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Master the following ten principles, and you’ll be fully prepared and empowered
to create some of the most inspiring photos you have ever created.

  1. Look at the light
  2. When you survey a scene, don’t just see the subjects but also notice the quality of light. Be aware of the color, angle, and intensity of the light you are working with. Which way are the shadows falling? Is the light a particular tone (bluish and cold or red and warm)? How is the light affecting your subject? Is your subject squinting? Unless you want a silhouette effect, with your subject a dark shape against a bright background, it’s generally best to shoot with the sun behind you. This works especially well if you are in love with the bold colors in your subject. Side lighting, on the other hand, can add drama but can also cause extreme contrasts. Lastly, use indirect, overcast light to make your subject glow soft and pretty.

  3. Go out early; come home late
  4. While you can get great pictures any time of the day, early morning and late afternoon offer the most interesting, unusual, and beautiful light. Shadows add depth and drama to scenes. Angular morning and evening light often washes subjects in a warm glow. Streets are often free of crowds. Animals are likely to be feeding rather than sleeping. The edges of the day are often the most exciting to photograph. If you are traveling and the weather is good, consider skipping your morning meal to go out shooting. Visit the museums and indoor events during the mid-day hours. Keep your mornings and late afternoons open and use those times exclusively for picture-taking.

  5. Turn on your flash in bright daylight
  6. Even in bright sunlight, filling shadows with your flash is a great way to reduce the range of contrast and produce more pleasing pictures. It is also an excellent way to create catch lights in the eyes when photographing people or animals. Occasionally force it on, even when shooting in the daylight, and you may notice a nice improvement when photographing many of your subjects.

  7. Use a tripod and or high ISO instead of your flash
  8. In low light conditions, consider turning your flash off so that is does not fire. Instead, use a tripod and try to make the most of the available light. Rely less on your flash in low light to keep your pictures looking natural and beautiful. If using a tripod is impractical, such as in a crowded concert or sports arena, use a fast ISO to take advantage of the available light.

  9. Use overcast days to your advantage
  10. Instead of staying indoors on dull days, use the soft light to make evenly lit pictures. If you want to photograph landscapes and scenics, simply keep the dull sky out of your pictures when composing. Or perhaps you can use the cloudy sky to add a bit of texture and drama to your photos. Alternatively, shoot portraits of a friend or family member. The soft light will be especially gentle and flattering. Bottom line: work with the weather and don’t allow it to stop you. When the day is beautiful, go ahead and make the most of it. If not, find ways to use the bad weather to your advantage.

  11. Anticipate the moment and be as quick as you can
  12. In case the light might change or your subject may move, fly away or just get tired of waiting for you to take the picture, shoot one safety photo right away. Practice getting quicker and quicker to the draw. Don’t worry about spending the time it takes to make great photos, but also don’t wait until you’re absolutely certain all the knobs and buttons are in their correct position. This is a surefire way to miss the best shots. Shoot first, ask questions later.

  13. Wait around for a change
  14. Even after you have shot your subject in a variety of different ways, hang around for a few minutes. Wait and watch to see how the light or any other aspect of your photo changes. By being patient and enjoying the view for a few moments longer, you open yourself up to a whole new realm of photographic opportunities.

  15. Shoot as much as you can
  16. Take your camera with you everywhere you go. Do not leave home without it, and never worry about what other people think. Remember the mantra: film is cheap, and digital is even cheaper. When shooting group portraits, take as many pictures as there are people in your photo. As much as you might think that the best photographers take only a few shots, they take many; we only think they take few photos because all they ever show us is their best.

  17. Edit your way to the crème de la crème
  18. Withhold your bad pictures from everyone except those who might be able to help you improve. As much as you might feel, when weeding out the bad photos, that all of your efforts were wasted, you will be greatly rewarded once you trash or archive the losers and get them out of plain view. When others (and you) see only your best photos, you can achieve and enjoy the status of an expert photographer.

  19. Take notes and study the results
  20. Taking notes and reviewing your notes are two essential steps for anyone interested in learning how to improve. If you never sit down and look over your notes to help you recall what exactly you were trying to do, you will learn at a much slower pace. Study both your shooting notes and the EXIF or metadata that records things like exposure settings. Compare these notes to the resulting photos to see if you came close to reaching your photographic goals. If you did, congratulate yourself and write down what worked so you know next time. Likewise, try to figure out why the failures happened and write down ideas you have for improving. Before you know it, you will be shooting masterpieces more often than not.

Now that you have all the secrets of professional photographers, commit them to memory and make them second nature.

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