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Taking photographs

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Ten tips for taking photos

1. Get in close

Close or tight shots are good for capturing expressions or atmosphere. When capturing images, focus on what you want to show and eliminate distractions.

Photograph taken from a distance of a man talking on a mobile phone, and photo of the same person in close-up

Always remember when taking photographs of people to get their permission first.

2. Fill the frame

To create interesting photographs, you need to fill the frame and minimise the amount of dead space. The first rule is to get in close. This will help you to capture emotion that wouldn't be detectable from far away.

3. Take action shots

Capturing action shots requires practise. You could practise capturing images of footballers in action. Take lots of pictures to see if you can capture a player making contact with the ball.

Some cameras have a function called continuous mode that allows you to take several photos in quick succession. This is great for taking action shots.

A sequence of action shots showing someone running up to a bench and jumping off it

This action sequence was taken in continous mode.

These photos were shot in continuous mode.

4. Choose a focal point

The focal point is the most interesting object/person in your photograph. Any more than one focal point looks cluttered.

Two images of a park - the first has too many focal points - a bench, trees, grass, people; the second has one clear focal point - a tree

The image on the right has a clearer focal point than the cluttered image on the left.

There are too many focal points (people, trees, bench) in the first image shown above, whereas the second image shows the tree as the clear focal point.

5. Arrange your subjects

Arrange your subjects to ensure you translate what you want the audience to focus on. Use plain backgrounds. Be selective. If your object is in front of a messy background, move it until you are satisfied with the shot.

Two photos of a bowl of fruit.  One is taken with a cluttered background, whereas the other is taken with a clear background.

In the first image above, the messy background takes the focus away from the fruit.

6. Think about composition

Cameras view things differently to the human eye. Cameras have a limited focus range whereas the eye is constantly scanning scenery, recomposing it, and responding to changes in light conditions. Cameras have a much narrower exposure range than the human eye.

7. Apply the rule of thirds

Illustration of the rule of thirds

Illustration of the rule of thirds

Photographs with the focal point exactly in the centre can lack depth and interest, so it's better to position your focal point off-centre. To do this, apply the rule of thirds. Draw two horizontal and two vertical lines through the picture you want to capture.

The eyes are naturally drawn to the four focal points illustrated in red above, so place the important elements of your picture on one or more of these points.

Image 1 shows the London Eye positioned in the centre of the photograph

Image 1

Image 2 shows the London eye positioned slightly to the left of the photograph

Image 2

Compare the two images above. A focal point placed in the centre often just looks boring, so avoid placing your focal point in the centre. You will see this rule being applied in any magazine you look at.

8. Think about light

Most cameras have an automatic flash that works when there isn't enough natural light. Experiment with the flash to work out its depth or range.

Also think about natural light, especially outside. Try to make sure the sun/light source is behind you, or focussed on your subjects.

Be aware that strong bright light will show up people's wrinkles and blemishes. Similarly, try to take pictures of landscapes in early morning or early evening because the light is softer.

9. Vary your shots

Experiment with using your camera horizontally and vertically. A photograph of Nelson's Column, for example, would be ideal for a vertical shot.

The first image shows a landscape shot of Nelson's column, and the second shows a vertical shot looking up from the base of the column

Nelson's Column is ideal for a vertical shot.

10. Know when to break the rules

Once you have mastered these rules, you can then begin to break them. With digital photography, it's easy to take lots of pictures, so don't be afraid to experiment. If you can create an unusual image, it's likely that people will be interested in it.

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