5 Simple Tips for Taking Better Pictures

By Maine wedding photographer, Scott Linscott

Our society is snapping more pictures than ever before. Almost everyone has some form of camera within arm’s reach at all times. Chances are, you have hundreds if not thousands of pictures on your phone or Facebook page, right?

The fact is, most people would like to take better pictures. That is entirely possible if only people would commit these five, simple tips to memory before snapping the shutter.

1) Use the whole picture area.
Look around the outside of the frame of the picture you are about to take and see how much empty space you are wasting. Could it add to the image and the story? For example, a lot of images have 50 percent blank sky. Consider how you might better use that space. There are examples in the images below.

2) Do not use the WHOLE picture area.
Wait. Isn’t that a contradiction to tip #1? No. Use the whole frame but be sure to leave a bit of empty space near the edges so that you can pop your photo into a frame without cutting off the top of a head or losing some toes at the bottom. Mats usually obscure at least 1/8 inch of your photo all around the edges. These two examples of the same wedding photo illustrate my point.

When matted and framed this little flower girl is likely to lose her foot.

This is the stronger image, using full frame to tell the story of the stormy day, action walking down the path and leaves room for framing options.

This is the stronger image, using full frame to tell the story of the stormy day, action walking down the path and leaves room for framing options.

3) Don’t chop off legs and hands.
If you need to cut off part of someone’s legs, try not to do it at the knee or ankle. The same is true for arms. Our minds, for some reason, see that as aggressive “chopping” and find it displeasing. If you need to crop, always do it at the halfway point between joints, like mid-thigh halfway between shoulder and elbow. Which is the better image below? Can you also see how the first image does not use the whole space well?


Not good! Cropped at the elbow.

Much better image.

Much better image.

4) Shoot higher or lower.
Probably 99% of photographs are taken at the photographer’s eye level between 5 and 6 feet high. Set your images apart by stepping up a bit higher, especially when photographing people, or lower for a more unique view. In the image below of this sweet, little, girl who is one of the children benefiting from the education provided by a humanitarian organization I volunteer with in Guatemala, I could have stood tall and taken it at my 5’9″ eye level but it would have had an entirely different feel.

Shot in Guatemala. I dropped to one knee to get at her eye level.

Shot in Guatemala. I dropped to one knee to get at her eye level.

5) Think thirds instead of center.
Most people try to center their subjects in the picture (first image in tip#3) but thinking of your photo in thirds makes stronger images. Imagine your frame with 9 grids, 3 across and 3 up, and try to move your subject to the thirds line. For example, my cute dog is off-center in the second image below and the photo is as much about the gorgeous Fall foliage as it is about her. The first image has her centered and cut off. In the second image, the red tree is on the right third horizontal line, her big ears are at about the top third and she is in the bottom left half to third. She’s her adorable self in both images but the bottom image is stronger. (Also notice the same thirds principal at work in the image of the girl under tip #4. Can you also see the difference in the images in tip #3?)


Subject centered



Subject off-center

Your pictures will become much stronger and more appealing just by committing these 5 simple tips to memory and making them your habit.

Happy shooting!

bikeScott Linscott is a professional wedding photographer and portrait photographer based in Maine.  Examples of his wedding and portrait photography can be found on http://www.maineprophoto.com. Examples of lifestyle and landscapes are available at https://www.flickr.com/gp/maineprophoto/aZS7Am .

About Scott Linscott

Living life to the fullest, walking in the dust of my Rabbi, creating art through photography and written word, speaking words of hope and encouragement at conferences, workshops, church and civic gatherings.
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