Shooting Tips for Casual Photographers

Last Sunday, Austin and I went up to his parents’ house for General Conference. Aside from it being spiritually uplifting, we all felt a little drained after staring at the TV for hours. With fall in the air, we decided to drive up the canyon to see the changing leaves. I happened to have my camera on me which usually means I would be taking pictures of Austin, but he didn’t feel like having his picture taken and asked if he could take the pictures this time. Our trip turned into a little teaching opportunity for me as I helped Austin frame up his shots.

Here are a few tips I shared with him! (Side note: I am by no means a professional at photography, I just love to take pictures and these guidelines have helped me a lot!)

The Rule of Thirds

The easiest way to frame up a dynamic shot is to use the rule of thirds. Generally, the idea is to have the aspect you want your viewer to focus on in one of the intersecting points on the grid. By aligning your subject on one of the lines and on an intersecting point, you create a more visually stimulating and pleasing shot. Why? Some psychology mumbo jumbo that I can’t explain concisely. Here’s a site that does a better job!

Austin framed this one pretty darn well for someone who has never read or heard about shooting principles

This one below just feels boring in comparison.

Headroom and Lead room

Along with the rule of thirds, you want to give the subject proper headroom. Too much headroom and you run the risk of having wasted space in your shot.

Lead room refers to the space in front of the subject’s nose. If your subject is looking to the right, you want to have more space in front of them in that direction. Cutting off that space and leaving more room in the opposite direction of the subject’s gaze makes your photo feel awkward and not balanced.

Adjust Your Settings!

Too often I’ve taken a ton of what I thought were great looking pictures, only to later realize that I hadn’t been adjusting my camera settings for the lighting, or my camera had focused on the wrong object. I used to avoid manual settings, but now it feels impossible to shoot in auto. I get so frustrated when I can’t get the focus just right on my iPhone.

It still takes some time for me to get the shutter speed, ISO, white balance AND aperture all where I need them to be, but when I slow down and adjust them correctly, I am so much happier with the outcome of my pictures.

(Austin was still getting used to the settings when he took this one.)

On one last note, don’t be afraid to just get out and snap some pictures. You don’t need to have a reason, or make an event out of it. Train yourself to always be on the lookout for a cool shot and pull out your phone if that’s all you have. As they say, “The best camera is the one you have with you”, which might sound corny, but it is so true.

These tips have helped me produce shots that I am proud of without the need to edit the heck out of them. Hopefully, they improve your shots, too! Do you have any tips that would help other beginning photographers out there? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, AH

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