How to Take Good Pictures
"The Secret of Taking Good Pictures"
How to take good pictures?
Many people ask me this question all the time and my answers are always the same, regardless of the
continuous technological developments.
Photography is a well recognised form of
art and it must be treated as
such. You will not take good pictures simply because you have an expensive camera with all the
latest features. Images must be “composed” first and captured after. You must look at a scene and decide what
you want your future photograph to say.
Szarkowski once said that "the
basic material of photographs is not intrinsically beautiful. It's not like ivory or tapestry or bronze or oil
on canvas. You're not supposed to look at the thing, you’re supposed to look through it; it's a window". Now,
think about this and start creating an image in your head of what you want. This is the very first step in
learning how to take good pictures.
has a lot to do with design
and these elements are something that people not only often ignore, but even when
they are aware of the clear benefits they bring to an image, they prefer to concentrate on something
The Rule of
image into nine parts and make sure to position your subject or relevant objects along these lines, or at the
points where they intercept. The image will be visually much more interesting than if the subject was in the
center. See the photograph of the seagull flying away. This can also be achieved in portraiture, as you can see
Balance of Elements:
So we agree
that the subject should not be at the center of an image. This doesn’t always mean you should leave all the rest of
the image empty. Carefully filling empty spaces is as important as positioning the subject. In the second example
you can see how I gently balanced the street lamp with the mountains on the right.
that in art each case requires an individual assessment and that you cannot apply a rule to all
Lines are an
extremely important design element in the composition of an image, especially imaginary
lines that are not actually there, but your eye will inevitably follow their path, like the lines created by the
direction in which the subjects look.
Not the frame
you silly! I mean create a frame with objects in the photo itself, such as tree branches, arches, windows,
The photo of
the San Francisco cable car below in the center, is a perfect example: the front window creates a perfect frame
that will make a more focussed images that naturally leads the eye to concentrate on the main point of interest. As
you will notice, I shot this image also using the Rule of Thirds.
Repetition of Design
The repetition of design elements produces a magnet effect on any
image. It is inexplicably interesting to the human eye, as if it was searching to an end or a solution to an
apparent abnormality to reality. The scene of the arches shot in Algeria, represent an average building, so
what makes it interesting? Our eye sees at 180º therefore it sees the “whole picture”. In taking away the
unnecessary by cropping the image to the essence of it, you enhance the effect of the design element repetition, obtaining something that
attracts the eye.
Journey Through the Image:
When nicely balanced, design elements can take you hand in hand to a journey through the image.
This produces an interesting photograph that people will want to look
These are often unconscious reactions to your visual experience,
but that will influence your brain to liking a particular image, even though you can’t explain the reason
Let’s take as an example the image on the left: your eye is caught
by the words on the corner of the bus on the left, which include an exclamation mark – usually a item that attracts
the eye in western cultures. Your eye is then pulled to the bus in front, in an natural eagerness of the human
being to find out what’s ahead. Then you are taken back to the bus on the right, because (in western cultures) we
are used to examine things from left to right and from top to bottom – same as out writing. Then your eye is caught
by the standing conductor, who is looking to the lower right, taking your eye outside the image. There is a journey
through this image, which is definitely more interesting than just a plain image that doesn’t lead you
example of lines leading outside of an image and making you wonder what's there at the meeting
The Fibonacci spiral has well
proven through the centuries to be a great design solution for pretty much anything, spanning from the design of
homes, to the creation of sculptures and ultimately of images. The theory was first published in the book
Abaci by the Italian
mathematician Leonardo of
Pisa (later known by his
nickname Fibonacci) in the 13th century
. The image on the left is a
Unexpected details are good
eye catching elements for any image, like the bride’s hand on the left image. The right image
shows that a good Rule of Thirds can also be used in portraiture, along with imaginary
For more information see How to Take Good
my other web site. Also check out the Photographer's Gallery for inspiration. It is London's largest Gallery
dedicated to Photography.