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This post was most recently updated on Feb 13th, 2022

If you are looking to take your pictures to the next level, then you have come to the right place. Even though as an amature it has been easy to use the ‘point and shoot’ method, nothing beats learning how to take photographs properly.

From the lighting and composition, to finding a focal point, there are a lot of things to consider before pressing the shutter down.

Once you learn about the different steps you can take, you will notice that your pictures will dramatically change. Learning these techniques may even get you a job – or at least a new hobby.

Follow the simple tips below to improve your skills and to help you build an impressive online portfolio.

Learn The Settings

If you are still relying on taking pictures using the automatic settings, then now is the time to stop. Whilst it has gotten you this far, you will want to have full creative control to improve your picture taking.

Automatic settings do not always get it right, and sometimes your camera may change the way the scene looks because it becomes confused by certain lighting, for example.

When you understand the manual settings, you are able to capture the image you wanted in the first place. Also, it is fun to mess about with the settings and work out what is best for a scene or subject.

Before you get going with learning how to take professional shots, familiarize yourself with the camera settings, because it is one of the biggest ways to start taking professional photos.

The Gear

Whilst you do not need to use anything wildly expensive, owning a decent DSLR is a must. Professional photos cannot be taken by a cheap, regular, point and shoot camera – you will need something that allows for manual changes.

Having different lenses is ideal so you can work towards taking a variety of photographs, but at first this may not be necessary. Usually you can get away with just using the lens the camera came with.

Once you improve your picture taking skills, then it is time to start thinking about buying new equipment so you can have the ability to take different pictures and evolve as a photographer.

Focal Point

All great photos need a strong focal point. This is where the main point of interest is within a picture, and it will be where the eyes go first when looking at it.

Whenever you are taking a shot, always think about where you want the viewer’s eyes to look, and then concentrate on making that the centre of attention by using some of the techniques further on in this article.

Having a focal point and then taking advantage of other photography skills will make the photo come across as extra professional and well thought out.

Framing

Sometimes using a frame is an interesting way to photograph your subject. It can be used to take the viewer’s eye to the focal point, or to add depth to an image.

This could be done by placing the subject under an archway or door, or by a tree – anything can act as a frame, just make sure it makes sense.

To create the bokeh effect, make sure you are focussed on the subject, and it will blur out the foreground and background, creating a beautiful image. This is a great way to make the focal point really stand out.

Bokeh

Bokeh

Interestingly, one of the ways for a photo to appear more professional, especially when it involves photographing a person, is to add bokeh. It keeps the subject in focus whilst softly blurring the background.

It creates depth and allows the viewer to have a sharp focal point. Even though your phone camera may be able to do this by swiping onto portrait mode, you will need the correct equipment when doing this effect professionally.

Whilst it is all down to aperture, to put it simply, if you bring the subject closer to the camera and allow for the background to be further away, it will create a form of bokeh.

This is especially true if you use a zoom lens. Make sure it is set at the maximum focal length and snap away. If you are wanting to take this to the next level, have a look at fixed lenses that are suitable for this type of portrait.

Rule Of Thirds

The difference between an amateur photographer compared to a professional, is that the latter will use the rule of thirds.

Whilst it is tempting to always place the focal point in the middle of the shot, make it more interesting by placing it off centre. So, what is the rule of thirds?

When looking through the viewfinder, imagine that there are two lines horizontally and two lines vertically that create equal squares that make up a table. These boxes are the different areas of a photograph.

You can place the subject and other areas of the photo along the lines to create more interesting photos, rather than always placing them in the middle.

Some cameras allow you to see this table through a viewfinder, whilst helpful, try doing it without so you can learn how to do it just with your eye.

Perspective

When you are working out the composition of a photo, you will also want to think about the perspective.

This can completely change how the viewer sees the subject, as well as the overall mood of the picture. For example, if somebody’s face fills the frame, it can appear that they are powerful and intimidating.

If you photograph the person from above, they might come across as insignificant and powerless.

If you are unsure of what kind of perspective you are after, then take a few photos at different angles. You will know when you have found the right one, even if it is at the end when you are looking back at them.

Lighting

Getting the lighting right is one of the most important aspects of a photo. It can change the image completely, so never underestimate needing a good source of light.

Most amateur photographs ignore the power that light holds. Whilst it is easy to take a photograph during the day, it usually never has a wow factor.

To make it more professional, photograph in the morning at sunrise, or in the golden hour during the evening as the sun is starting to set.

The sun during the day can be harsh, but if it is the only time you have to photograph a person, then think about investing in a reflector. You can use it to shield the sun off the subject, or reflect light onto them when stood in the shade.

Also, making sure there is enough light on a subject and knowing how much light to get into the camera is really important to not getting grainy results by just relying on a high ISO.

Post-Editing

Whilst it is always best to not over edit an image, it can add the final touch to create a well thought out photograph.

If you want to correct the color balance, or make certain colors pop, then you are able to. Also, sometimes a photograph looks better in black and white, and if you are planning on changing a photo to monochrome, then you might want to change the contrast too.

You can also edit skin by taking away blemishes, or crop an image that you think would be best changed now you are looking at it post-shoot.

Just remember to not go overboard, as it is always best to take the picture as best as you can in-camera.

Final Words

Learning all these techniques can feel daunting at first, but so long as you implement them over time, you will notice that your photography is improving.

It can take a while to get used to having to think about different ways to frame a shot, or how to make use of the lighting, but at some point it will become second nature. The fun is in learning, and then producing an amazing photo.

Happy snapping!