Nine keys to taking better pictures

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Nine Keys To Taking Better Pictures

You can own the best camera equipment, but that can’t replace what is responsible for great photography – You! Anyone can shoot pictures, but what separates the average photographer and the elite is how you use the camera as a tool and how to use your creativity to share your unique vision.

Professional photographers have taken many years to practice and hone their skills before they were considered among the elite and capturing a subject’s character by projecting emotions and feelings. Below are nine key steps that should assist you in becoming the photographer that you want to be, but remember it takes constant practice:

  1. 1. Composition Is The Key
  2. 2. Subject
  3. 3. Context
  4. 4. Subject Placement
  5. 5. Lines & Paths
  6. 6. Backgrounds
  7. 7. Blurring
  8. 8. Lighting
  9. 9. Experiment

Composition Is The Key

Despite the technical talk, photography is an art form and its most important aspect is composition. To improve your art skills, find photos that you enjoy and ask yourself what exactly drew you to that photo. Once you understand composition and how it was used in those photos, you can go out and try some for yourself.


When taking a photograph, identify what the subject is. A simple answer of a person or an object is not the answer. You need to go a lot more in depth to identify the subject. Maybe it’s the curves of the body or crackling fixture of the building. What drew you to that “subject” in the first place? Generally, it is the same senses that gave you the sense of touch, smell, taste or feel.

I encourage you to take your time and study the subject before you shoot it. Then ask yourself what was it that appealed to you in the first place that made you want to shoot it. Two questions to also ask are “what is the purpose of this photograph?” and “what kind of reaction do I want my viewer to get from it?”


The next step is to find context. Something such as a backdrop which can add relevance, contrast and/or location to the subject you are shooting. Another is to add depth by finding a context in a different spatial plane than the subject. For example, if the subject is a building and it’s in the background, then make the context a flower or person in the foreground. That would make a big difference in your photograph.

Subject Placement

The placement of your subject in the frame denotes its relevance to the context. The center of the frame is the weakest. It’s static, dull and gives no value to the context. The more you move your subject away from the center, the more relevance you give to the context. So you would want to maneuver until you get the right balance. Each item has a “weight” and, like a waiter filling up a tray, you need to balance the “weights” within the frame.

Lines & Paths

Create impact by using real or inferred lines that lead the viewer’s eye into and around the picture. Train tracks, rivers and fences are obvious choices, but there are also inferred lines from the subject to the context. Lines have subtle effects. Horizontal lines are peaceful, diagonals are dynamic or tense and curves are active and sensuous. You can also connect lines in a path or shape, such as a triangle. A picture is a playground for the eyes to explore, so provide a path of movement and some space for the eye to rest.


A high quality portrait photo should have a passive background, one that does not take away the attention from the subject. A portrait photo is all about the person’s face and should be taken with a neutral background. A background that is comprised of soft, solid colors is a good background. A busy street or people moving are bad backgrounds to use.


Another way to make sure that the attention of the viewer is not divided between the object and the background is to blur the background. This will literally lift the object out of the photo and make it standout.

The technique to blur is simple. You will need to set your camera to a shallow depth of field. You can do that by using a zoom lens and shooting from a short distance or with a wide aperture manual setting.

A face has many details, so the best place to focus is the eyes. The eyes tell a story as they convey emotions, feelings, and state of mind. Depending on the emotions and story that you are trying to convey through the photo guide, your object should look straight into the camera or to look sideways and focusing on another object.


Whenever possible, use natural lighting. Natural lighting is much better in capturing the full color range and warmth of the skin. Take your photos outdoors during the day. Position the object in a way that the sunlight hits it from the side.

Do not take photos with the sun right in front of the object as it will result in overexposure and color distortion. You can use a fill-in flash to compensate for some shadowing that might occur on the face, for example in the nose area.


It takes time to perfect your portrait shooting abilities. With digital cameras, the cost of taking photos is literally zero. Experiment as much as you need, check out your results and make the necessary adjustments until you get a good sense of how to achieve those high quality portrait shots.

All in all, there are so many aspects to becoming a really great photographer. These nine keys are just a few for you to consider as you begin your journey in becoming the next great photographer. Good Luck!