1. Use a simple background
A simple background puts emphasis on the subject. Pay attention to the background and the surroundings when you look through the lens. Make sure there’s no lamppost growing out of your favourite niece’s head!
2. Use the flash outdoors
When you take photos of people on sunny days, switch on the flash to reduce the shadows on their faces. Use a compensating flash if you’re standing 1.5m from your subject, or a full flash if you’re further away.
If you have a digital camera, check the result straight away on the screen. On cloudy days use the compensating flash. The flash lights up the face so it is clearly visible. Also take a photo without the flash; the soft light on cloudy days can result in very nice photos.
3. Stand close to your subject
If your subject is smaller than a car, stand one or two steps away when you take the photo. Zoom in to draw the subject closer. The reason for doing this is to fill the entire image with the subject. In a close-up photo you can see interesting details like freckles or a slightly raised eyebrow. Make sure you don’t stand too close though, or the images can lose focus.
The autofocus on most cameras requires a minimum distance of 90cm, which is about one step. The images lose focus at shorter distances. Consult your camera’s manual so you don’t take any unfocused photos.
4. Don’t place the subject in the middle
Centre stage is the perfect place for an actor. However, the centre of the image is not the best place for your subject. Make your photo come to life by positioning the subject to one side of the centre of the image.
Imagine the image is crossed by two horizontal and two vertical lines that divide the image into 3×3 fields (like a noughts and crosses grid). Now position the subject along one of the lines. If you are using an automatic camera the autofocus should be off, because this type of camera usually focuses on whatever is in the centre of the image (subject or surroundings).
5. Look your subject in the eye!
Direct eye contact is key. Try to hold the camera at the eye level of the person you’re taking a photo of. This will allow you to capture an irresistible look or a fascinating laugh.
Kneel if you’re taking pictures of kids – this automatically allows you to take the photo at eye level. This leads to a natural posture; the person in the photo doesn’t have to look up. It’s also conducive to more personal eye contact. The person should be relaxed, as this comes across in the photo.
6. Set your subject in motion
Tell people how and where you want them in the photo. Whether it’s asking them to move up, come forward or put an arm around each other, you’re the director so don’t be shy!
7. Place the subject in the foreground
When photographing a landscape, place the subject (a person or flower for instance) in the foreground. Having elements in the foreground gives the image a certain depth.
You can make a composition of various situations by placing an object in the foreground: hanging branches that illustrate a landscape in the background, a window or an arch that provides the desired depth. This makes your landscape photo more interesting.
8. Take spontaneous snapshots
Don’t always ask the subject to pose or to look towards the camera. Be versatile and spontaneous. When taking snapshots, pay attention to how people move, how they play, how they lean backwards, talk or take a sip of their drink.
9. Take portrait photos
Have you ever tried taking photos in portrait orientation? Portrait orientation is often an excellent choice e.g. for a lighthouse on a rock, impressive buildings, or your four-year-old nephew jumping around outside. So turn the camera 90° and see what a difference it makes.