Online Tutorials: Quick Tips

Here is a quick guide to taking a good photograph, looking at a number of factors and showing examples of these factors.



An image that reflects off water, glass or other reflective material is always very appealing. Look to make sure that your image is well balanced and that it is composed in such a way that lines of symmetry do not look odd and the exposure is maintained.


Poor composition in an image is obvious to anyone looking at it. A good composition will focus on the subject being photographed. The main compositional questions you should ask yourself are as follows:

1) Are there stray/ distracting artefacts in your photograph? In this example a shadow of a lamppost and a car distract the viewer.

2) Does the edge of your lens intersect the corners or edges of the image (commonly known as vignetting)? Vignetting can be clearly seen in this example.

poor composition

original image


extreme vignetting highlighted


distractions highlighted (in this case a shadow of a lamppost and part of a car)

3) Is the horizon not straight and looking as if you are leaning to one side? If so use a spirit level and a sturdy tripod.

poor horizon

4) Am I choosing to follow or to deliberately break the "rule of thirds"? This is where the image is divided up into three and the main subject is traditionally situated in the middle third of the composition.

rule of thirds

5) Am I choosing to follow the "golden spiral"?

This is based on the mathematical Fibonacci Spiral and allows the eye to pan across the image

Fibonacci Spiral >


Use of Colour

Colour sets the mood of your image; it will determine whether your image will look warm, cool, vibrant or dark. Your choice of colour should be determined by the subject you are shooting.

Reds, yellows and oranges will give your image a warm feel, whilst blues and greens will give your image a cooler feel and shades of the same colour add a sense of flow and familiarity.

Red is the natural colour of danger, yellow promotes intelligence and happiness, whilst greens and blues encourage calm. Use these colours to evoke an emotional response from the intended viewer of your pictures.

Contrasting Colours

colour wheel

Contrasting colours will make your subject stand out, adding a sense of drama or passion to your image. Colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel contrast each other and will produce striking images if used together. An example is an image containing red and green of a lone poppy in a field.

colour choice



Timing is very important in photography, mainly in timing the correct exposure but equally in timing your picture. If you rush your shot, you may be too quick to capture that perfect moment; if you are too slow, you may miss it. Be patient with your photography, wait until the precise moment you need. If your camera has a delay, become familiar with it and practice. Make sure any distractions are out of the way - perhaps you do not want people in a shot, so wait until they have moved on. If you do want people in the picture to give a sense of scale, wait until suitable or helpful people are in the right place.


Light Sources

Light sources are incredibly important in photography. These will also affect the timing of your shot. You have to decide what you are looking for in your image.

Light sources from the side of the subject cast a shadow and could lead to interesting effects such as texture saturation.

directional light

The image of the ring binder is shot using a light source in different places overhead. The first image is lit from the left, the second is lit from the right, the third is lit from the top and the fourth is lit using diffused light from both sides.

Having the light source behind the subject can be tricky to master but can have some fantastic results.

evening light

Having strong light above the subject may be too harsh, for example shooting in the midday sun does not produce good landscape photography.

evening light

Sunset and sunrise light produces a vast range of tone and detail that is naturally warm due to the colour of the sky at these times.

poor contrast

good contrast

Light bulbs produce a tone of yellow that is compensated by our own eyes but not as well done on a camera. Fluorescent lighting has a similar effect by producing a green tint on photographs.

sodium light

evening light



scale and proportion

Placing familiar objects into your picture will give viewers a sense of scale and proportion, for example people in an architectural shot will allow the height of the building to be estimated.
People close to the camera will show nearby scales but not background scale, whilst people in the distance will give a perspective view of the scale and size of far objects.



Zoom lenses do more than make your image appear closer than normal, they play a large role in setting the composition of the picture.

Zooming out to the wider settings allows the depth of field to be increased, allowing more of the picture to be in focus and gives more depth to your picture.

Zooming in allows specific depth of field and allows the perspective of the subject to be flattened out making distant objects appear closer together.


Perspective and converging verticals

Perspective is the effect we see on a railway track as each track appears to meet in the far distance. Lines of perspective appear to give a level of depth to your picture. Tall buildings appear to be thinner at the top and may appear to lean back if a foreground object is missing. This can be very detrimental to a good image and can be corrected using an image editor or specific "shift" lenses. A foreground object will also allow the appearance to be corrected as the viewer will get a better sense of scale. Wide angle lenses also exaggerate perspective.




Lines in an image evoke different emotions. Lines give a sense of direction or voyage as a viewer will follow the lines through the picture.

straight lines

Straight lines that converge in the distance give a sense of perspective, adding a three-dimensional element to your picture. This is seen in the spiral binding.

curved lines

Slanted lines or a wavy path give a sense of travel and movement, creating the feeling of taking a voyage, as you can see from the image of the path.

Curved lines simply add a gentle sway, evoking a feeling of relaxation when viewing the picture.