May 21, 2015


We all can be better photographers, and we all want more likes on our Facebook photos. There is a lot to learn about photography and manual camera settings, but that all comes with time. There are, however, five simple things we can all remember to make every shot count and have lasting photos that bring us back to a time and place we wish to remember forever.

1) The rule of thirds
Imagine splitting your photo into nine equally segmented squares (three top blocks, three middle blocks and three lower blocks). If your photographing the woods, like the photo below, you should be able to compose your photo into three equally-weighted segments, the top third being sky, the middle third being trees and the bottom third being ground or snow – you’ve accomplished the 1/3 rule! This rule, depending on the subject matter, works from side-to-side, too. Now, with that said, this is not an exact rule, but one that helps to add interest to your photography. The viewer wants to capture the scene how you see it and this helps.

Notice the lines formed on the image. Try to limit, as you begin, to the sky maintaining 1/3, the foreground maintaining 1/3 and the lower area maintaining the same ratio for a well balanced photo.

This can be played with slightly and is not a certain rule of thumb. Capture all aspects of what you’re seeing to portray to the viewer. What’s the sky look like? Whats on the ground?

2) The horizon line
This is one of the biggest problems I find in friend’s photos when they ask how they’ve done. Capture the photo how nature presents itself.  That doesn’t mean snapping the shutter when the sky turns pretty. Keep your horizon line even. If you’re looking in your viewfinder and the mountains start 2/3 of the way on the right side, they should end 2/3 of the way up on your right side. Otherwise, it detracts from the photo or makes it look like you were standing on one leg.

A crooked horizon line can be confusing, disorienting and unappealing. Try again.

It’s best to review your photos on site so you can correct any faults than to get home and have nothing to work with.

3) Ask: Would you frame this shot?
If you’re taking a photo, that typically means something special is happening. If something special is happening, that means you want to capture it. If you want to capture it, you should do the best job you can. If you look down at your camera and can honestly tell yourself you wouldn’t frame it (even in a 5 x 7″ frame) – try again.

OK, the mountain is pretty, but the shot is dark and there is simply a mess of equipment everywhere. It’s not something I’d want hanging on bathroom wall to look at while I brush my teeth each morning. Try again!

In my second shot, most of the people cleared out of the way. The one person remaining gives the photo a feeling of ski action, which is what I was intending to portray. The colors are brighter and it looks like some place you’d probably want to be!

4) Take 10 shots of the same scene
Maybe even more! Take a shot, review how it looks, then take another. Adjust what doesn’t look right. Adjust your composition so it applies to the 1/3 rule. Fix your horizon. Now it’s looking better on your fourth shot. Would you frame that? If it’s an action shot, take a bunch back to back to back. You’re more likely to get an amazing shot that you’d want to frame if you have the ability, back at home, to choose among 10 to 20 photos. And from my experience, the very last photo always looks the best.

Take as many shots at many different angles to capture the atmosphere for which you’d like to portray.

5) Color and light add visual interest
Picture a beautiful field in full blossom. It’s a blue sky and mid-afternoon. Pretty, right? Now picture that same exact shot at sunrise when the horizon line is full of yellows and oranges and leading into a bright blue sky. Even prettier, no? Time of day makes a huge difference in your photography. Get out early! You’re a late riser? Find spots that have a western-facing horizon and capture the sunset instead. There is no excuse to not include color. For those times you’re out in the afternoon, try and incorporate the sun into your shot. Or shadows. If that’s not possible, include as much color as you can – the greens of the trees, the colors of flowers or some other attractive visual to draw the eye.

Sunset light, natural light and lots of color.

A beautiful ray of sunshine in 1/3 of the photo.

Don’t just take a shot of the ocean, add in some color and visual interest to give the scene some life and character of Maine.

The bottom 1/3 captures an array of beautiful colors, the middle 1/3 the fall foliage the top 1/3 the mountains.