Photography Tips

The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally
The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally

Photography Tips: My Rules for Taking Better Pictures

Photography never ends, and neither does the tips to help aspiring photographers.  I have been in photography for over 10 years, and have taken pictures from everything including weddings, sports, portraits, fashion, editorial, to my favorite: landscape and travel pictures. I primarily shoot with Nikon gear but my photography tips are geared for photographers who use Nikon, Canon, Sony, Mamiya or any other type of lens. Good photography tips are good for all equipment, for it isn’t the equipment that takes a great photo – it is the photographer. Here are my rules that will give you the best overall photography tips:

Rule #1: Invest in a Good Tripod

This should go without saying, and I know that for photography tips I shouldn’t be encouraging you to spend money on something that has nothing to do with taking the picture. However, a solid tripod has everything to do with a sharp picture. I see far too many photographers who don’t use a tripod enough. They hand hold their camera in low light, even in daylight – it is not advised to shoot professional photography without a sturdy tripod. If you are photographing weddings or portraits you need to move around a lot and tripods aren’t ideal. However, for anyone taking a landscape picture make sure you highlight Rule #1 under photography tips. Invest in a good tripod. It really is that essential. I strongly recommend finding the Gitzo that matches your style and use. Gitzo is expensive but it is well worth it. I have dropped mine, kicked it, dropped it again and it has never failed me. One of the best photography tips I can give you is to invest in a good tripod.

Gitzo GT1542T Series 1 6X Carbon Fiber Traveler 4 Section G-Lock Tripod for Cameras

Photography Tips

The Best Tripod to Own

Rule #2: Plan Ahead, Research Your Location

This is true for portraits, weddings and landscape photography. If you are photographing a wedding – know your location. Go to your location at least one time before you plan to take pictures, and the same for portraits. Too often photographers say to their models “did you have any locations in mind?”  Once you have your location you can get to know your scene and your lighting. This is the same for landscape, actually, especially true for landscape photography.  Landscape photography is 90% lighting. No matter how much time you spend in front of a computer you can’t recreate good lighting.  Photography tips don’t necessarily involve actually taking the picture. When I plan for a landscape picture I research GPS points, location and pattern of the sun, sunrise and sunset times, and other locations nearby.

Rule #3: Learn How to Hold A Camera

If you refuse to use a tripod, then one of my photography tips you can’t ignore is how to hold a camera properly. Holding it with the strap around your neck is not ideal. I refer to Joe McNally and Scott Kelby and their books to teach you how to hold a camera properly for better pictures. I highly recommend any of their photography tips books – you can’t go wrong.  One of Joe McNally’s best books is listed below, “The Moment It Clicks”.
The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters

Photography Tips

The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally

Rule #4: Learn the Basics of Lighting, for Portraits and Landscape

Lighting is everything in photography. If you can master lighting you don’t need to be reading my photography tips. Lighting affects everything in your images, it can make a dull scene pop. I have taken the same picture 10 times in a row over the course of 10 minutes and only kept one, the one with the best lighting. You can take a beautiful scene but in poor lighting it will look flat and dull. Nine times out of ten images that lack any interest are due to poor lighting. If you are a wedding photographer or portrait photographer you live by lighting. The best photography tips you can learn would be to learn how to manipulate light. Learning the more you get away from the flash built into your camera, the more beautiful your pictures will be. There is a book I read years back that is one of the best lighting books I have ever read: “Hotshoe Diaries” by Joe McNally.  His books are packed with photography tips, but this one is especially good for lighting.
The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes

Photography Tips

The Hotshoe Diaries by Joe McNally

Rule #5: Photoshop is Your Friend, but NOT Your Best Friend

This is a complex title, but what I mean is that you should come to know Photoshop and embrace it, but don’t rely on it. Photography tips come back to you as the photographer – if you go out and shoot 1,000 boring pictures – Photoshop can’t fix that. Photoshop can bring out the best of what you shot, but it won’t solve a bad image. If you don’t do your reading, you don’t research photography tips and read your books – and you don’t work to improve then Photoshop won’t fix your bad habits. It can make a picture pop but it can’t make a blurry picture sharp. Photoshop can bring out the best colors but it can’t fix bad lighting. However, there are the photographers who hate Photoshop and make sure their work is 100% straight out of the camera. Don’t do this either. Don’t be fooled – every professional photographer today uses some level of photo editing to make their pictures sharper, adjust their colors and edit as needed. Photography tips are essential, and so is Photoshop. If you are a portrait or wedding photographer you must use some software or you are committing a photography sin.
Adobe Photoshop CS6

Photography Tips

Rule #6: Don’t Get Stuck in Mud

This tip is the challenge. I refer to not get stuck in mud meaning get out of your ruts and don’t get stuck doing the same thing. If you constantly take pictures at eye level – go lower, or hike higher. If you shoot all in color, try black and white. My point is – do things different. You will find you will open areas of photography and your creative eye that you didn’t know existed. Photography tips are for those who are looking to improve and become a better photographer, if you read these and say “I do that” or “No way”, then who is improving?  My photography tips are to challenge you to go outside your comfort zone. If you are a wedding photographer who focuses mostly on serious poses then add a fun pose.  And if you are a landscape photographer who refuses to touch HDR, try it (at a minimum level) and see what it does.

There are a million photography tips and a million articles, read my photography tips above and gather inspiration from them but continue to read and research.  If you want more of my photography tips read some of the articles below.

Achieve Better Photos

5 Must Have Books for All Photographers

How to Find Your Pictures on Google

The Only Portrait Lens You Need

Holiday Portraits, How to Get Better Pictures

Night Photography: Seascapes

How to: Better Waterfall Pictures

Half Dome, Yosemite Tips

Fitness Photography Tips

How to Photograph Canada: Reflecting the Rockies

How to Photograph Stars and the Milky Way

Sports Photography: Golf at The Ranch, San Jose

Travel Prep: Canada / Montana

Nikon D800 – Beat the Backorder

C&J Wedding

My Recent Publishing – London Financial Times

Travel Prep: Iceland

Night Photography: San Francisco

Renting vs. Buying Equipment

Which Picture is Better?

How To: Portraits with One Light

Wedding Photography Help

How to: Get the Perfect Sand Dunes Picture

How to: Photography on a Budget

Top Free Lightroom Presets

Which Printing Service Do I Like Best?

Is Your Photo Legal, or Illegal?

How to: Take an Amazing Stadium Picture – Part II

Protect Your Photographer Rights

BW vs. Color

How to: Take an Amazing Stadium Picture – Part I

Landscape 101: The Importance of Lighting

How much SEO is TOO much?

5 Tips for Black and White Photography

5 Questions Every Photographer Should Ask His Bride

7 Questions Every Bride Should Ask Her Photographer

5 Ways an Assistant Will Help Your Photography

Preparing for A Wedding

How to: Self Portrait

Click here to get back to Lawson Photo homepage for photography tips/tutorials and how to help for all photographers. 

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