Kin Blog

How to Take Better Photos

May 15, 2018
By Teresa Roberts

Do you wish you were a better photographer? All it takes is practice and a few basic tips to get you snapping photos like a pro in no time!  

Tip #1: Keep the lens clean

Your phone spends a lot of time in your pocket/purse or hands and your lens collects a lot of dust and fingerprints. Dirt on the lens blocks light from getting to the lens resulting in pictures that look cloudy. A microfiber cloth or lens cleaning solution can keep your lens and your pictures looking clear.

Tip #2: Use the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a guideline used for composing paintings and photography and is helpful for beginner photographers trying to take better pictures. The premise behind this rule is that pictures are more interesting and draw the viewer’s eye to the subject of the photo.

The subject is placed on imaginary lines on a grid that divides the photograph into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. When placing the subject slightly off center, the result creates a more balanced image. When the subject is placed dead center, the resulting pictures look unnatural or artificial.

Imagine a grid that divides your photo into nine parts. See the example below:

rule of thirds example

In the example, the trunk of the elephant is aligned with the left vertical axis, and the street is aligned with a horizontal axis. The intersecting points along the gridlines are also useful. The viewer’s eyes are drawn to these points, therefore, placing important features such as a person’s eye, will draw the attention of the viewer and they will focus on that particular feature.

The rule of thirds is meant as a guideline and more advanced photographers may break this rule. The rule of thirds is an easy template and helps create pictures that are interesting and balanced. All photographers should try to master this rule—even rookies! 

Some phones have a “grid lines” function in the settings of their camera. Play around to see if this is a feature on your phone.  

Tip #3: Pay attention to lighting

Lighting is very important when it comes to photography and it is the second most important part of every picture. The light source can have very drastic and unique effects on a photo and affects everything that you photograph. 

If you’re using your phone to take photos, you won’t have as much control over light sources as a professional photographer would (with flashes/lamps and props used for bouncing light) but you can still take a great photo. You just need to take advantage of the light that is available for you. 

A good rule to follow is to have the main source of light, whether it’s the sun or even a light from a lamp, behind you. You want the light to shine on the subject of the photo. 

When light shines on a person’s face, you will get different results depending on the angle of the light. Don’t be afraid to experiment so you get the best effect. You can also experiment with taking photos at different times of the day to see how the variations of natural light affect your pictures.  

Bright sunlight often creates unflattering deep facial shadows. When taking pictures of people on sunny days, try turning your flash on, it may help to eliminate shadows. Try it the next time you’re out at a Kin Golf Tournament or spending time with your Kin family at the beach. You may be surprised by the results. 

with and without flash

Tip #4: Digital zoom isn't always your friend  

The digital zoom function on your phone does not work the same as as the zoom function on a camera. When you use a zoom lens on a camera, the lens moves outward and gets closer to the subject. The digital zoom on a phone only enlarges the photo. It may make the subject look closer but you lose the quality of the picture.

The best way to photograph something that is far away is to actually get closer to it if you’re using a phone. 

Tip #5: Look your subject in the eye 

Direct eye contact can be captured in a picture and seem just as captivating as it is in real life.  When you are taking a picture of a person, hold your camera at their eye level. You’ll be able to capture their charismatic gaze and bedazzling smile. 

Your subject doesn’t always have to stare at the camera. Even without direct eye contact, the eye level angle makes the picture feel personal and draws you in. 

eye level

Tip #6: Use a plain background

Busy backgrounds can take away the focus from the person you are photographing. You should also keep an eye out for awkward things in the background that could make someone look like they have a pole or other strange object coming out of their head.

distracting bkg

Tip #7: Move in close 

If you’re taking a picture of something that is smaller than a car, take a step or two closer before taking the picture and then zoom in. 

Getting closer helps you fill the picture area with the person you are photographing and capture details like freckles, the twinkle in their eye, the fine wrinkles, or an eyebrow raised at you because they don’t want to be in the picture. 

Getting too close will result in blurry pictures so find the balance. If you’re using a camera, and not a phone, the closest focusing distance for most cameras is about three feet, or about one step away from your camera.

move in close

Tip #8: Focus

Make sure that your picture is focused! There is absolutely nothing worse on social media or websites than a picture that is out of focus. We want to see those pictures of you showing off your Kin pride and sporting your Kin attire, but we want you to look phenomenal in those pictures too! 

Most auto-focus cameras focus on whatever is in the center of the picture. To improve pictures, move the subject away from the center of the picture (rule of thirds). If you're taking the photo with a camera, partially depress the shutter button to allow your camera to focus. On your phone, there should be an automatic setting that will allow your phone to focus before you take the picture. You'll need to allow a few seconds for your phone or camera to get your pictures in focus. When the image looks clear, you can snap the shot! 

out of focus

Tip #9: Be a picture director 

Take control and watch your pictures drastically improve. Become a picture director, not just a passive picture taker. 

A picture director takes charge. 
A picture director picks the location: “Everybody go outside.” 
A picture director adds props: “Ladies, put on your pink sunglasses.” 
A picture director arranges people: “Now move in close and lean toward the camera.”

Most pictures won’t be that involved, but you get the idea: Take charge of your pictures and win your own best picture awards. Do not allow someone else to take over and start positioning people, they are not in charge, you are the director!

Be a picture director

Tip #10: Just start! 

Photography can be intimidating at first but all you need to do is start.

You don't need a fancy camera to practice the tips above. Just take your phone or digital camera, go for walk alone or with friends, and have fun with it! You can experiment with the rule of thirds, lighting, angles and backgrounds with no pressure at all! 

Be sure to share your photos of Kin on the Kin Canada Photo Contest Facebook Page!

About the Author

I have always been interested in photography, but never had the time to devote to it while I was raising my family. My husband, Dave, bought me my first digital camera, and I was hooked. I used that camera so much that it literally wore out! Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be a volunteer photographer for Northern Manitoba Trappers' Festival. This presented me with the chance to photograph a musher's sled dog team for a feature article in a mushing magazine. My pictures have also been used in a tourist magazine for Northern Manitoba which was promoting Northern Manitoba Trappers' Festival. Photography is my passion and my husband's favorite thing to tell people is: "That camera is like crack to her, it's her addiction."  I have been a Kin wife for roughly 30 years and I am a member of the newly Chartered Kinette Club of The Pas, Manitoba. 


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