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12 tips for taking better digital photos

Want to take better digital photos? Here are 12 tips from Boys’ Life photography director W. Garth Dowling that will help your pictures really stand out.


Everyone is used to seeing the world standing on his own two feet. Try looking at the world from down low or from a little higher than eye level or even higher. Look around for a vantage point different from what everyone else is seeing.


One classic method for composing a shot is called the “rule of thirds.” When looking through a viewfinder or at the display screen, think of the picture divided into squares like tic-tac-toe. Instead of positioning your subject in the center, place the important parts of the picture at or near the intersections of the lines. The good stuff will fall into one of the “thirds” of the frame. In an action picture, having the flow of the activity move from one of these intersections to another makes for a more dynamic shot.


Sometimes a vertical picture is better organized and stands out from typical horizontal photos. This is also called “portrait mode” since it’s often used for pictures of people, but it can be effective with shots of landscapes, sports or almost anything.

J13_10777GO FOR AN ‘S’ SHAPE

Capture your subjects in an “S” shape. As with the rule of thirds, the idea with this composition style is to fill the frame with interesting stuff that moves from one corner to another and doesn’t just appear in a jumble.


By using a tripod or bracing your camera on the ground or on some rocks, you can even photograph at night, capturing scenes different from what your own eyes show you.


If it’s safe to do so, get closer to the action or the subject. Maybe try getting in even closer for a “detail” shot to better tell your story, like this one of a cookout.


The repetition of shapes or actions makes for interesting shots. If one person is blacksmithing, two doing the same thing can be better.


With today’s cameras, exposure or the brightness of a picture isn’t usually a problem. But cameras are only machines and generally want everything to look the same. You might want to capture a mood by making a photo darker or brighter. If your camera lets you adjust the exposure, experiment with it.


How do you capture the idea of motion? If your camera lets you adjust the shutter speed, try using a slow setting while following the action. It might take several tries, but a cool effect called a “pan shot” can result in your subject being crisp while the background is blurry, making a “still photo” look not so still.

How slow is slow? It depends on the action. It might take a shutter speed as slow as 1/10th of a second to pan a bicyclist, but one as fast as 1/125th of a second or faster to keep up with an Indy racecar. Try different speeds with different subjects.


A big part of photography is telling the story in your unique way. Look for ways to set the picture apart from everyday. Look for expressions, action and reaction, or peak action.


Light is an important part of what makes a good picture. Watch how light changes during the day and how it falls on what you want to photograph. The direction of the light might help you decide what and where to photograph. By walking around a scene, you can take a lot of very different pictures as your position changes relative to the direction of the light.


Take lots of pictures and try lots of different approaches.

When you see a photo somewhere that you like, pick it apart to see what the photographer did to make that picture get your attention.

The only unbreakable rule with photography? Have fun!

4 Comments on 12 tips for taking better digital photos

  1. Thanks! These will come in handy later, when I get the chance to do more photography!

  2. these are very simple to follow – we need to do a tiny bit more than just point and shoot

  3. Eaglemaster // May 12, 2014 at 11:57 pm // Reply

    GREAT tips! Thank you! (<:B

  4. im going to try some of these thanks clay

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