The secrets of taking good pictures: Getting to the point

Taking a good picture isn’t rocket science and doesn't require anything as mysterious as a “good eye.” It does, however, require a little understanding and practice. Here are a few useful tips.

Azrieli (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tip: Don’t miss the point
A common mistake snappers make is to concentrate on taking a pleasant composition and literally missing the point. Composition is a device used by photographers to capture the viewer’s eye and direct their attention to a primary focal point. A picture without a strong focal point is merely a forgettable background. The most memorable pictures have a primary focal point and several secondary focal points that create extra interest and depth to the viewer’s experience. Without a focal point there really is no point to taking the picture unless it’s a private snap.
Background (Courtesy)Background (Courtesy)
This is a background picture. Why did the photographer take it? My eye isn’t directed to anything in particular. I don’t know if it is supposed to be a landscape or a snap of a golf bunker? If it were in a pile of snaps I’d already be looking at the next one.
Golfer (Courtesy)Golfer (Courtesy)
The picture now has a primary focal point, the large sign, a secondary focal point, the golfer, and other areas that are now interesting because of the context – the bunker, tents and shape of the clouds. Now I know why the photographer took it. My eye moves around the picture and I enjoy the atmosphere.
Tip: A Gut Feeling
A question that is often asked by beginners is how do they know if a picture is a good one.
I have to remind them of the feeling they experience when they see an impressive picture and say “Wow, that’s good!” It’s an instant gut reaction located around the solar plexus. There is nothing hit and miss about good photography – either it hits and you feel it, or it misses and you skip to the next shot.
Digital cameras give us the opportunity to preview the picture we have just taken. If you weren’t excited about taking it, and it does not excite you to look at it, the chances are that it won’t excite anyone else either. Tip: Telling a story Interesting pictures tell stories. Once you understand that your job as a photographer is not only to tell a story, but also to tell it in an interesting and informative way you will start to look at the world differently. Stories can be somewhat literal, as in the golfer picture above, or atmospheric as in the Azrieli Center picture below.
Azrieli (Courtesy)Azrieli (Courtesy)
The Azrieli is an iconic architectural landmark in Tel Aviv, Israel - an enormous arrangement of three elegant skyscrapers. Photographers naturally try to indicate the vertical scale of the buildings, but in this shot I chose to show it from an unusual viewpoint that merely suggests its scale compared to the wide-angle shot of the road bridge leading to it. The atmosphere this creates is a powerful story-telling device, here combined with perspective and movement to create an arresting image.
Tip: Queensbury Rules
Next time you have the opportunity to take your time shooting a good picture be sure to include a strong focal point to indicate what the shot is about. Try to deliberately include at lest one secondary focal point to lead their eye to another area of interest. In this way you will be telling a story and involving, or at least interesting the viewer to continue looking at and enjoying your work.
But most of all, be excited and committed about your photography. Shoot by the Queensbury Rules and make sure all your pictures hit above the belt, somewhere around the solar plexus!
Picture Clinic
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Tom Langford is an Event and Commercial photographer: & http://
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