10 tips for taking better photos with your camera

10 tips for taking better photos with your camera

Avoid having to rescue photos on your PC with our guide to snapping better originals

Have you just bought a new camera, or received one as a gift? Perhaps you already own a nice point-and-shoot, but want to get better results. Whatever your circumstances, your Advent PC can offer plenty of quick fixes to improve existing photos – see our Explained Guide for details. But if you want your snaps to be perfect when you point and click, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for our top 10 tips that are guaranteed to improve your photography skills.

1. Get to know your camera settings 

Your camera’s auto mode is doubtless very capable, and it can be tempting to rely on this quick fix all the time. But your best shots will come when you take off the stabilisers. Tinker with your camera’s settings and – with a bit of practice – you will get some truly impressive results.

2. Manual control 

Even the simplest camera will allow changes to basic settings, such as exposure and white balance. More complex models will offer full manual control. Try starting with either the aperture priority (marked as A or Av) or shutter priority (S or Tv) modes. The former will adjust the depth of field in a shot – giving you that nice blurred background effect. The latter helps capture fast-moving subjects (with a quick shutter speed) or dimly lit subjects (with a long shutter speed).

Here, the use of the aperture priority mode makes it possible to select a wide aperture – creating the blurred background effect.

3. Learn to live without flash 

Shoot on auto and your camera will resort to flash whenever it thinks the light is dim. But integrated flashes tend to soak subjects in so much light that a lot of the detail is drowned out. Check your camera settings to see if you can adjust the power of your flash – or try using a flash diffuser instead. You could always go flash-free – adjust the ISO level and shutter speed to compensate. 

4. Understand white balance

Your camera will probably set white balance automatically, enabling it to adjust to different lighting conditions. For instance, the colours your camera sees will differ in bright sunlight compared with fluorescent light. It won’t always get this right, though. By taking control of this setting, you can get more true-to-life colours in your pictures.

Checking your camera’s white balance is particularly important in snowy scenes, such as this.

5. Use a tripod 

A cheap and effective way to transform your photography is to invest in a tripod. You’ll find a good range online and you can instantly eliminate ‘shaky-hand syndrome’. By mounting your camera on a tripod, you’ll be able to take pin-sharp snaps in very low light with long shutter speeds.

By using a tripod, you can take striking photographs in very low light, without the risk of blurring.

6. Check your lighting 

Before you even think about clicking the shutter button, consider the lighting. Simple tips include: ensuring the sun is not directly behind your subject, and taking care with extremes of light. In this picture, for instance, activating the flash could have removed the shadows from the subject.

The lighting is wrong in this photograph – it could have been rescued by using the flash to illuminate the subject.

7. Get snap happy 

One of the huge benefits of digital photography over film is that you can take as many pictures as you like. Make the most of this and rattle off several frames each time you shoot. The more you take, the better your chance of getting it just right.

8. Get to know your camera screen

It’s great to be able to see the image as soon as you’ve taken it – but camera screens tend towards the bright and vivid. The image you see on screen might look very different on your computer, or when printed out on paper. Get used to how your screen affects the image and you’ll be able to instantly spot when you need to shoot the image again.

9. Basic composition 

You needn’t be a pro to understand picture composition basics. Start with the impressive-sounding ‘rule of thirds’. Imagine a noughts and crosses grid over your scene, and aim to have your subject appear where two lines intersect. Many cameras will overlay this grid onto your screen as a visual aid.

The rule of thirds has been used in composing this photo, neatly framing the subject of the image.

10. Check the data 

Every time you snap, your camera saves details of the camera settings being used. This is called EXIF data. When you come to look back at your pictures, you can easily check this data by right clicking on the image file and choosing ‘Properties’. Click on the ‘Details’ tab and you can see all the settings that were used when the shot was taken. This helps you learn what’s worked and – usefully – what hasn’t.