How to Take Better Photographs

How to Take Better Photographs. WONDERMENTARY - travel & photography blog

The secret to taking great photographs isn’t having the right camera body, type of lenses, or the latest and greatest thousand-dollar accessory. Sure, having all that can help (and don’t I wish I had it all). But the key ingredient for superb photographs is fantastic composition.

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park California
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Composition is how you frame/place your subjects in the picture. If you’re unfamiliar with the term or don’t even know how to start composing a “good” picture, no fear! The rest of this post will walk you through a tried-and-true composition “rule” that’ll help you get started with creating visually interesting photographs.

Fire Tech Performance Third Degree Glass Factory
Playing with Fire at Third Degree Glass Factory

Most beginning photographers rely on a technique called The Rule of Thirds. I still follow this rule about 80% of the time because it helps me place subjects in a way that looks comprehensively appealing. Now, Digital Photography School has a great article about the Rule of Thirds. I suggest you to pop over there and read it then come back to see more examples. But if that’s TL;DR, here’s my attempt at an explanation…

What is the Rule of Thirds?

First, imagine a grid over your camera’s viewfinder. Looks like this, yeah?

Source

Notice how it is split into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. But do not get confused as I once did – DO NOT focus on the 9 little rectangles. Instead, focus on the lines’ intersections and the dividing lines themselves. They are highlighted in red in the pictures below (source: DPS).

Intersections
Dividing lines

How Do I Use the Rule of Thirds?

Now when you take a picture, place your subject either on an intersection or along a dividing line. You do not have to have a subject on all 4 intersections or lines (but I suppose you could go ham and do that…?)!

That’s the Rule of Thirds. Simple, right? This kind of composition creates a more dynamic photograph that engages the viewer’s eyes to travel across the entire picture.

Can you determine which intersection or line I placed the following subject(s) on?

Cockrell Butterly Center Houston Museum Natural Science
Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds
California Highway 1
Our Roadside Pit Stops Along Highway 1
andy warhol campbells
An Afternoon at MoMA
Climbing Mount Bonnell
Amsterdam Canals Boats
Walking Tour of Amsterdam
Seagull San Francisco Bay
Down By the Bay: Wandering San Francisco’s Piers

Were you able to imagine the Rule of Thirds grid over the pictures above? Now imagine the same grid the next time you take a picture. At the coffee shop, work, in your car – doesn’t matter where, practice this technique every chance you get and soon it’ll become second nature! Or you may be fancy and already have a grid built into your camera’s viewfinder.

Don’t forget that rules are also meant to be broken! If you find a compelling subject that screams for symmetry, balance, centered, etc. DO IT! In the end, do what feels right for you.

Radcliffe Camera Oxford
On the Cobbled Streets of Oxford

No matter what, go forth and create better photographs with your newfound knowledge!

Still have questions? Or do you have your own suggestions on how to take better photographs? Discuss in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I said it’s not all about the gear, buuuut if you want to know what I use, I shared it here: My Everyday Camera Gear

  • Wow! I didn’t know about this rule of Thirds for photography but it looks very practical and cool. Thanks for sharing it! I will definitely use it. With love,
    Vera

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  • Excellent post! People always compliment my photos and it definitely not because I use the technical parts of my camera well, but because, artistically, I can usually get it right. I use all of these pointers above ( and a bit of online photo editing!) and my photos are “pretty” and eye-catching.

    • Thank you! Composition should also come first – the technical details can do their thing later 🙂 What online photo editing program do you use?

  • Great post! For me composition is really important too… you can make a photo so much more interesting by just putting some thoughts into angles etc!

    Summer Isn’t Over

  • I love articles like these, because I’m really trying to step up my photog game. I’ve been taking photos on my iPhone for years, and people say that they like my photos so I guess that means they’re at least decent composition. Now I just gotta figure out how to use manual mode on a DSLR…

    • Hi Claire, I’m so glad that you liked this article! These composition principles definitely apply to iPhone photos too. Haha it takes practice to master manual, and I may write articles about it in the future. Check back later!

  • I’ve been following the rule of thirds without even knowing about it! Wow. I’m kinda proud of my sad “photographer” self.
    xx
    Jenny // Mish Mosh Makeup