology at the time. What I’ve found with digital and all the things it can do for you is that how to constrain those behaviors is the important thing, and it frees me to concentrate on the composition. In all that, I spot meter so I know where the middle gray will be, and I move my focus point to the thing I want sharpest. Then, I move in the scene to compose my shot, knowing what the auto behaviors will give me. If I really want to control DOF, I use aperture priority, but still with the ‘constrained behaviors’ mindset.

Well stated, @afre.

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Use live view to get the focus exactly where you want it. Not every situation will permit this but auto focus doesn’t always find what you think it will. I don’t know how many shots I took with the focus being close but not quite where I would like it before I saw a video on Youtube that showed the live view technique.

  1. The exposure meter doesn’t meter for the correct exposure; it meters for middle grey. Even the almighty spot meter follows this
  2. Even when you have all autofocus points active, only the one that falls on an object nearest to the camera will lock focus
  3. The histogram you see on the back of your camera is a wonderful tool that is not difficult to understand
  4. A cheap flash+lightstand+umbrella can do wonders for your images
  5. Subject exposure = Flash + Ambient light
  6. Inverse square law is quite easy to understand, and can make a big difference to how quickly you change flash settings
  7. Changing aperture settings in full stops is quite easy if you know what the square root of 2 is
  8. White balance can be set on any neutral shade, even black
  9. Even the best photographers don’t get the perfect shot the first time; take a number of photos and exhibit only the best ones
  10. If you don’t take interesting photos with a cheap phone camera, you are unlikely to take interesting photos with an expensive rig
  11. An expensive smartphone is likely to give you better out-of-the-box casual photos than an entry level DSLR with a cheap kit lens
  12. There’s not such thing as an unprocessed JPG, or a #nofilter image
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When composing, look through the view finder, it’ll help isolate your scene better.

Or use your smartphone for framing first :wink:

  • The “don’t chimp” is for the exercise only.
    -If you are un-willing to try this, then just give up manual. Don’t pretend to be anything but a beginner photographer. If you want to learn photography, learn to shoot manual. It really is not hard.
    Auto is never fine if you want a correct exposure most of the time. Sure that are cases when auto works, but here’s the catch - to understand when it would work you would need to actually learn photography.

For the most part these days few want to actually learn photography. I guess the idea is “just shoot raw and fix it later”, but guess what - that will not get really great exposures. If you have to “recover” the exposure, first of all it never looks great and your other creative options are limited.
If you want to shoot auto, just stick to you phone, the latest phones are amazing for the snapshots they are made for.
The exercise I have outlined is simple and effective, but already push back.
The “experts” are big on telling what you should do, but small to non-existent on how to learn it in practice.
I have to ask - why would you NOT try it out? What have you got to lose? If you can bring home correctly exposed JPEGS, just think where you can take you RAW exposures.