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147 photography techniques, tips and tricks for taking pictures of anything

Tip 21. Expose to the right 

To get the best-quality results, shoot in your camera’s raw file format and try to use an exposure that produces a histogram that just reaches the right-hand edge of the graph; avoid pushing the histogram over the edge, though. 

You can then bring the exposure to your preferred level when you process the image in raw software back at home.  

Tip 22. Use the histogram

When you check the histogram on your camera display, its shape represents the dynamic range of the scene you’re photographing, while the width of the graph represents the dynamic range of the camera. 

If there are gaps to the far left or right of the histogram, these indicate over- or under-exposure, so some exposure adjustments may be required. 

Read more: How to read a histogram

Tip 23. Raw histogram

The preview and histogram that can be viewed on the camera are based on a JPEG version of the image, even if you took the shot using your camera’s raw format. 

The raw file holds a wider dynamic range than a JPEG, so to get a more representative histogram, set the Picture Style/Picture Control to a low-contrast, neutral setting. 

Tip 24. Seeing in black and white 

If you’d like total control over how your image is converted to black and white, it’s better to shoot in colour then make it mono in software. 

We’d recommend shooting in your camera’s raw format, as it gives you so much scope for playing around with the image later, although you can set your camera to its Monochrome picture style to get a black-and-white preview on the rear screen. 

Tip 25. Getting close to wildlife 

Using a long lens means that you don’t need to get as physically close to a wild animal as you would otherwise, but understanding the subject and fieldcraft are more important than camera equipment. 

Wear rustle-free clothing that breaks up your shape; make sure your outline doesn’t break the skyline; and approach mammals with the wind in your face so your scent isn’t carried towards them. 

Tip 26. Long exposures

Yes, long-exposure seascapes have been done to death – but, done well, a bit of blur in the water and sky can still go a long way to lifting a coastal composition. Getting a shutter speed slow enough to achieve the effect in bright light requires a strong ND filter. 

If you’re using a square filter system, check that the filter is in the slot nearest the lens, and ensure the viewfinder is shielded. 

Use mirror lock-up or Live View to prevent vibrations and fire the shutter with a remote release. 

Tip 27. Use a preset white balance 

Your camera’s auto white balance setting will attempt to neutralise strong colour casts, but setting a preset that matches the light source can give better results. 

You can also use an ‘incorrect’ white balance creatively: try the Shade setting to add warmth to a sunset, for example, or Tungsten/Incandescent to cool down a daylight scene. 

Read more: Cheat sheet – White balance presets

Tip 28. Keep the horizon level

Use your camera’s electronic level, a hotshoe spirit level or the grid display to make sure the horizon is level in your shot. 

If you don’t have time to use these options, a quick and dirty option is to use the edges of the AF points in the viewfinder. 

Tip 29. Shoot into the light

Shooting into the light can produce dramatic results, although you need to be conscious of lens flare. 

If you have square filters in place you’ll have to ditch the lens hood, so be prepared to shield the front of the lens with a hand or hat held out of the frame 

Tip 30. Shoot in the blue hour

Twilight, or ‘the blue hour’ as it’s sometimes referred to, is a great time of the day to shoot cityscapes and floodlit architecture, as the sky will have some colour instead of being an empty black void. 

Not only does this look more interesting, it also makes for more balanced exposures. 

Tip 31. Pan with action

Moving the camera at the same speed as a moving object means the subject will remain in the same position in the frame and will be recorded sharply.

 Experiment with the shutter speed: the slower the shutter speed, the more the background will blur, conveying greater speed. 

Tip 32. Double-check the background

Details in the background can take viewers’ attention from the main subject. They don’t have to be obvious colourful road signs: even the out-of-focus line of the horizon will be a distraction if it runs directly behind a person’s head. 

For clean shots, look for clear backgrounds that are well separated from the subject. Darker backdrops tend to work better than bright ones, but be mindful of patches of bright sky through trees. 

Tip 33. Develop an eye for abstracts

The middle of the day, during the non-magic hours like the golden hour and the blue hour, is often a great time to go looking for abstracts to shoot. 

With an abundance of light, you’re less likely to need a tripod, and the hard light can be used to accentuate shadow, form, texture and tone. 

Alternatively, head out on overcast days, when the sky acts like a giant softbox, making it easy to pick out fine details.

Tip 34. Choose good shoes

Don’t underestimate the importance of comfy shoes. Whether you’re pounding the cobbles in pursuit of street photography or chasing the light in the hills, you’ll be more inclined to walk farther and shoot for longer if your feet aren’t sore.

Waterproof boots or Wellingtons are a must for shooting at the coast or when you’re photographing a waterfall, where the best views typically involve getting your feet wet.

Tip 35. Avoid camera shake

The rule of thumb when it comes to beating camera shake is to make sure the shutter speed is equivalent to or faster than the effective focal length of the lens – so at least 1/100 sec for a 100mm lens on a full-frame camera. 

If you’re shooting on a camera with a smaller sensor, multiply the focal length and shutter speed by the crop factor: 1.5 for APS-C sensors (1.6 for Canon APS-C models) and 2 for Micro Four Thirds.

Tip 36. Be prepared to get down and dirty

Don’t photograph everything from your eye level: finding a higher vantage point or getting down low can help your pictures stand out. 

Shooting from a low angle makes subjects look more imposing and allows you to draw viewers into a picture: look for leading lines to pull the eye from the foreground to the subject. 

A camera that has a fold-out LCD screen or Wi-Fi compatibility for seeing the Live View feed on a smartphone can help with framing.

Tip 37. Focus for close-ups

You need to be very careful to make sure your focus point is absolutely spot-on when you’re at close proximity to a subject, as the depth of field is minimal. 

It can often be better to put the camera on a tripod, switch to manual focus and magnify the Live View display so that you can position the focus precisely.

Tip 38. Travel light

For urban photography, you want the minimum amount of kit. A fully loaded camera bag feels heavier as the day goes on, so stick with just one or two lenses. 

Bag type is down to preference: backpacks spread the load, but a shoulder bag gives you faster access.

Read more: The 10 best travel cameras

Tip 39. Dealing with high contrast

If a scene includes an expanse of light sky and a dark foreground, fit a graduated neutral-density filter to the lens to help balance the exposure. 

Alternatively, take two shots, one with the sky exposed correctly and the other with the land exposed correctly, and blend the exposures in software.

Tip 40. Background exposure

If the background of a shot is much darker than the subject, the result may be overexposed, so try setting exposure compensation to -1 or -2. 

To prevent a much brighter background causing the camera to underexpose, try exposure compensation of +1 or +2.

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