I’m sure you’ve heard the joke about the old man who tells his grand kids “when I was a kid I had to walk ten miles to school, in a blizzard, uphill!” As funny as that is, there are times when that is exactly how I feel about photography. When I was in photography school, DSLR cameras didn’t have in-camera light meters. Getting a good photo meant lugging around not only the heavy camera with multiple lenses but a light meter (and sometimes a calibrated string) so that the proper exposure could be calculated. To make matters worse, if an error was made, it wasn’t until the film came back from the lab days later, that I would discover my photos were worthless. Now that all the technical stuff is miraculously done for us, all one has to do is compose and frame the photo. Sounds easy right? Not always. I know many continue to struggle to get a good final image. What if there were five questions to ask yourself to become a better photographer?

ansel adams quote


Before you leave the scene of your photo, ask yourself these five questions. I promise it will make a difference in the quality of your images.

1. what is the focal point or subject of this photo?

Every photo needs to have a focal point. Is it a person in the photo or a building or a dog? Take a look at your screen and if you see multiple things going on with no clear subject matter try re-framing and taking it again. This time focus on what you want the subject to be. Below was the first of two images I took of glass bottles on display at a flea market. In my initial photo there is so much going on that the photo has no clear focal point.

Glass bottles before cropping

In the second image, I changed my angle and re-shot.

glass bottles after cropping

Now the subject or focal point is clearly defined.

2. Is the photo properly exposed?

Even with the amazing smart features of today’s cameras it is still not fool proof. One bright window can throw off the in-camera light sensor. Double check that the image is not too dark or too light. If you shoot with an iphone like I do, then use the sun icon to over ride the light meter and control the exposure. If you are not sure how to do this you can read this post I wrote about getting the perfect exposure.

3. Is there anything distracting in the background?

After you take your photo, look carefully at the background. Is there a plant that appears to be growing out of someone’s head? Can an annoying exit sign easily be eliminated if you slightly switch angles? Will that  person in the background wearing a big white floppy hat soon move out of the frame? Most of the time all you have to do is wait a few seconds and people walk out of the shot or re-position yourself to remove any distracting objects. Remember, it’s much easier to correct the background in the moment than be struggling to edit it out in an editing app later.

4. Does the composition looked balanced?

In photography 101 they teach the “rule of thirds”. This simply means that if you divided up the image in thirds both vertically and horizontally, that it is most pleasing to the human eye to have the subject matter falling along one of the lines of thirds. This is really only a guide and it works best for horizontal images.Many times a photo looks more balanced if you center the subject when shooting in square format. In the image below, look at the faint grid lines. See how the children are located in one of the thirds of the grid?

Photography rule of thirds

Don’t be rigid with the”rules”. Just ask yourself if the photo looks balanced. If not, re-frame and take another.

5. Would this photo look better with editing?

I’ve said this many times but almost ALL photos can benefit with some sort of editing. Is the exposure correct? Maybe it needs a little boost of contrast or saturation? Would the photo benefit from being cropped? What about white balance? All these editing features can take a good photo and turn it into a great photo.

So next time you are out with your camera, take a few seconds to ask yourself the above five questions. I guarantee your images will like professionals in no time!

Speaking of editing, if you are not a pro at editing and need some help be sure to check out my new photo editing service.





Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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