1. Use both hands and hold the camera STILL.
There you are next to one of the Pyramids in Egypt—a perfect picture opportunity. You hand your camera to another tourist passing by hoping to get a fantastic shot. When you view the picture on your digital camera (after the person has gone) or you get your photos developed, all you see is a big blur! Now you are left with a completely useless picture that could have been something amazing.
Let us say that your photo turned out only slightly blurred and you try to enlarge your photo when you get home from your trip. When you go to pick up the blown up version it looks pretty bad. Even photos that are slightly blurred will never make quality enlarged prints!
The question you may be asking is “should I tell a perfect stranger to make sure he/she holds the camera still?” YES! Do not hesitate—especially when it is a once in a lifetime photo opportunity. Others will understand because they have probably been in a similar situation.
Sometimes it can be difficult to remain steady with a smaller camera because you think you have a better handle on it. Take the time to make sure you are holding it as still as possible.
One more tip for quality enlarged prints—make sure you have enough light on your subject if you want the best color quality. This topic will be expanded in tips 4 & 5.
2. Watch out for too much ceiling!
My family was visiting New York several years ago and wanted to see the statue of Liberty. While there, I handed my camera to someone to get a picture of us(back in the day when I did not have a digital camera) and when I got the pictures developed I had to laugh.
The five of us were cut off at the neck, but there was PLENTY of sky above us. Do not get too much sky unless that is your intention.
3. To check focus, hold the shoot button halfway down.
This goes along with tip 1; make every effort to have a clear photo and you will be much happier with your prints.
4. Make sure light source is behind you, not your subject.
What will happen if you do not follow this advice? In extreme cases, the subjects in your photos will look like dark silhouettes. Take the time to stop and think about where your light source is—you want it to be behind you—ALWAYS.
This tip will also prevent weird-looking shadows on people’s faces. To avoid squinting subjects, count to three before you take the picture—this allows others to close their eyes until just before the photo is taken.
5. Use a fill flash even when it is not automatic.
REMEMBER: Your flash will NOT come on if there is light in the background—learn how to set the flash on your camera and learn how to turn it off. The colors in your photos will be much better if you use a flash and the subjects will also be clearer.
Watch out for too much light—this can make your subjects look washed out.
6. Remember that a flash only carries 7-9 feet
This is a good tip to remember at the next concert or big event you attend. It always makes me laugh when I see a bunch of flashes going off throughout an entire dark performance—those pictures turn out terribly.
7. Shoot your subject at a closer distance
Far away pictures of people are rarely interesting. Do not be afraid to get close-up shots; these are the ones that people typically frame and enjoy looking at the most.
8. Avoid red eye by not shooting in low light.
If you are in low light, use your red-eye reduction if you have one. HOWEVER, if you can avoid this altogether that would be best.
9. Enhance your photo with touches of COLOR
On one particular day when I lived in British Columbia, I wanted to get some photos of the ocean and the sky, but it was kind of a grey day and everything looked the same color. I decided to have my daughter stand in the picture because she had a red coat on and it made such a difference! Adding color to your photos will make them much more interesting.
10. Be prepared to “seize the moment!”
If you come across something spectacular, snap away. The more pictures you take, the more likely it is that one of them will turn out the way you want it too. My children sometimes give me a hard time for this, but I almost always end up with a photo that I am very satisfied with.
About the author
Jill Tabatabaei is the founder of thecoloredstone.com where professional nature photography and cards are sold. She received these tips from artistic photographer Anne Stewart, who has been taking pictures professionally for the last 40 years. To see some of Anne’s work, visit: http://www.thecoloredstone.com/naturepictures.html