Five Simple Steps To Get a Great Shot

5steps.jpgThis post is all about not getting the wrong images? What are wrong images? Wrong images are images that could be great images, but were trashed for not paying attention to one small detail or another.

Before you hit the road, make sure you are not falling in one of the 5 Most Common Digital Photography Mistakes. Or practice on of the 7 Bad Habits of Digital Photographers. Those two posts inspired me to share my pitfalls. As a matter of fact, I’ve fallen so many times, that I now recheck the five steps every time that I take a shot or push the on knob of my camera.

I would like to share five simple steps that taken before you click the shutter, will transform your images from good to great.

1. Own The Frame

6checks_own_owned.jpgHow many good shots had to be cropped just to get half a person out of the frame? Element on the border of the frame tent to draw attention. They may compete with the subject of your picture. And if the edges are cluttered with half of people or faces, your picture will look random. Clearing the edges of the frame is called owning the frame.

Just before you click the shutter, take a quick eye-tour on the edges of your view finder. Check – are there half people there? If you see anything you don’t like, you can recompose, zoom in or out. Take a decision – what’s in shot and what’s out.

2. Parallel Your Parallels

6checks_parallel.jpgDo you have any parallel lines in the frame? Are they parallel when you are watching them through the view finder? Make sure that parallel lines in the real world stays parallel in the final image. There are two common reasons for un-paralleling lines. The first is lens distortion – a hard one to over come. You can usually zoom in to reduce some of this effect, but not eliminate it completely. The second reason is the angle at which you shoot. Sometimes a quick adjustment on the angle can re-parallel the lines. A pleasing effect to the eye.

3. Avoid Horizon Spillage

6checks_horizon.jpgThis one is a common beach images killer. When the horizon is tilted, the balance in the image is disturbed. The general concept holds for any image with strong lines as part of the composition: horizon, window, cabinets and wall edges. Since the brain is used to seeing those lines horizontal (or vertical), it tends to prefer images that have horizontal lines as well. Some cameras can display horizontal lines on the view finder. This is a handy feature to turn on. If you don’t have this feature in your camera, you can align the horizon on two of the focus dots in the viewfinder as well. (OK, Photoshop came to the rescue here)

4. Verify your ISO

6checks_iso1.jpgWhenever it gets a little dark we bump the ISO. The real trick here is
to remember to punch it back down when the light gets better. It is hard to catch this one since the camera will still let you take a picture. The LCD will not show the high ISO, the only warning is a “weird” exposure decisions made by the camera. So, what’s the deal? Higher ISO means more digital noise. If you missed o your ISO, you will not see it on the LCD. Most likely you will only notice it on the screen at home.

Luckily you can always use free software to remove the noise from the shot. However this takes time and the results are never as good as shooting low ISO in the first place.

5. Verify camera modes

6checks_iso.jpgVery often we set the camera mode to match a specific shot we are taking: Manual focus for a macro shot, Manual exposure and white balance for a panorama, or set the camera on auto pilot when we let someone else (like my what-are-all-those-knobs wife) take a shot for us.

Manual focus can be misleading, is the focus is set somewhere in the vicinity of your subject, it is hard to detect through the view finder. The way to overcome this hurdle is to set your camera to beep when it focuses. Now you’ll get into a habit: no beep, no focus! You will look for the beep before every shot.

Since camera modes are the choice of the photographer, most cameras will assume that you made an artistic choice and will not give indication on those settings. So make sure: Your camera is set to exposure mode of you choice.


Q: Five steps, you must be kidding
, by the time I run through the list, my subject will be long gone, and I will loose the shot.


A: Not to fear – the entire check list will take two seconds
for a
beginner, one second if you held a camera before in your life, and
becomes a second habit that takes no time when you keep practicing them.

A word about breaking the rules: Rules are great. I love rules. Ask my daughter. I am also aware of the fact that rules can
should be broken. If you want to experiment, you can just flip one of
the rules: shoot high ISO on a sunny day; take pictures that tilt the
heck of the horizon or crowd the frame with as many people as possible.

Try breaking one rule at a time, then two then the whole five,
just remember – if you are aware of what you are doing, you own the
shot, if you don’t, you are shooting blanks.

What do you do to make sure your images are perfect? Share it on te comments section. 

When looking for examples for this article, I was set to use only my
own shots as example for pictures gone wrong. I also wanted to show
that even the bad pictures can be salvaged. So if you want to see the
bad shots before photoshop was thrown in, hover over the images. I would like to extend a special thanks to sonnyandsandy (dial), Kazze (paper ball) and wiccked (film canister) for CC licensing their photos.

More Tips:
- 85 Great Photography Blogs, Galleries and Sites You Can’t Afford to Miss
- Create your own Bokeh
- DIY (Homemade) Muslin Photography Background
- My favorite sites from around the world
- The Rule of Thirds