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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Achieve Better Photos with These 3 Simple Tips!


So, you’ve started taking pictures but can’t seem to take them to the next level, and it seems impossible to take great pictures without having an eye for photography. However, before you throw in the towel, be sure to try out the following three tips which we introduce in this article—we promise you won’t even have to worry about the f-number or shutter speed. (Edited by studio9)

Torii showing composition


1. Make a collection of your favourite photos

collection of curated photos

Before you begin, think about and identify what it is exactly that makes a photo “great.” If you start shooting without a clear idea, you won’t have a goal to work towards.


Step 1: Put together a collection of your favourite photos

Assemble photos from your favourite photographers, or even photos from magazines or websites that catch your eye. For a start, aim to assemble around 50 photos.

Keep updating this collection by replacing your initial 50 photos with new favourites. As you do so, your 50 favourite photos will increasingly reflect your own preferences, and what was previously just a vague notion of a “great” photo will start to take shape.


Step 2: Assemble 50 of your own photos

Think of it as creating your own portfolio.

Now you will have two groups of photos. One group reflects your idea of the ideal photo. The other group reflects where you stand in terms of photography skill. You should be able to see the clear differences between the two groups, which will help you to identify the areas you need to work on.

Keep replacing the shots in this "portfolio" collection with newer, better ones. As you improve, they should get closer and closer to the 50 ideal shots that you collected in Step 1.


2. Think of the subject and its surroundings as one set

When you first start taking photos, it’s easy to get carried away focusing on the subject, and to overlook its surroundings. However, a photo isn’t just about the subject itself. You also have to consider the subject relative to its surroundings.

Once you have found a subject, take some time to check out the surrounding area and decide what the subject should be taken together with, or whether there are things that should be left out. This will improve the harmony between the elements in your composition.

There are many different shooting situations, but here are some compositions that you can start with.

i) Combine the Rules of Thirds with Diagonal Lines

Once you have found your primary subject (what you want to shoot most), try to arrange your composition in such a way that it forms a diagonal line with the secondary subject (what you want to shoot it together with). This is a form of diagonal composition, and you can combine it with the Rule of Thirds.

Orca at aquarium

The orca (primary subject) is arranged diagonally to the silhouette of the parent and child (secondary subject).


Macaroons and tea cup

As the plate at the bottom left was long and narrow, I placed it diagonally as well, whilst trying to arrange it in a diagonal line with the teacup.


ii) Create diagonal lines with the surrounding scenery

If there is only one subject, you can also create diagonal lines with its surrounding scenery.

Torii gates in diagonal composition

By placing the section of a path—known as a vanishing point—at an intersection point of the gridlines in the Rules of Thirds, it appears as if the surrounding scenery is being drawn towards that point. Try as much as possible to shoot at a wide angle for a great shot.


Giraffe and shadow

Using shadows to create diagonal lines is also a great idea!

Learn more about composition techniques in:
Professional Composition Techniques (1): Visual Guidance, Unexpectedness, and Subtraction
Professional Composition Techniques (2): “Pattern & Rhythm” & “S-Curve”


3. Take a step closer

When you first start taking photos, sometimes you might not be able to really grasp the sense of distance between the camera (focal length of the lens) and the subject, or how far away you should be when shooting.

i) Get really close and shoot as you move backward

Unless you are shooting a subject several hundred metres away from you, simply taking one step closer can greatly change how your photo looks, especially if your subject is only a few metres away.

Take a look at the following shots, which were taken at different distances from the base of a tree. The one taken from 20cm away looks really different from the one that was shot from 1m away, doesn’t it?

Shot from 20cm away

low angle shot from base of tree

Shot from 100cm away

low angle shot from base of tree. Tree looks smaller

However, most people would normally not get this close. They just don’t, unless they are used to doing it. It’s something that you have to make a conscious effort to do.

Tip: Try to get so close to the subject that it actually goes out of the frame, and take shots as you move backwards.


ii) Keep your zoom fixed—tape it down

Zoom lenses are convenient, but their frequent use also results in photographers forming the habit of zooming in to take an up-close shot, instead of taking one step closer.

However, if you keep your zoom lens at the wide-angle end and "magnify" your subject by physically moving closer, the new shooting angle could result in a more impressive shot than if you simply stood where you were and zoomed in. 

My favourite recommendation for breaking the habit is to practice shooting with your zoom ring taped down. This forces you to use your zoom lens like a prime lens, and physically move forward or backward to get the framing that you want. (You can read more about this in 3 Deceptively Simple Challenges to Level Up Your Photography Skills.)

Camera with zoom ring taped down at 50mm

This lens has been fixed at the 50mm position with black tape. Pick tape that leaves minimal residue when you remove it, such as masking tape or Permacel tape. 

If you are using 18-55mm kit lens, you can try the focal length at the three popular prime lens focal lengths of 24mm, 35mm and 50mm. Who knows? You might just fall in love with a particular focal length and end up getting a prime lens!


In conclusion

To improve your skills beyond a certain level will require not just practice, but lots of deliberate practice. The three tips above are just a start! We hope that trying them out helps you see things from a new perspective. Keep learning, keep seeking inspiration and happy shooting!


Did these tips help you take an image that you never knew you were capable of shooting? We would love to know! Share it with us on My Canon Story, and it might just inspire others too!


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