10 Quick Tips to Fix Your Bad Photos

1. Get Basic Composition Down

Try and align the subject of your photo along these lines and intersections and imagine the main image divided over these nine boxes. This gives you a more dramatic, visually interesting shot than one where you subject is located dead center. Many cameras and smartphones have a rule of thirds grid overlay that you can activate when shooting.

2. Adjust Exposure Compensation

If a photo is too light or dark you can either delve through the dozens of scene modes that are available in modern point-and-shoot cameras, or simply dial in a bit of exposure compensation. Many cameras have a physical button or dial for this, identified by a +/- symbol. If your photo is too dark, move the scale up above zero; if too light, move it down a bit.

3. Choose the Right Mode

In lower light you can use Aperture Priority (“A” or “Av”) mode to make sure as much light is entering the lens as possible, or if you’re shooting landscapes on a tripod you can close the lens’s iris to increase depth of field, keeping everything in sharp focus from the foreground to the horizon. If you’re a DSLR shooter, you’re more likely to use the A or S modes, while point-and-shoot cameras will often feature more specific modes that cater to activities like sports, low-light use, or landscape shooting.

4. Think About Lighting

Pay attention to how much light you have and where it’s coming from when taking your photos. If you’re shooting outdoors, be careful not to take photos of a person when the sun is at their back. If you’re grabbing a photo in front of a monument or landmark and you want to make sure it’s not overexposed, use some fill flash instead to make your backlit subject as bright as the background. You may have to manually activate the flash, as there’s a good chance that the camera will think that it’s unnecessary on a bright day.

5. Use Your Flash Wisely

Many a photo has been foiled by a flash firing too close to a subject.If you need to activate the flash, back up a bit and zoom in to get the proper framing. If things are still too bright or too dark check and see if flash compensation is an option. Many cameras allow you to adjust the power of the flash, which can help to add better balance to your flash-assisted photos. Adding just a little bit of light makes it possible to fill in shadows, resulting in a more natural-looking photo.

6. Change Your Perspective

If you don’t have a tilting LCD, getting down low to the ground to get the best shots of pets and toddlers you’ll want the camera at their eye level to get an image that stands out. You don’t have to pay for every shot with a digital camera, so play around with different angles and camera positions until you’ve found one that captures a moment and stands out from the crowd.

7. Watch Your White Balance

Different light casts different types of color sunlight is very blue, tungsten lighting is yellow, and fluorescent is a bit green. In many cases, the camera will automatically detect what type of lighting you’re under and adjust the color in photos so that they look natural.If you’re shooting under mixed lighting, or if the camera is just having a hard time figuring things out, you can set the white balance manually. On most point and shoots you’ll have to dive into the shooting menu to adjust this, but many DSLRs have a dedicated White Balance button, often labeled “WB.” You can correct color in the included Mac or Windows photo editing apps later on, but you’ll get better-looking photos if you get the white balance right in the first place.

8. Use a Tripod or Monopod

Using a tripod will allow you to set up framing, and can come in handy—along with your camera’s self-timer—for getting that shot of you and the kids in front of Mount Rushmore. You can get away with an inexpensive tripod if you’re a point-and-shoot user, although spending a bit more on a brand like Manfrotto or MeFoto will result in much less frustration than with the bargain brands that you’ll find at the local five and dime. DSLR users should definitely put care into selecting a tripod, as a set of legs and a head that are sturdy enough to hold the camera are paramount.If you’re more of a run-and-gun shooter, a monopod which is just like it sounds, a tripod with two of its legs missing—will help you stabilize your shots. Great for use at zoos and sporting events, a monopod is supplemented by your two legs in order to add stability to your camera—without the sometimes-cumbersome setup and breakdown required with a good tripod.

9. Be Selective

It’s easy to take hundreds of photos in a few hours when shooting digitally. You should spend some time going through your photos so you can eliminate redundant shots and discard photos that may be out of focus or poorly composed. It’s better to post a few dozen great photos by themselves rather than the same good photos hiding among hundreds of not-so-good ones.

10. Don’t Forget to Post-Process

Performing some very basic editing on a photo can help improve its quality drastically. Cropping a bit can help with composition, and you can also rotate a photo so that horizon lines are straight. Getting perfect photos in-camera is a lofty goal; there’s no harm in a bit of retouching.

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