Tip 1. Go eye-to-eye with nature
Take the same approach for portraits of animals and plants as you do for portraits of people. That means getting ‘eye to eye’ with the subject with a relatively long lens and using a reasonably large aperture, such as f/4, to help separate them from busy background details.
At close distances, only a small part of the subject will be sharp, so care needs to be taken with focusing.
Tip 2. Find a frame to shoot through
A framing device can help to funnel a viewer’s attention to the right place in a picture, add context and structure – and mask ‘dead’ areas, too.
Frames can be actual frames, such as shooting through an open door or a window, or implied, such as the branches of a tree. They can also be diffuse – try positioning the camera close to flowers and shooting a subject beyond them to add a soft, colourful frame.
Tip 3. Using flash in daylight
If you find that you’re coming unstuck with your exposures when you’re trying to mix natural light and flash, switch off the flash and set the exposure for the daylight first.
Use Manual mode so that the settings stay locked in on the camera, and base your exposure on the brightest part of the scene. Finally, switch on the flash and use this to brighten up the darker areas of the scene for a balanced result.
Tip 4. Sharp shots without a tripod
There are times when it isn’t wise to set up a tripod, such as on a bustling city street, and times when you need to stay mobile.
Shutter speed becomes a prime concern in these situations; increasing the ISO, employing shake reduction, firing short bursts of shots, pulling the camera strap taut and bracing yourself against a wall or other available ‘furniture’ can all help.
Tip 5. Shooting in a new location
While it’s easy to explore Google Images to get a feel for the photographic potential of a location, if you’re visiting a spot for the first time, it’s worth pausing and getting a sense of place before trying to express it in an image.
It might be tempting to attach your camera to your tripod, but there’s a lot to be said for exploring different viewpoints with a handheld camera to find the right angle and height to shoot from first.
Tip 6. Include odd numbers
Odd number of objects typically give more balanced compositions than even numbers, whether you’re shooting a group portrait, a sporting event or a landscape.
Tip 7. Use dioptre adjustment
Many cameras enable the viewfinder sharpness to be improved using a feature called dipotre adjustment. Keep an eye on the readout in the viewfinder rather than looking at the image as you make any adjustments.
Tip 8. Activate highlight warning
You can set the playback display to flash a warning for highlights that are at risk of being exposed, which is a quick way to check exposure.
Read more: How to always get your exposure right
Tip 9. Remember to reset your camera
If you’ve been making adjustments to your camera for a specific shot, such as dialling in exposure compensation, don’t forget to return the settings to normal when you finish shooting, ready for next time.
Tip 10. Pre-focus for action
If you’re able to predict where a moving subject is going to be, pre-focus the lens on that spot: this can speed up the time it takes for the autofocus system to lock onto the subject and give you a much better chance of grabbing the shot.