21 Ways to Shoot Better Photographs

Written by Patrick This article is from 10e20 Blog

Do you want to sharpen your creative picture taking instincts? Do you want to combine new ideas with your current projects and techniques? These techniques will be better executed with digital cameras and meant as some direction or guidelines to taking ‘better‘ pictures. You are your cameras best viewfinder!


Why digital as opposed to film you say? You don’t have to buy tons of film if you are learning new ideas and trying different things and also you see the results right away.

That being said some of these photos were taken with Polaroid film. Polaroid has such an expressiveness to the colors and creates unique one of a kind images every time. The film is expensive but worth it. Once you get some basics down, experiment with film.


1. PerspectiveAnsel Adams once said, “A good photo is knowing where to stand.” Explore your surroundings and take multiple shots from various angles. Look for vantage points that capitalize on the best available light, ones that have the least. Shoot from far away, get close, even closer, lie on the ground, use a ladder. Hold the camera above your head, tilt it at crazy angles. Stand right next to your subject, move with it or even walk around it. The main idea is to investigate normal and radical perspectives.


2. Unequal Space- Vary the amount of distant between your main subject and the pictures edge. This makes for a more attractive composition and flow for the viewers eye to move around.


3. Framing- Try to use various elements to form a visual ‘frame‘ around another element. This helps to direct the viewers eye and lead to the more important elements. Here are some examples from the Natural Framing Flickr pool.


4. Horizon Line- Place the positioning of the horizon line above or below the center of your subjects.



5. Cropping- Dead center is usually not the most interesting shot. Cropping tightly, or aggressively, into the subject creates dynamic visual space between the subject and the edges as well as dramatic imagery.


6. Intentional Empty Space- Just like Unequal Space but more dramatic. Sometimes less is best.



7. Shape- Simple geometric shapes are familiar and the basics of every form. Simple shapes can create order and sense within an image. Look out for interesting shapes and patterns in everyday objects.



8. Lines and Curves- A painting professor I once had said that every curve was made up of tiny straight lines, this stayed with me. A curve is both relative to and different from a line. Find something you see everyday and breakdown your composition into lines, curves and shapes.


9. Visual Texture- This can be made up of anything that densely fills the image. Look out for ‘Harmoniously Organized‘ texture like a close up of a man-made pattern. ‘Harmoniously Disorganized‘ such as a field of wheat or blades of grass on a lawn. ‘Chaotic‘ like a garbage dump.



10. Depth- Draw the viewers eye in and back through an image. Consider various points of view that amplify depth like a pathway in the woods or lines on the road.



11. Spin- Add some movement to an image by shaking the camera or moving around to add some motion blur to subjects that are standing still or stationary. Try this awesome spinning technique provided by Photojojo that makes for the coolest shots of kids having fun!



12. Motion Shots- Shoot subjects that move to fast for the human eye to follow and see clearly. The technical aspects of shooting motion are easy: a fast shutter speed (or the action or sports setting) will freeze motion, a slow one will introduce motion blur. Also, check out this French photographers work with this idea…hang on!



13. 360 Panoramic- Taking shots individually as you turn your body around. Later you can stitch these together in Photoshop. Feeling like pushing it further? Try creating your own planet aka “Polar Panoramas”– now that is cool! Click thumbnail to view full image.

composite_1jung.jpg composite_1tree.jpg

14. Composites- Using the same technique as the panoramic but with this just shoot freely without any order or grid. When you have your images downloaded to your computer later put them all into one Photoshop document and compose the scene. Check out the Panography photo pool on Flickr for some creative inspirations. Click thumbnail to view full image.



15. Beautiful Decay- Expand your definition of beautiful and look for worn down subjects either man-made or natural. Ugly can be beautiful.



16. Clouds- Clouds have endless variations and possibilities. All you need to do is stop and take pictures of them and you will see the beauty. Point straight up and shoot!


17. Shadows/Reflections- They can transform an ordinary object in something artful or abstract. Teach yourself to notice not just the subjects,but the shadows and reflections they cast.



18. Light Painting- Using a longer exposure setting place your camera on a tripod and grab yourself a small pen light or flash light and ‘draw‘ with the light or shot your subject in the dark and use a ‘bulb‘ setting for a long exposure and use a flashlight to ‘paint‘ in the light. Another variation of this would be to hold your camera and move it around the light source or simply set your cameras self-timer mose and just before it clicks toss the $350 camera into the air, just be sure to catch it. Check out these creative light painting photographers and what they are doing with the technique. Here is the Camera Toss Flickr pool. here is their groups description:

This is a “technique” group, and the technique here is regarded by some as insanity. For we are the reckless folks on flickr that enjoy the abstract, chance, generative, physical photography that results from throwing our cameras into the air (most often at night in front of varied light sources).

It is about trading risk for reward in the pursuit of art. It is not about being a photographer, it is about enabling the photography that happens naturally when you let go of the process, give up control, and add a hell of alot more variables. It is about physics, gravity, angular momentum, acceleration, direction, chaos, and timing… most of which you have tenuous control of at best!



19. Light Direction- By exploring various points to light a subject with artificial or natural light, you can get the best possible image. Bounce light off of the ceiling, point the light right at the subject or from the side. Create a silhouetted effect and point the light at the backdrop, called backlighting, or experiment with alternative light sources like candles.



20. Night Shots- Working with relatively low lit situations can be tricky but also very rewarding. The semi-abstract look of night shots can be great at evoking mood and emotion. I took this shot at dusk with a toy Holga camera with a blue filter. Photojojo has some great tips for taking some “Sparkling Firework Photos”.



21. Intentional Overexposure/Underexposure- Add some style and visual impact to your shot by either overexposing or underexposing the image. Use the cameras flash at close range or by pass the flash altogether.