Since past 2 years, I have learned a few tips that helps you get great photos. Here they are
1) LIGHTING: The single most key to great photos is lighting. Early mornings and evening around sunset are best for WOW shots. During the day, times when the Sun doesn’t dominate such as in Fall is a great time. The blue in the skies should show up in your photographs. If it is hot, the haze will just wash out the images
2) COMPOSITION: The next best thing is to compose your photos. Try to keep focus on a single object in a photograph. Too many building, too many objects, too many people will take the focus away. Showing one object well and immediately connects with the audience.
3) Avoid too much water and sky: When shooting the waterside or nature, too much of water or the skies makes your photos lacking in subject. Unless you are shooting something interesting of the Sky itself or the water itself, let other subjects fill up the frame. Exceptions are when you see interesting cloud patterns.
5) Keep them level: Keep your photos horizontal. The moment the subjects are tilted, the viewer sees something different than what he expects. Unless you want to purposefully tilt your photos for dramatic effect, keep them level. Some cameras have a level indicator which is great.
6) Presentation: On a trip I might take 500-1000 photos especially in the click-happy digital age. But when I present, I only show the best of these. There is no point in showing the same kind of photos in the album. Keep each one unique as much as possible. When a professional photographer approaches you with his work, he will only show you his 3-5 very best shots and that will make an impression. Once you see all his photos, then you can see there are shots that just didn’t out that great.
8) Camera: Of course a good camera is essential, but you don’t need a $1000 equipment. My $400 G12 is just fantastic in capturing great colors providing the lighting is great. You can’t expect a great photo from a 8MP cell phone as what really matters is the sensor that captures the image and not just the lens. The cell phones or lower end cameras have to skimp on the sensor and tout the MP part to sell. Having a fast lens is also a great asset. If you see 2.8 as opposed to 3.5 in the range on the camera lens (2.8-5.0 for e.g.,), then you have a faster lens. With a faster lens, there is more light coming in for the same amount of exposure time. With less exposure time, there is less shake and the images will be sharper. A fast lens is also necessary for night time or low-light shots.
9) Tripods. Now we start getting into serious photo requirements. A tripod makes a hell of a difference in sharpness, but for normal vacation kind of shooting, it isn’t essential especially if you have a fast lens. But what you lack in tripod, you can make up with what is available. Just place your camera on a surface and go for the shot. You will notice much sharper photos. What will help in much sharper photos and isn’t bulky is a remote shutter release. This way you don’t have to press the camera button and avoid the shake. A remote release will add a few ounces to your carry-on.
10) There is no point in taking a lot of photos and let them sit on the computer or storage. Buy a digital photo frame and keep viewing them. You can schedule these things to display specially at a certain time for a certain duration. I have my frame in the family room and it comes on every day at 6 PM and keeps showing until 10 AM. This is a great way to keep in touch with past memories and keeps your zest alive for better photographs.
11) Keep subjects interesting: Usually a close-up reveals more interesting detail. Patterns are great subjects where you see lines and repeated occurrences such as an alleyway which shows the perspective or just tiles on the floor. Contrasts in colors are an excellent subject. Try to bring in scale or proportions to the picture. A classic example is to add a human being in the mix against a tall or a large subject. This gives the viewer a sense of size compared to something else.
12) Special Techniques: Pan and Shoot. This is a great technique to capture moving objects. The object itself will be frozen and sharp but the surroundings are blurred. For this you need to put your camera into high-speed mode such as Sports. Then keeping focus on the moving subject, move the camera along with the subject will using continuous mode, which keeps on clicking. The shot of the truck I took was in St. Thomas when we were following another group of tourists. It gives you a sense of motion. Another technique is Isolation. Here only the single object is in sharp focus, while the background is all blurred. This is great for portraits or close-shots of people.
13) Taking sharp pictures: A fast lens, a steady hand or a tripod is a great thing to have. One simple thing you can do is to understand your camera operation. With most cameras today, you have to press the shutter button for 1/2 a sec and then it focuses on the subject. If you just click it straight through, then the images won’t be in focus.