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.