The world’s best photography tips (and how to break them)

The world's best photography tips (and how to break them)

When you take the step up to a DSLR there’s a big learning curve ahead of you. A photo can be exposed and composed in a thousand different ways, and some takes on the same subject will be far more successful than others. In many ways, what makes a good shot is subjective – but there are also some hard and fast rules you need to follow that go a long way to making a winning shot. Here we’ve compiled 20 of the world’s best photography tips. Follow them, and we guarantee you’ll improve your photographic hit rate.

The world's best photography tips (and how to break them)

We’ll start this tutorial with our best photography tips on camera settings; the rules you need to follow before you even lift your camera to your eye. Then there’s focusing: the critical rules than govern what parts of your image need to be sharp, and what you can get away with being blurred.

Next up is composition – what you need to include in the frame, and just as importantly, what you should leave out.

And finally we’ll look at the rules of how to read and react to light; it’s this, more than anything, that can make or break a photo.

But rules are made to be broken – so we’ll tell you when you can ignore the golden rules, too!

Photography tips on setting up your DSLR


Photography Tips: shoot at one over focal length


01 Shoot at ‘one over focal length’

Camera shake is a sure way to spoil a shot. It’s caused by involuntary movement as you take a photo handheld, and the cure is to shoot at a shutter speed fast enough to make this movement imperceptible.

Photography Tips: shoot at one over focal length


However, the longer the focal length, the faster your shutter speed will need to be. A safe margin is to match your shutter speed to your lens’s effective focal length. So a 300mm lens requires 1/300 sec or faster – but on a camera with a ‘crop sensor’ you’ll need to multiply the focal length by 1.6x, giving a shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec.

Break the rules!
A lens with built-in image stabilisation compensates for camera shake, enabling you to shoot at slower shutter speeds than would otherwise be possible.


Photography Tips: shoot only in Raw

Raw uncorrected

02 Only ever shoot in raw

Your DSLR can shoot Raw and/or JPEG images. JPEGs come out of the camera in a semi-processed state, and usually look superior to Raw files straight out of the camera; however, you’ve got very little leeway if your shot needs fixing.

Photography Tips: shoot only in Raw

Raw corrected

Raw files are far more flexible, as they contain data that’s discarded by JPEGs, enabling you to salvage incorrectly exposed shots, or get much more tonal detail out of correctly exposed images.

Break the rules!
For some types of photography – notably sports photography, where hundreds of rapid-fire frames are taken in a shoot – it’s impractical to shoot Raw files, so JPEGs are best.


Photography Tips: always use Aperture Priority

03 Always use Aperture Priority

It’s common to think that it’s best to use Aperture Priority (Av) for situations where depth of field is critical, and Shutter Priority (Tv) when shutter speed is key.

However, for many photographers Aperture Priority is their go-to mode 90% of the time, as changing the aperture also selects a matching shutter speed – widen the aperture to shoot faster, close it down to shoot slower.

You have a much more limited range of apertures than you do shutter speeds; a lens might only go between f/4 and f/22 – a five-stop range – whereas shutter speeds have a much broader range of between 1/4000 sec and 30 secs, or 17 stops.

So, if you use Tv mode, it’s more likely that the corresponding aperture will be out of range.

Break the rules!
Some specialist techniques, such as panning, demand a precise shutter speed, and sometimes nothing beats using Shutter Priority to boss the shutter speed.


Photography Tips: expose to the right

04 Expose to the right

Check your histogram regularly when shooting, and apply exposure compensation (press the Av+/- button and scroll the Main Dial, or use the thumbwheel) to keep as much of the graph to the right as possible.

But as your camera’s sensor records more detail in shadows than in highlights, enabling you to get the most out of your images at the editing stage, be careful not to go too far and bunch pixels up at the right edge of the graph – these ‘clipped’ highlights hold no detail.

Break the rules!
If your subject is predominantly dark, or ‘low key’, exposing to the right creates a dull wash of midtones. Be subjective!


Photography Tips: shoot at ISO 100

05 Shot at ISO 100

In addition to aperture and shutter speed, you can alter the exposure by changing the ISO setting. In effect, this amplifies the amount of light that strikes the sensor, and so by increasing the ISO you can shoot at faster shutter speeds than the light conditions would otherwise allow.

However, the more you increase ISO, the more digital ‘noise’ creeps into the image, so it’s always best to shoot at ISO100 – or as low an ISO as you can get away with.

Break the rules!
It’s better to have a slightly grainy shot than a blurred one, and besides, the latest digital cameras are very good at controlling noise at high ISOs.

PAGE 1: Photography tips on setting up your DSLR
PAGE 2: Photography tips on focusing your camera
PAGE 3: Photography tips on composition
PAGE 4: Photography tips on using light


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