Five Photography Tricks Everyone Should Know

Five Photography Tricks Everyone Should Know

A camera is only as capable as the person using it, but snapping some awesome images doesn’t require years of training. Here are five photography pro tips that everybody ought to know.

Photo by Mushakesa (Shutterstock).

Think Before You Shoot to Compose Your Images Like A Pro

The most common composition technique is known as the rule of thirds. The basic idea is that you split your frame into three equal horizontal sections and three equal vertical sections. This creates a grid of nine boxes and four main points of intersection, as you can see in the example on the right. Those four points of intersection are areas that tend to draw the eye, and that’s where you want to place your subject. As you can also see from the example, there’s a star on the point of intersection that draws your eyes right to my friend’s face (or, more specifically, her eyes). Your goal with the rule of thirds is to do the same.

use a Fibonacci spiral

These are just a few simple tips for getting better composition, but composition involves more than just knowing where to place your subject. Perspective, objects other than the subject, and the message you want to convey all play a role in creating great images. For more helpful composition tips, read our detailed guide.

Shoot With The Light Behind You

Know Your Settings To Achieve Better Low Light Images


The video on the left will explain these different settings and what they do, but here’s the gist. The three settings that matter are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Almost every camera (with the exception of some mobile phone cameras) will allow you to control the ISO. This is a number that represents how sensitive each exposure is to the light it captures. The higher the number, the more sensitive it is. In general you want to use a lower ISO because higher ISOs result in noisier photographs and lights that look like they’re blown out. That said, that extra sensitivity can be a huge boon when you’re lacking illumination. Simply set your cameras ISO to a higher number (400 is pretty standard for indoors, but you might go up to 800 and 1600 under darker circumstances) and snap the photo. This will help pull a little more light out of each picture.

Aperture and shutter speed are not user-settable on every camera, but they are on some. Aperture refers to how wide open the lens is, and a shutter speed refers to how long you expose the camera’s sensor to light. A wider aperture means more light is let in to the camera. This also produces a more shallow depth of field (meaning less of the photo is in focus, which is often a desired result). If you can widen the aperture on your camera, you should when you need more light. This offers the fewest compromises in quality.

If you still need more light, reducing the shutter speed can help but it comes with the disadvantage of potentially blurry photos. You can usually get away with a shutter speed as slow as 1/30th without worry about camera shake. That shutter speed will be too slow if you have a moving subject, however, and so you’ll have to boost it up in that case. In general, 1/250th of a second is sufficient for capturing motion realistically. If you’re using a slower shutter speed to capture images in lower light and you are experiencing blurring because you can’t keep the camera still, pressing the shutter while exhaling can help to solve that problem.

Overall, low light photos are always going to turn out better if you’ve got a camera that’s able to handle it. Nonetheless, utilising these settings to your advantage should help you get better photos despite minimal illumination.

If You Have To Use A Flash, Use It Properly

In general, diffusing the light is your best bet and something any camera can do. If you’ve got a nice big flash, you can build a DIY softbox out of a piece of paper. It doesn’t really get any cheaper than that. If your flash doesn’t stick out or pop up, but rather is a little LED light integrated into your camera’s body, you can still diffuse with paper (or white sticker or even a spoon). All you have to do is cover the flash with paper and your flash will produce softer light. Diffusion will reduce the brightness of the light your flash produces, but this change is minimal and should only make a positive difference.

If you’re using a big flash that has an adjustable head, you can point it towards the ceiling. This is very useful because it bounces the light off an empty surface and spreads it across the room. Much like diffusion, this will provide less light than if you pointed the flash at the subject directly, but if your flash’s head is adjustable it’s most likely bright enough to compensate. This is one of the best and simplest tricks for flash photography that doesn’t require any attachments.

Keep Your Lens(es) Clean

know how to do it properly

Got any other great pro tips for the everyday photographer? Share ’em in the comments!


  • If you’re shooting at a concert, turn off your pitiful flash so it doesn’t shit everyone around you. If the concert is well lit, the flash is not necessary anyway and your camera would just produce washed-out photos.

    If you like taking photos in other interior settings like restaurants or so on, take some test pictures at home in similar lighting environments and see how well your camera works with and without flash. Most of the time you’ll find that turning off the flash gives you better pictures without washed out skin tones and red eyes.

  • Is it just me or does that top photo look unbalanced? The top and back of her head are cut off and the right side of the photo is filled with a busy and not very attractive background. I appreciate that you don’t want her head right in the centre of the photo, but I think someone using their judgement could have done better than slavishly following the grid. Personally, I’d make sure I got all her head and a fair bit of background in the photo, then I would use cropping to get the composition right.

    • I’m pretty sure they were just using it as a sample (may be not the best choice, but still its a good demonstration).

      My tip is when taking a photo with too much back lighting and it confuses the cameras exposure control and makes the subject dark, force the flash to fill the subject.

      • Plus, she totally has a stupid yellow star on her face, they should have got a model without a stupid yellow star on their face. What’s with that star…on her face…? Stupid.

      • Yep, I agree. Personally, if using rule of thirds, I would put the dominant eye on the intersection. And I’d probably get her to remove the star from her forehead too.

  • I make sure to carry a small makeup mirror with me if I’m not carrying my big flash. If you put the mirror between your subject and the flash, you can bounce the blast at the roof and get the same result as having a big flash. Works with any sort of camera, as long as the flash is powerful enough to make it to the roof in the first place. Also stops red-eye and lights your subjects perfectly, comparable to the sun coming in through a nice frosted glass window or even a softbox.

    • This. Flashes shouldn’t always be aimed at the subject and even a diffuser can be bad. Bounce the light off an appropriate surface to disperse and illuminate areas not covered by natural lighting. With speedlites this is as easy as swiveling the flash head but the mirror ride is great too.

  • ‘shoot with light behind you’ .. good for basic photography, but as you get experience you’ll find yourself often shooting with subject with light in front of you (+ flash fill).. nothing like some key lighting to help your subject pop from the background.

    also; people should learn to turn off their flash when trying to shoot thru glass.. i find seeing ppl do this very annoying.

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