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How do you take good photos?
I had a dinner with a friend last night and he said he just bought a new camera. (Canon 350D to be exact). We got into talking about photography and he asked me - "how do you take good photos?" "What do you mean," says I? He said, "well the photos I take don't look as good as those I see on the website... I want my photos to look like those!".

That stumped me ... such a broad question like that - it's like saying, how do I cook good food? Where does one start? Anyway, I just gave a few tips, since he was talking more about indoor photography - such as lighting the scene well and quality of light, setting white balance, metering correctly in uneven light, etc.

Well, someone asked you that question, how would you respond? What tips would you give them? I know it is such a broad question and there are numerous different aspects to photography which makes it the art form that it is... but if you were in my shoes, what would be the #1 tip you could give someone that would dramatically improve their photos?

Come on.. throw your ideas at me! In my experience, the most dramatic improvement I saw was bouncing flash indoors! Wow, what a difference! Another would be composition, and filling the frame with subjects.

Any others?
Hmm. Tricky question.

The place to start would be to pick a representative group of maybe 20 photos that he thinks are "good" photos, and then ask him what he likes about them - maybe sit down with him and analyze what makes each photo good. This sort of mini course to photography would impart more information than an single group of tips.

Either way - there is no magic bullet. Like you said: its like teaching someone how to cook in 5 minutes.

Now quick, Jules: I only have a couple of minutes. Tell me how to startup, run and administer a web forum...
First, read your manual, learn what each dial does, now learn what the meaning of each dial is... it's okay to know that aperture is set here, but then learn how aperture affects a photograph.

1. Read a book (or the book called the internet), any book, on photography.
2. Take some pictures putting into practice one aspect of what you learned.
3. Look at the picture, see what you don't like.
4. Go back to the book, look for a fix.
5. Try again.

Repeat for the rest of your life. Change books and repeat again.
Practise and then practise some more, until you are getting what you think are good photos. And then come back here for impartial advise.
Lumix LX5.
Canon 350 D.+ 18-55 Kit lens + Tamron 70-300 macro. + Canon 50mm f1.8 + Manfrotto tripod, in bag.
The seven P's as they told us in the Army, Practice, Practice, Practice, Practice, etc, and then after that the seven P's, Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents *iss Poor Performance.

These days I think it is easy as there is so many references and forums and books and guides, ultimately I think the best advice is to tell them to take photos and then use something like this forum to have a look and give you guidance.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm
not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein
Like said before, read your manual. When my 350D arrived yesterday, the first two things I did was hook up the battery to charge and then read through the manual. I read in-depth as much in possible, but more a breezing through, as most of it was repeat. If it's your first time though, try to read all of it eventually. (Don't try it all at once though!)

If possible, get together with a photographer, a friend is the best. Take a few hours of photos together, let them critique your style, and learn from their critisism! (Unless they're absolutely tearing you down, then in that case, go find another friend. Wink) This can really help you improve, and they will most likely show you things you've never thought of yet!
shuttertalk Wrote:Well, someone asked you that question, how would you respond?
"I'll let you know when I figure it out."

Seriously (not that that was a joke) there are a few simple things that I would tell someone.

1 - Look at the background. Look especially at the corners of the frame. I typically start in the bottom corner away from the subject, and look around the edges of the viewfinder until I reach the subject, and then continue my scan by looking around, not at, the subject.

2 - Photograph fewer subjects. Don't take a photo because you like the subject, the staircase, and the window in the background. Pick one.

3 - Do assignments.

No doubt I'll think of others when I'm averaging more than 5h of sleep per night, but any one of these would be my elevator lesson in photography. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
1) Rule of thirds
2) Set aperture to a small number for shallow depth of field (portraits)
3) Set aperture to a high number for large depth of field (landscapes)
4) Set shutter speed to a slow speed for blur (mainly for water shots) and for good background exposure at night (use a tripod in both cases).
5) Set a fast shutter speed to freeze action
6) Get a camera that allows you to use external flash and buy a bouncable external flash
7) Buy a tripod and use it
8) Expose your histogram to the right.
9) Join a camera club

Points 1 - 5 will probably be in the manual of the camera.

Go and practice all of the above.
Canon stuff.
I think the #1 rule would be what Craig mentioned. Start off by reading your manual. When I was getting more into digital photography a web friend suggested to look at this site.

If I were to make suggestions one person to another it would definitely be to learn what the cameras functions are. Once a person knows the anatomy of the camera they are two thirds the way there. All the rest of the information that a photographer could go on and on about is much too overpowering to a person first time around to comprehend. Don't you ever notice how newbies to photography almost always start by taking macros of flowers? Such an easy and ready available subject to photograph. Here a person can practice on the rule of thirds, depth of focus, white balance and exposure. The subject will always be there.
Sit, stay, ok, hold it! Awww, no drooling! :O
My flickr images
Awesome tips everyone, thanks! I think a common theme is experimentation, but I guess a nudge in the right direction helps too...
All of these are great tips , and i need all the tips i can get LOL . i think the 1 thing that i would have to say to add to all of this is , SLOW DOWN !!! I know that i am still the worlds worse at " just snapping away " at times. This is one reason that i take my tripod with me on every shoot.

I would also have to say look at your subject and figure out why you want to shoot it , and what makes it a great subject .

all of this would have to happen after you do all of the above Tongue

........ Shawn
Canon 20d and a few cheap lenses ..

It is our job as photographers to show people what they saw but didnt realize they saw it ......
I almost forgot. The #2 rule to taking great photos besides #1's getting to know your camera, is joining Shuttertalk.Big Grin How could I forget that one?Big Grin
Sit, stay, ok, hold it! Awww, no drooling! :O
My flickr images
1. the most important..... composition focus
3. know your camera

confidence and practice.
Good one byrt, know your camera. If you don't know your camera you'll be fumbling around when a great shot comes..and you'll miss the moment because you forgot where the on button was.
shuttertalk Wrote:That stumped me ... such a broad question like that - it's like saying, how do I cook good food?
That's actually a good analogy. The cooking (or clicking the shutter, in our case) is only a part of the equation. So much of it is in the preparation - selecting the right ingredients, getting the right proportions, setting the stove/oven to the right temperature. You need to know your equipment, how to 'configure' it, what peculiarities it has...

After you've done the cooking, there's still the presentation, the finishing touches: sure, you can just take the food off the stove and plop it on any old plate and serve it up, but it's so much more interesting on a fancy plate, with some garnish, nicely arranged...
"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them. So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
-Marcus Cole

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