Snap better shots

Tips to improve your digital photos.
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Women on grass

Mastering good photographic technique can seem a little daunting. Perhaps you’ve seen the comprehensive photography tomes in bookstores and been baffled by the mysteries of ISO settings and f-stops.

Maybe you’ve just upgraded to a new whiz-bang camera, but you’re not getting the great results the salesperson promised.

Don’t worry; there’s really no secret to taking good photos and the techniques are pretty simple.

Please note: this information was current as of June 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market. 

Do the research

The manual is a great place to start to familiarise yourself with the way your camera works. Even cameras from the same manufacturer can have vastly different feature-sets, so a bit of research now can save you much stress later on.

  • Read up on what each of your camera’s presets can do and take a few test-shots on each one.
  • Experiment with the flash settings of the camera, too, so you know what to expect from each setting.
  • Take some test shots indoors and out to find out how well your camera deals with bright or artificial light.

The best thing about a digital camera is that you don’t have to worry about the cost of developing the film to see the results and if you don’t like what you’ve taken you can delete the shots. Take several pictures of your subject, keep the one you like best and delete the rest.


  • If you’re taking a photo in the shade of a tree or a building outside, a flash can help brighten the subject of your photo.
  • Similarly, not all indoor photography will benefit from being lit up by a flash; if you want to capture the mood of a scene, avoid the flash as it will saturate the subject with harsh light and etch bold shadows over the scene’s background.
  • Digital cameras handle low light situations far better than film cameras.

Rule of thirds

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  • A little bit of experimentation with your camera can come in handy. How you compose each photo is just as important as how it’s lit — the human eye finds certain physical ratios more pleasing than others.
  • If you imagine for a moment some of your favourite photos, you’ll notice that they rarely feature the subject dead in the centre of the shot. Instead, they’re usually arranged by what’s called the rule of thirds.
  • When you look at a scene through your viewfinder or LCD display, imagine it’s criss-crossed with a grid like a game of tic-tac-toe; some cameras will even have an overlay like this as an optional display feature. If you can line up the linear portions of the scene along these lines — such as a person standing upright, or the horizon — you’ll find that the final photograph simply looks much better, and more natural, than if you’d centered the shot.


  • Finally, you may want to take your photos using a tripod or similar device. Not everybody has steady hands and some smaller cameras can be particularly difficult to properly brace.
  • A tripod solves these problems and can ensure all your shots are level, although it may be bit of an encumbrance if you’re taking happy snaps at a party.


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