21 Use Depth of Field Preview
The amount of the scene that is captured in focus from front to back can be difficult to predict, especially using a zoom lens. So it’s worth experimenting with the Depth of Field Preview function offered by many cameras, which allows you to predict how your shot will look (learn more about depth of field with our guide Depth of Field: what you need to know for successful images).
Using the normal viewfinder you’ll find that the preview image will get pretty dark, especially when using small apertures, but with practice you can get used to this. Remember that you can also use the Live View image to assess depth of field (not all cameras offer Live View, so check your manual).
22 Go slow without a tripod
While we always recommend using a tripod for long exposure/slow shutter speed shots, you can often get away without one if you have to. The anti-shake or image stabilisation systems can help you shoot handheld at shutter speeds slower than normal.
If you can find something such as a wall, tree or railings that you can use to help steady you and the camera, it’s possible to get sharp results down to 1/4 sec with a wide-angle lens. Another option is to buy a mini tripod like the Joby Gorillapod (www.joby.com), which can be carried around in a bag easily.
23 Master panning
Panning, or freezing a moving subject while blurring the background, is a great way to convey movement, but it takes practice. It’s all about choosing the right shutter speed and keeping your panning movement smooth.
Get the subject lined-up in the viewfinder as early as possible, then swivel from your hips to follow its movement, firing the shutter when it is almost opposite your position (try a shutter speed of 1/60sec). Then continue following the subject for as long as possible after you have fired the shutter (alternatively, find out how to fake panning photos using Photoshop!).
24 Master fill flash
Bright sunshine might seem like the perfect light in which to shoot portraits, but it can actually add lots of unsightly shadows to your subject’s face. One of the best ways to minimise this is to use a flash to lighten the shadows. Your digital camera’s built-in flash is fine if you are shooting within a few feet of your subject, but it’s not powerful enough for shooting at a distance, particularly in very bright conditions. Then you’ll need a hotshoe flashgun.
25 Use a reflector
One of the easiest ways to improve your portraits and macro shots is to add some light with a reflector. In bright sunlight, or when using flash, you should use a white reflector to lighten the shadows on the subject. The reflector is normally positioned in front of the subject on the opposite side to where the light is coming from (learn how to use a reflector to control natural light).
In softer, diffused light – when it’s cloudy, for example – you can use a silver reflector to create a more directional light. Again, the reflector is positioned in front of the subject, this time to create some shadows that give the image a more three-dimensional look and feel.
26 Shoot both upright and horizontal frames
For static subjects, it’s worth trying to shoot both upright and horizontal versions of the same scene.
This only takes a few seconds, and you may find that the format that you initially chose wasn’t the best option for that particular scene or subject after all. It’s also a great habit to get into if you are thinking of selling your shots, because it doubles your potential market for not much extra effort.
27 Straighten up
Unless you’re going for a deliberately angled image, you should always make sure that the horizon is straight in your shots. If you are having trouble levelling your shots by eye, use the electronic level (if your camera has one). Otherwise, you could use a spirit level accessory that fits into the top hotshoe of your camera (check out the 10 rules of photo composition – and why they work).
28 Use Live View for a 100% view
The viewfinders on many non-pro SLRs only show around 95% of the whole image, so you don’t see the edges of your shot as you shoot. Turn on Live View for more reliable framing (for more, see our photography cheat sheet on What is Live View telling you).
29 Ruthlessly kill any clutter
Keeping the scene simple is one of the best ways to focus attention on your main subject. Achieving this takes a little practice, so get into the habit of looking around the whole scene to avoid objects that divert attention from the subject, or clutter things up (cars, poles, trees, stray people, etc).
30 Remember the framing rules
Getting into the habit of positioning your subject a third of the way into the frame, using lines to lead the eye into the picture and including foreground interest, are simple ways to get effective shots. These classic rules won’t guarantee perfect composition, but they will definitely help (for more on this, see our guide to Rule of Thirds: use it and break it with confidence).