Best 5 Practical Tips to Improve Your Images As a Casual Photographer

Photography is a visual medium. A good image is one that connects with its viewers and communicates a story. Almost all endearing photos actually just happen, they are rarely premeditated or shot with a specific formula in mind. An observant eye sees something special through the viewfinder — be it the light, an interaction or expression — and captures that moment to tell a story about that location, scene or subject.

More often than not, what makes a moment special is somewhat ethereal. There is no checklist to tick off nor a defined criterion to satisfy. Having said that, there are some guidelines that can help improve your images, and over a period of time, develop your photographic eye into a more observant one.

This article is not meant to cover a comprehensive set of such techniques and there are many out there. It’s also not directed towards professional photographers, semi-professionals or even photo enthusiasts who would be well familiar with such concepts. But if you take photos to capture travel memories or everyday scenes, and click away hundreds of shots only to wonder why most of them don’t stand out, here are five very simple tips to help you. Whether you just got yourself a new camera or primarily use your phone, try these tips on your next guided walk with Sidewalk.

1. Experiment with backlighting

Light is one of the most important, if not the critical, ingredient in an image. A common tendency is to shoot subjects at midday (since that is when most people are outside exploring), with light falling on them head on. The best light is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is low but most of us are not shooting then.

Day of the Dead celebrations in Terlingua, Texas. I took this image with the sun behind the women to get even light on their faces, avoiding unpleasant shadows.

Once the sun is high, front-on lighting diminishes an image in two ways. First, such light flattens colors and the tonal quality of an image, rendering a rather flat palette. Second, it creates unpleasant shadows on subjects from a high angle. To get around this issue, try backlighting your subject, i.e., move the light source behind your subject. This gives an element of glow around the edges of your subject and adds depth to your photo.

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