20 golden rules of photography (and when to break them)

Woman photographing sunset at Unstad beach, Norway
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you take the step up to an interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera or 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. We’ve compiled 20 golden rules here. Follow these classic lores of photograph, and we guarantee you’ll improve your photographic hit rate. 

We’ll start with camera settings; the rules you need to follow before you even lift your camera to your eye. Then there’s focusing: the critical rules that 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. 

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Claire Gillo

Claire is a professional photographer and writer, and lives by the the sea with her two young children, husband and cat in the southwest of the UK.

After graduating from The Bournemouth Arts Institute with a first-class degree in photography, Claire worked for a number of years in the publishing industry, including as Technique Editor for Digital Camera magazine.

She loves anything and everything to do with photography, from creating magazine articles to photographing ballerinas on the beach and newborn babies (but not at the same time). She mainly shoots with digital DSLRs, but does dust off her beloved Hasselblad medium-format film camera once in a while…

With contributions from