Three tips to better pictures

I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve been taking pictures since my dad let me use his manual SLR when I was 12. Along the way I’ve read photo books and studied graphic design. So take what I write here with a grain of salt… it’s most just things I’ve picked up along the way and doesn’t reflect any professional opinion.

As I was taking Breakaway pictures this week, I was trying out different angles, zoom distances and other variables to see how pictures turned out. Here are some examples of not-so-great and much-better pictures.

1. Zoom in as close as you can. Often pictures end up looking like this.

Before (unretouched photo):

Now this can’t always be helped, if you have a camera that doesn’t zoom enough or if you happen to be way in the back of the room. But when you zoom in, it helps the person feel like they were right there. I like to crop  my pictures pretty tightly so most of the extraneous dead space on the edges is cropped out.

After (unretouched photo):

Even when I zoom in all the way on my camera, it’s still not quite close enough.

But cropping afterwards in Photoshop just makes it that much better.

I think it makes a big difference when you look at the original shot:

…and how cropping out the distractions around the subject help the viewer focus in on what’s really important. It really makes the subject pop!

2. Turn your camera to  fit the subject.

Usually pictures are landscape format. So pictures end up looking like this:

But just turning the camera 90 degrees to fit the subject makes a big difference. (I did retouch this photo since there was a dark shadow from the hat.) It once again crops out the dead space so that the viewer can focus on the subject.

You can take a picture like this one:

And make it vertical format by just simple cropping.

3. Use the Rule of Thirds.

There are times that you purposely want to go horizontal even though the subject is vertical. When this happens, you can utilize the Rule of Thirds to make the picture more interesting.

The Rule of Thirds says to divide up your picture into a grid of thirds.

So, instead of bulls-eyeing your subject…

Put the subject off-center.

Here you can see how the face and body align along the 1/3 grid line.

When utilizing the Rule of Thirds, I like to make the empty space in front of where the person is facing, so it looks like they have room where they are looking.

This picture it looks like the person is facing the wrong direction, as if she is crowded on the right side where she is facing. Plus the boxes in the back lead the eye to look to the left, but the subject is facing the right.

Well, that’s a start. There are a bunch more but I’ll hold off until next time because I don’t have great examples. I’ll have to go out and take more bad pictures so some of the other tips make more sense. 🙂

A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — and teaches leadership skills at

Has one comment to “Three tips to better pictures”

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  1. Kristin - August 3, 2010

    I agree! True for food shots as well.

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