How to Take Outstanding Pictures

Since way back when I first began to study photography, I have been getting asked how I take such good photographs. There are many different styles and types of photography, but I usually end up giving the same key photography tips for most of them.

Professionals Use SLR Cameras

I cannot stress enough, if you want to take quality pictures, learn how to use a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. You would not believe how many self proclaimed amateur photographers have not started to learn how to use an SLR (some still use those point and click cameras).

I know that with the advances in technology, digital cameras and memory are getting better and better every day, but there is just not enough versatility with a point and click camera. They are great for general day to day snapshots, but they will never match up to the versatility and professional results obtained with an SLR camera.

With that said, the increase in versatility equates to more functions in the camera. So, once you have a good SLR (preferably digital), learn these functions from the owners manual. Learn how to control the shutter speed, aperture settings, ISO (film) settings, and white balance.

Note: In older SLR cameras (not digital) ISO is a function of the film and refers to the film’s speed. Only digital SLRs offer ISO function settings.

Clear the Viewfinder

Too many photographers shoot much wider then they really want and have to use software to crop the shot down to the scene they want. This just causes more work later, and there is no guarantee that all of the distractions can be cropped out.

Unlike a point and click camera, the viewfinder of an SLR uses a prism and mirrors that allow you to look directly through the lens. This is why, with an SLR, âwhat you see is what you get.â By taking everything in the viewfinder into account, you may notice distractions that you otherwise would not have.

Don’t you hate it when you think you have captured a really good scene just to find out later that there was something distracting in the background?


One of the most often used techniques of composition is the Rule of Thirds. Divide the viewfinder into nine equally sized boxes like on a tic tac toe game board. Where the dividing lines meet is where interesting points in the scene should be placed. Relativey straight lines (vertical and horizontal), such as a long tree trunk or the ocean’s horizon, needs to be placed on a horizontal or vertical dividing line.

This technique causes stress in the scene, and this stress causes interest.

Keep in mind that the more a shot is prepared before taken, the less likely Photoshop will be necessary.

Note: Before each major session change, reset the white balance of your camera. Lighting conditions may change throughout the day (from session to session). Correcting white balance between sessions will cut down on necessary Photoshop corrections. The answer to how to take good pictures does not involve correcting them later.


Even though the techniques we just talked about work with just about any style, there are some techniques that are commonly used with particular styles. With portraits, the subject is not the entire scene, just part of it, so it is important for the subject to stand out.

Shooting the subject in a narrow depth of field is one of the easiest ways to make sure that he or she stands out. The depth of field is the length of the distance in front of the camera where things in the scene appear equally in focus. This is controlled by the size of the aperture opening. The lower the setting, the bigger the opening in the aperture and the more narrow the depth of field.

Note: This allows more light through the lens of your camera so the settings of the film (ISO) and shutter must be changed to compensate.

Taking a portrait of a subject in a narrow depth of field while keeping the foreground and background out of the depth of field makes the subject appear in focus while keeping the rest of the scenery a bit out of focus. This results in the subject really standing out and even seeming to pop out of the picture.


Another common style requiring specific photography techniques is landscape photography. Unlike portraits, with landscape photography the entire scene is the subject; it is often desirable to keep the entire scene equally in focus and to shoot at a wider perspective to encompass as much of the scenery as possible.

In order to obtain this, an infinite depth of field is needed along with a lens that allows a perspective broader than the human eye. This is why wide angle lenses are commonly used in landscape photography. These lenses allow a large perspective of a scene to be captured.

A high aperture setting must be used in order to obtain an infinite depth of field. This causes the opening in the aperture to be very small. To compensate for this the shutter must be left open longer. With that understood, it is absolutely necessary to use a tripod or other camera stabilizing apparatus with landscape photography so the camera will not move while the shutter is open.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and that it has been useful. If it has helped in any way, the next time someone asks how you take such good pictures, feel free to send them this article.