Take Your Photography Up A Level

Updated: 13 May 2022

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Expert photography advice and tips


During many of my photography workshops, one of the most common questions I get asked is regarding composition.


 “I have a great camera and equipment so why can’t I reach the levels of professional photographers when composing my images?


Getting your composition right on every occasion is difficult and takes a fair amount of practice and fine tuning.


Having read this article, you should start seeing a marked difference in the standard of your imagery which will take your photography up a level. Firstly, research, research and further research your intended subject or location.


Time permitting and before setting off from home, there are a number of simple preparations that can be made. As a general rule I view and research an app called Photo pills. This is a very reliable and accurate tool for any serious photographer to purchase. Rather than talk in any great detail about Photo pills at this point some solid research on the internet will answer any questions you have about the app.


Two must view sites are Google maps and Google Earth. These will provide you with a visual reference to the terrain and the surroundings for the location of your shoot.


Together with weather forecasting sites, linking your terrain of the area from Google and information obtained from Photo pills will provide you with a great deal of information before even leaving your home.


“Once on site at your desired location, don’t set up your equipment just yet. Walk around and have a good look at all your surroundings. Never rush this part of your preparation. Five to ten minutes of preparation could make the difference between a good shot and a fantastic shot”


Not all human eyes are the same. The diopter adjustment allows you to customize the viewfinder so that you can see a clear, fully focused image inside the viewfinder without using eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.


Many enthusiasts believe their camera focusing is broken, when actually the camera diopter was out of adjustment.


How do you know if your diopter needs to be adjusted?


The only way to tell if your diopter is accurately adjusted for your eyes is to look through the viewfinder and see if that is in focus. If the numbers, letters and grid of your viewfinder are tack sharp and the image is not, the camera is out of focus or the autofocus is not working. If both the accurately “focused” image and the symbology are out of focus, you need to adjust the diopter.


Look for good leading lines or convergence in your scene.  It could be a natural or man-made feature, a stream, valley, coastal cliffs or stone wall that leads your eye into the image.


Take your time looking for an interesting foreground. It could be an interesting rock formation, a water feature or beautiful grasses. Remember this will be the main forefront part of your image, so it is important.


Once a potential image has been found, take out your mobile phone and observe through the viewfinder to provide a good example of what your final image may look like. Try in both landscape and portrait mode. One may look far better than the other.


Check for the position of the sun in relation to your potential final image. Do you want to have the sun behind you or shoot with the sun behind your subject?  Remember, that if you using filters the lens should be 90 degrees adjacent to the sun.


Take in all your surroundings. Where is the light and where are the shadows? You may have to be patient and wait some time for the light and shadow to be at its best. However, this can be the difference between a good and a fantastic image.  Also, wait for nice cloud formations to come into view.


Consider using the rule of thirds, leading lines, triangles and converging where possible. The addition of any of these factors will improve your image and makes a more pleasing image to the human eye.


Continue moving slowly around your location. It may only be a matter of inches or feet but there may be an even better composition than you original viewed.


Also, look for safety issues in your vicinity. It is easy to have an accident when you are focusing on getting that perfect image. Even a small rabbit hole can be painful if fallen into. I fell into a quagmire last year whilst composing a shot!


Check through your viewfinder or on your live view screen to find the best foreground, middle ground and background/sky.


Once your image has been found, mark the spot with an object. Look around for a safe and dry spot to leave your equipment. Check to see if the area is good for securing the footings. Is the ground suitable to take the weight of the tripod and camera equipment?  Any slight movement with the tripod and camera may affect your final image.


Once the tripod is erected and the rest of the equipment is fitted including your camera, remote, filters etc. check the spirit levels on your tripod. Also adjust the height of the tripod and camera for the best angle to your subject.


If need be go to the camera settings and use the horizontal line marker to adjust your settings. Many people do not have a great eye for getting the horizon near perfect.



Horizontal line marker



Confirm your lens selection. Do I want ultra-wide angled images such as 10mm, 14mm or 16 mm lens settings? Consider the depth of field for your final image. I may want to use a slight larger lens such as a 24mm-70mm for a more close-up shot.


“Check all your camera settings – Aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Try and keep your ISO as low as possible – 64, 100 or 200. There may be occasions when you have to exceed these limits but as a general rule keep as low as possible”.


If you are experiencing windy conditions adjust your shutter speed accordingly. A slow shutter speed in windy conditions may blur objects in your vista such as tree movement. Use a faster shutter speed in these conditions.


Shooting from a tripod requires you to turn off the VR (Vibration Reduction). Slide the button to off on the side of your lens. As the lens is not moving around the camera does not have to compensate for movement. By leaving the VR button on may cause an adverse blur effect to your final image.


When composing your image consider the old photography saying “less is more”. What this means is do not clutter your image with needless objects. Try to keep your image as “clean” as possible and do not include any subject matter that does not add substance to your final shot.


Choosing your focal point is important. Most landscape photographers will either focus on infinity, at the hyper-focal distance or one-third into the image. This will be a subject of photography covered by another tutorial. As a rule focus on infinity and everything else should be in focus including most of the foreground.


If you cannot focus all through the image, consider focus bracketing in-camera and then focus stacking in post production. There will be a YouTube video tutorial on this subject published soon on this website.


Once completed take a test shot or two. Having taken your photo always view the image back in your cameras image viewer. Zoom in one hundred percent on your focal point of the image and see if it is fully focused.


You may not have another opportunity to visit this location again, so check in camera.


Your minimum requirement for this process should include camera, tripod, remote cord and filters (if required).


You have now done all the pre-shoot preparation.  You are ready for your photoshoot. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and make the most of your beautiful natural surroundings with a nice cup of tea or coffee in hand.


The results will be noticeably improved and will take your photography up another level.


As always, many thanks for your time.





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