How To Take Great Photos: Best And Worst Photography Tips

March 6, 2018

In 1826, French inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce took the world’s first photograph (bless us for this man!) Using a bitumen solution, pewter plates, and a mixture of lavender oil and white petroleum, Niepce was able to capture the view from an upstairs window of his Le Gras home.

Photo by Joseph Nicephore Niepce

Now, nearly two centuries later, photography has evolved in virtually unfathomable ways.  Perhaps the most monumental point in photograph history, however, came in 1991 when Kodak released the first commercially available digital SLR, the DCS-100. Though the 987 units sold didn’t achieve the retail success Kodak was hoping for, they did mark the start of the dominating digital age. Then, in June 2000, Samsung introduced another gamechanger to the market - the camera phone. And the rest, they say, is history.

While famous photographer Ansel Adams said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs,” these 10 tips for taking good pictures can shed light on what and what not to do in order to take consistently stellar photos.

Don’t: Hide behind your camera. Do: be a part of the moment.

a photographer holding a camera
Photo by Joseph Chan

If you’ve been in the photography game for a while, you probably know just how easy it can be to hide behind the camera. If you’re tuning in for photography tips for beginners, take this as a warning: it can be way too easy to think of yourself as just an observer, separate from the action. But this actually limits your ability to take emotional, impactful photographs.

One of the most important things to remember when taking pictures is to be present. If you don’t consciously make an effort to lower your lens, engage in your surroundings, and interact with your subjects, then you’ll inevitably miss tons of epic moments.

From time to time, check in with yourself: if you feel your subject is tense or if you find yourself hiding behind your lens, take a second to lower the camera, come up for air, and communicate with your subject. Not only does this help others to feel more comfortable and respected, but it’s also the perfect trick for getting natural, powerful photos.

Don’t: Obsess over your lens at first. Do: pick a polarized filter.


Photo by Hannes Grobe

Picking the right lens can be a fickle beast. Not only can it be difficult to determine which lens to use when, but building your cache of lenses can come with a mighty big price tag. Sure, over time you’ll need a variety of lenses, especially as you learn more and grow as a photographer. But often we focus too much on the quality of the lens, and not enough on the filter.

Before you go down the lens rabbit hole, pair your first lens with a quality filter, and when looking for filters - pick the polarized. This do-it-all filter helps reduce the glare and reflections you get from metal and glass, and it also helps to make colors more vivid and can act as a layer of protection for your lens. Lastly, look for the circular polarizer filter, as this will enable you to shoot with auto exposure, or “through the lens” (TTL).

Don’t: Shoot only in automatic. Do: master manual mode.

Photo by Alexandru Stavrica

Automatic and semi-automatic modes (such as Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority) are incredibly useful in the hands of a capable photographer, and they can help a beginner take beautiful photographs right out of the gate. However, auto settings enable you to skip the vital steps of truly understanding the mechanics of photography, and they also deprive you of the wonderful opportunity to make mistakes and discover happy accidents.

There’s something about the manual mode that makes beginner and even intermediate photographers shiver. Consider it like learning to ride a bike: auto settings are like training wheels and the second you shed those puppies, it’s smooth sailing. Begin by learning the basics: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, and then start tinkering. Keep in mind, too, that learning to shoot manually takes patience and perseverance, but through trial and error, you’ll soon find yourself easily adjusting settings, setting up, and capturing that perfect shot.

Don’t: Isolate yourself. Do: join a photographic community.

One of the biggest draws of photography is the freedom and independence behind it. Not only do you, as an individual, have a unique style of photography, but you also see things in a different way than the person standing next to you. Even though photography can be an independent, solitary art, you can become too isolated.

By surrounding yourself with people who have similar interests and goals, you’ll find yourself more stimulated, encouraged, and inspired when you’re behind the lens. Finding your photography niche will also help you to grow your network and connect with people who can support you throughout your journey. Whether you want to get your work displayed in a gallery or simply have a question about how to shoot a particular landscape, having people to turn to is incredibly beneficial.

Don’t: Limit yourself to point-and-click. Do: make it move.

Have you ever seen a photograph that takes your breath away because it captures you so intensely? Incorporating a sense of movement is one of the top ways to evoke this type of powerful emotion. Along with the fact that it brings energy to a photograph, movement can also absorb the audience’s attention.

Counterintuitively, creating movement in a shot requires you to carefully plan the moment. Give your photos movement by setting up prior to snapping the shot: slow down your shutter speed and lock the focus by pushing half-way down on the shutter. Be prepared to follow the subject as it moves and don’t hesitate to take the photo. Consider using a tripod as you get used to this technique to keep your camera steady and your lines clear.

Don’t: Over-edit your photos. Do: follow the 10-minute editing rule.


a photographer working on editing photos

Photo by Joao

While there is absolutely no shame in using photoshop, you should be wary of relying on it too much. As beginners, using photoshop to alter photos or fix a little fault is inevitable, but be sure to stay focused on getting the image right in the camera first so that you don’t even have to spend time editing it.

Unless you’re intentionally editing for design or effect, follow the general rule of thumb of a 10-minute editing window. If you find yourself tinkering with a photo for more than 10 minutes, perhaps it’s in your best interest to scratch and return to the location for a re-shoot.  

Don’t: Clutter the frame with a ton of details. Do: keep it simple.

With all of the accessories, attachments, and technologies in the photography world today, it’s easy to cram too many elements into each shot. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for cluttered, confusing composition.

In photography, as well as most art forms in general, simple is best. By remembering to check in with yourself and revisit the purpose of your shot, you’ll find that clarity and simplicity are always more striking and meaningful.

pink sand photo taken by outdoor photographer

Photo by Ruben Bagues 

Backgrounds, for example, can make or break a photo. By choosing a simple, neutral background, you’ll be able to better highlight your focus point and create a more vivid, clean image. This is particularly important if you're shooting a subject that’s off center—the simpler you go in the background, the more the viewer’s eye will be drawn to the model.

Don’t: Stick with routine. Do: burst your bubble.

Of all tips on how to take great photos, this is one of the most important, so perk up. As this article highlighter earlier, it can be all too easy to disappear behind your camera. While practically every photographer can plead guilty to this, it’s helpful to remember to push your limits in order to prevent your photos from becoming typical and routine. Though it’s not always comfortable, stepping outside your comfort zone and mixing up your style will help improve your skills immensely.

Make a list of subjects and techniques you wish to capture and use as you continue to take photos. Do you want to take more action shots or portraits? Are you interested in getting more landscape photos or interaction shots? Maybe you’re searching for that “signature image.” Regardless, having an actual list to go off of and keep in the back of your mind will encourage you to break your own mold and step outside your comfort zone.

Don’t: Get too shutter happy. Do: shoot with intention.

Ask yourself this: why are you interested in photography and what are your long-term goals? Do you love the timelessness photography has to offer, that a good photograph can supersede barriers and limitations, or do you just simply love taking pictures? Is your goal to open your own gallery or snap a few good photos for your children to look back on in the future?

Regardless, there is always an intention behind the lens every time you go to take the shot, and having a strategy to follow will help you successfully follow through with those intentions.

So, before you start getting shutter happy, take a minute to think about what your goal is with the photo and how to can reach it. By envisioning your shot, developing a plan to capture it, and executing properly, you’ll be able to consistently capture some of the best photos in your life.

Don’t: Go gear-happy. Do: start with the basics.

professional camera equipment

Photo by Jakob Owens

One of the most common photography pit-falls is getting too caught up in the commercialism of the industry and investing a ton of money into gear you probably don’t need. While there is no harm in “window shopping” or planning for equipment you might need in the future, going out and purchasing advanced equipment when you’re just a beginner will ultimately hinder your progression rather than fuel it.

So start with the basics: Get a professional camera for beginners (or advance depending on skill), a versatile lens, a quality tripod, and a reliable camera bag. In fact, the camera bag is a critical detail that is often overlooked: even if you have a decent camera, it will be useless to you if you don’t have a safe place to store and transport it. Our award-winning camera bag lets you take your camera anywhere and everywhere while providing ultimate safety and protection, no matter where your photography goals lead you.

wandrd camera backpack

By following these photography tips and prepping yourself with a good camera and a quality camera bag, you’ll find that it’s not only possible to take great, attention-grabbing photos in the digital age, but it’s also possible to thrive.