Eleven Steps To Better Photographs

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


Eleven Steps To Better Photographs

I’m a professional writer, not a photographer, but almost every article I now write also requires my photographs. Luckily, I’m an avid amateur. If you desire better photos, you can improve your pictures in a few simple ways.


Digital cameras, including SLRs (meaning single-lens reflex cameras), point-and-shoot models and even the one you carry all the time--your smart phone--make it easy. It isn’t so much the camera you use, but your personal approach to your subject that makes the photo. My subject is the garden.


Don’t be afraid to take a class. Just do it. I’ve attended workshops online and at seminars, and I learn something new in each one. I want to thank the professional photographers, both online and in person. Through their excellent webinars, websites and blogs, they’ve shared their craft and expertise. When I bought my cameras, a small point and shoot, and later, a digital SLR, I also enrolled in classes offered by the camera store to familiarize myself with my new tools.

If you’re going to invest in a camera, buy it from your local camera store. My youngest daughter wants to become a movie director, and it’s no passing fascination. She knows how to edit video and soundtracks with plenty of self-taught expertise. I encourage her love of movies, photography and music. Even if she chooses a different career, the education she receives now will be priceless. Recently, she was searching the Internet for video cameras. She’d saved her money to buy one, and she was thinking of buying it online. I persuaded her to consult the experts, and I drove her to our local camera store during the slow part of their day. The assistant manager listened to her and explained that most video footage is now being shot on digital SLRs instead of traditional video cameras unless she plans to shoot continuously with no cuts. He said the television show, House, and the movie, The Hobbit, were both shot on SLRs. She ended up buying an entry level Sony DSLR, and she now takes still shots along with video footage. This is a photo she took of her favorite shoes, and she did all the editing including the coloration with the camera’s internal, editing functions.


So, my second tip is to talk to local experts before investing in camera equipment. You’ll end up saving time and money. Here are nine more tips I regularly follow in my own work:

1. Use the Rule of Thirds. I learned this in art class, but it also applies to photos. Many photo editing software applications have an optional grid system to place onto your photos while cropping. Placing your subject along one of the grid lines instead of centering it in the frame gives it substance and says, “Look here.”


2. Fill your frame. With my larger camera I use my view finder as a frame to compose my pictures. With my small point and shoot, I use the LCD screen and attempt to fill it with what I see. I think you can take a wonderful photo with any type of camera, even your phone, but it is easier to see through a view finder than an LCD screen in sunlight. You can shade your screen with a garden hat or a device like Popabrella.

3. Know your story. When you go into a garden, take some time to look it over and listen to your inner voice. Each garden, person or place has its own story, and you’re just the person to tell it.

4. Look for the light. Early morning and evening before sunset are the two best times of day for outdoor photography, but they only come twice a day. By looking for the sun’s placement in the sky, you can use it to highlight leaves, or to look through flower petals. You can also use the same shading trick, above, to help limit how much light comes into your camera lens.

5. Get down. Don’t take all of your photos in a standing position. Kneel or sit on the ground. Lie next to a plant. Try to get the bird’s eye or even bug’s eye view.


6. Groom the garden. In your own garden, remove any obvious weeds or obstructions from your subject matter, but don’t go crazy and try to groom the entire thing beforehand. In the photo below, I weeded the most obvious green from the path, and although the HardShell® Kangaroo® Gardening Container looks great, I probably wouldn’t leave it in view unless I were writing about it specifically, or my subject was weeding.

7. Be patient. If you’re trying to take a close-up of a butterfly or other garden creature, it takes time. Sit quietly next to their favorite nectar source and wait. Snap as many shots as possible. No longer are we tethered to film, and sometimes, we forget it.


8. Put people in your shots, but don’t pose them. Take photos of gardeners doing normal tasks. If you want to publish these photos online or in print, remember to get your subject’s permission in writing first.

9. Use good editing software. First, it’s fun. You can apply layers to photos that make them appear grungy, vintage, or anything in between. There are also times that no matter how good a photograph is, it needs polish.

Whether you’re shooting photos for work or play, with practice you can take your best photos yet. That’s what makes photography and gardening fun. Every day is a whole different picture. Go ahead and take one.