A collection of useful tips and tricks to help you improve the photos you shoot and films you make!
The following links and resources were collated and available to help entrants in the Visioning the Outdoors Film and Photo Competition.
With the theme “Live Life Outdoors”, entries in the competition shared the unique experiences and adventures of the entrants, and captured the essence of a life lived outdoors. Most of the images used throughout the Outdoors Queensland website were previously entries in the competition.
We are very grateful to the many photographers that have entered the Competition over the years and have allowed us to use their fabulous images to enhance this website. To see some of the many ways the images have been used to support the outdoors and outdoor recreation, visit the Gallery page, check out the Posters, the Desktop Backgrounds and the Image Credits section.
Many other wonderful and inspiring images have been shared on Instagram #visioningtheoutdoors.
To watch the film entries go to QORF TV, our YouTube channel and search on ‘Visioning the Outdoors’
Have you ever taken a photo, certain this one will be a masterpiece, only to find your final shot doesn’t convey the power, emotion, or story you hoped it would? There are lots of factors that contribute to a photo’s impact, but one of the biggest is photo composition. READ MORE
What is photo composition?
Composition in photography is defined as the visual arrangement of elements in your photo. Believe it or not, there are better and worse ways to compose a photograph based on how we see and interpret color, light, and shape.
Let’s consider your photo from the introduction: Each element to create your masterpiece may be in the frame but, for some reason, the finished photo doesn’t have the impact you wanted it to. It could be that certain objects within the frame are distracting your eye from the main subject. Or maybe a misplaced line is leading your eye away from the focal point of your photo. Perhaps a particularly dark or bright feature in your photo is overwhelming the rest of your image.
Photo composition takes all these factors into account. By learning a few simple rules of composition, you can make sure your next shot is a masterpiece.
Before we get to the tools, though, let’s clear up one point of common confusion: photo composition versus composite photography. Composite photography is taking multiple images and layering them into one. Photo composition is how you capture or arrange elements within a single shot. Composition plays a big role in composite photography, too, but we don’t want to get too in the weeds here. On to the tools!
10 tools for better photography composition.
- The rule of thirds: How you line up your subject in the frame plays a huge role in how visually interesting your photo is. One of the most common rules in composition is known as the rule of thirds. Imagine a grid that divides your photo into nine equal sections. Using the rule of thirds, your focal point should be placed around one of the four spots where these lines intersect, or along one of the horizontal or vertical lines. This helps you establish a balanced image that’s pleasing to the eye. Many cameras have the ability to display a grid while shooting, which should help you keep the rule of thirds in mind.
- Negative space: Negative space is the space in your photo that isn’t occupied by your subject. Depending on what you’re shooting, you may want to fill the frame and leave as little negative space as possible (keeping the rule of thirds in mind!), or use lots of negative space to your advantage to simplify your photo and focus on your subject. Pay attention to colors and brightness with this technique: contrasting colors and light levels will emphasize your subject far better than similar tones.
- Frames: While the edges of your photo naturally frame your subject, you can add some extra impact by including more structure and visual interest in your framing. For example, when photographing architecture, look for pillars, archways, posts, or other elements that you can use to frame your subject. When taking landscape or wildlife photos, trees, branches, and other plants can serve the same purpose, putting your viewer into the shot and adding an element of mystery or exploration.
- Lines: Lines in photo composition are used to guide the eye of your viewer, drawing the eye to a focal point. Lines can also contribute to the feeling your image evokes. Horizontal lines can convey stability, like the horizon in a landscape. Diagonal lines often convey motion or distance, especially when they converge (think of a road going off to the horizon). Vertical lines are excellent for imbuing your image with height, structure, and grandeur (trees, architecture, etc.). When shooting, note the relation of your frame and your lines, and try to be intentional about the way you use these lines to your advantage. Does that powerline lead the eye away from your subject? Is that road cutting across your frame where it shouldn’t be? Maybe find another vantage point to eliminate unwanted lines.
- Focus: This one is simple: It’s important not to have too much distraction from your main subject. While your photo may have more than one focal point (or a broad focal range), if there’s too much going on the viewer may feel lost. Make sure your focal point is clear and uncluttered.
- Juxtaposition: This composition technique uses two elements that contrast each other, often to draw a comparison between the two. Sharp and soft, happy and sad, tall and short, light and dark, near and far — the options are endless and can make for a much more interesting photo than either subject on its own.
- Symmetry: There are times when the rule of thirds isn’t your best option. When the subject has exciting details that are symmetrical, you can place your subject in the center of your frame to excellent effect. For example, an ornate staircase, a path through the woods, or a reflection on a still body of water can make a great subject if you want to play around with symmetry.
- The rule of space: When your subject is traveling or facing a certain direction, give it some room to breathe! The rule of space refers to the amount of space in your frame given to the direction that your subject is traveling or facing. For example, if you’re photographing a car driving from left to right, you may want to have more space on the right side of your photo than the left to keep your image from feeling cut off.
- Patterns: Repeating or otherwise visually appealing patterns can make for a beautiful photo. Pay attention to the lines, symmetry, and directions when composing your photo and make sure the pattern highlights or points to your subject.
- Odd numbers: When you’re composing a photo, it’s more visually appealing to have an odd number of elements than an even number. The theory behind this is with an even number of elements, the viewer has trouble choosing what to focus on. This same rule is often used in decorating.
It’s Better Outdoors
- Rule Of Thirds: Avoid putting your subject in the middle – mentally divide your scene into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) and position key parts of your photo on these division lines. It is best to place your horizon on one of the two horizontal lines, and to have any foreground point of interest (or your subject) off to one side, in line with one of the vertical lines.
- Framing: Try including something like part of a tree right off to either side of your landscape photos to form an edge or ‘frame’ – it can add great ‘depth’, making the image appear more 3D and stops the viewer’s eye slipping off the side.
- Fill the Frame: Zoom-in or stand closer so that the interesting part of the scene fills the entire photo.Don’t feel you need to fit the entire subject in the shot – just concentrate on the important parts. Also, patterns and textures can make great shots all on their own.
- Anything but Eye-Level: Don’t take all your photos from the usual standing-up height – crouch down low and look up, climb high and point down – try weird and wonderful angles to create unique and engaging photographs, even of common scenes! Also, if shooting something small (like a child or a dog) try to get down to their eye-level, to create a more intimate shot.
- Taking Portraits: Stand back and zoom in – it’ll help blur-out distracting backgrounds and make your subject stand out. For even better blurry backgrounds, shoot on ‘Aperture Mode’ and dial your f/# as small as you can – smaller f# gives a smaller depth of field.
- Watch Your Backgrounds: Perhaps the easiest way to make your photos look better is to spare a moment to check your background isn’t too messy or distracting. Position yourself so that your subject is in front of a simple, plain background of a contrasting colour to your subject – without distracting colour blobs, telegraph poles protruding from people’s heads, horizon lines going through their face etc.
- Fill-Flash Outdoors: Don’t be afraid to use your flash in daylight – it can lighten shadows under someone’s hat, add a sparkle to their eyes and so on – give it a try!
- Horizontal Horizons: Check your camera isn’t crooked just before you take the photo! Easy to forget – but hard to fix later without losing parts of your photo.
- Leading Lines: Strong lines or curves flowing into a photo help lead the viewer’s eye through your scene to your subject. A fence line, a trail of footsteps, light & shadows –they draw the viewer’s gaze into the photo. They aren’t always there to use, but if they are, you’ll get best results if you make sure any line coming into your photo comes in from the diagonal corners of your shot. Be aware however as they may also lead the viewer away from the subject, so position them so they tend to lead towards what they are supposed to be looking at.
- The Right Lighting: Beautiful, soft, golden morning and evening lighting is beautiful for almost all photography; soft, side-lighting for portraits; shade light rather than harsh sunlight; avoid dappled light like under a tree.
But sometimes – break the rules! Be creative – sometimes the best shots obey none of these rules!
Chris Bray is an award winning Australian Geographic photographer and runs 1 day photography courses around Australia, and photo safaris all around the world, including Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, Galapagos, Amazon, Tasmania, Kangaroo island, Kenya, Christmas Island and more. Check out www.chrisbrayphotography.com for details!
We’ve all been there — you’re sitting outside watching a phenomenal sunset and you decide to whip out your phone to take a shot.
Sometimes it works out perfectly, but often it doesn’t do the scene justice.
There is an art to capturing a sunset well on camera, and Pamela Jennings has mastered that art.
Eight Tips for Improving your Climbing Photography
Climbing and photography take time and effort to master and maintain. The best climbing photographers are passionate about climbing and don’t forget why they love to photograph it. Being inspired will go a long way toward making you an outstanding photographer, but you also need to know why you are taking photos in the first place. What is it you want to achieve, and why? If you were to shoot for 10 years, what would your “body of work” look like? Would your photos be unique? Answering these questions will help you find your vision, which is the fundamental step toward improving your photography.
Rock and Ice
10 Useful Tips to Encourage Children into Photography
Taking pictures is beautiful, and children love playing with cameras. It’s up to us to turn this desire into a hobby that can last for decades. Here are 10 useful tips to encourage children to take pictures and improve their technique:
- Buy them a camera. Yes, it sounds obvious and stupid, but really it is the first step. Children need their own camera so they can carry it with them, drop it, forget it, use it, etc. If the camera belongs to them, they will feel the ownership of its results. And, nowadays, it’s not expensive. All they need is a cheap, low megapixel camera.
- Appreciate the pictures. This also sounds obvious, but it’s also important to keep in mind, as sometimes we don’t have much time to share with them. Children need to feel that their work is useful, so they need to see it and share it. Since they don’t have a Flickr or PictureSocial account, the only feedback they can get is yours—make sure you give it to them.
- Encourage them to use and carry the camera. Okay, they have the camera. Wouldn’t it be good to make sure they use it? Remind them to bring it along when you go out, and once outside encourage them to use it.
- Share their point of view. Children are born untaught; this is good from one side, as they are not corrupted, But they alsoneed to know a little about composition and framing. In order to explain to them how to see as a photographer, you need to share their point of view. Get down on your knees and watch the world as they do. From there you will help them assemble meaningful compositions.
- Work with still objects. Capturing movement is difficult. The first step is to create a good composition. My suggestion is to start photographing objects or places—it’s easier since they don’t try to escape from the frame.
- Play with colors. Children love colors, so use them to teach them about exposure. Try to picture colorful things in order to make it easier to understand contrast and illumination. It’s easier to find differences in a color scale than in a black and white one.
- Play with lines. Many children enjoy drawings and lines, so use natural lines to learn about composition. Suggest that they take pictures of things and places with a lot of lines; it’s easier for them to visualize the composition.
- Take them through the city. Cities have colors and lights. Walking through regular spots and taking pictures of your routine walks is a very good way to train the photographic eye.
- Print their best photos. As photographers, we love to have our work exposed. Children want the same. Make sure you print their best photos and place them in a nice frame somewhere visible at home.
- Encourage them to keep working. The best way to succeed is to practice. Help them to make photography a habit. If they take pictures regularly, they will improve for sure.And a bonus for the truly good ones…
- Let them use your “good” camera. From time to time, make them feel big and important. Let them use your camera and play a little bit with the controls so they can control and improve lighting and exposure.
I hope this list helps you and your children to enjoy photography as much as I do. Thanks for reading!
Author: John Adams
More Tips and Ideas
- The Ultimate Savings Guide for Beginner Photographers: 50+ Tips and Resources (thanks Hannah)
- An Explorers Guide to Hiking with a Camera – We Are Explorers
- Ultimate Resources to Learn Digital Photography – ConsumerBase
- Smartphone cameras: your guide to getting the best out of them – Rob Layton, ABC News
- Chris Bray’s Online Photography Course – online in 10 easy-to-understand episodes
- Finding Your Inner Photographer: Making the Most of Your Camera – from Groom+Style
- CLICK it up a NOTCH – unlock the secrets of photography with Courtney Slazinik
- How to.. improve your iPhone photos – from the Great Walks website
- Australian Geographic – Photography Tips – photography tips from AG
- Photography Tips from National Geographic
- Tips & Techniques from Outdoor Photographer
- How to take a great picture by Carolina Molinari, ‘TEDEd Lessons Worth Sharing’
- How to take great photos—even on your cell phone from ‘TEDBlog‘
- Digital Photography Composition from the ‘For Dummies‘ collection
- Top Ten Photo Tips by Jim Miotke
- The Learn Center – tips and tutorials from Olympus
- 10 Uncommon Photography Composition Tips from Good Nature Travel
- from Hubspot
- iPhone Photography Course from CameraHouse
- How to Choose the Best Cameras for Hiking from A Greek Adventure
- Backpacking with a Camera by Jim Miotke
and you can also go to Dianne McLay’s Easy Photo Tips – she’ll even answer your specific questions too!
or you can follow some of the photography tips from Australian Photography and surprise your family and friends with the quality of your photos!
If you are into posting your images up on any of the various social media platforms, you will find this resource very useful.
Check out the following to get you started:
- A Photographer’s Guide to Videography from PictureCorrect
- YouTube Creator Academy
- Handy tips and tricks for creating a digital story from Connecting Up
- QORF TV
- Banff Mountain Film Festival
- Red Bull
- How to create awesome (travel) videos on your iPhone from Queensland Blog
- Vimeo Video School
- 10 Tips to make Standout Movies by Geoff Portmann, Courier Mail
- Get Video Smart by Julian Mather
- Live Video Camera Confidence Tips by Ian Anderson Gray
You may or will need to ask anyone who features in your film for their permission to be filmed and included in your film. We have created a Image Use Consent Form sample to help you with this process. You can download the form and use to create your own.
Take some high definition film – remember in our digital age it’s easy to cut out images later. Check out the online tutorials on the Vimeo Video School website, they provide great advice for novices through to more experienced film makers, including Choosing a Camera and Shooting Basics
There are many resources available on the web to help you put together a high quality short film. Vimeo Video School is a great resource for editing, with lots of tutorials to get your head around editing software. Most computers now come with free movie editing software, and remember lots of local libraries and schools offer access to more advanced editing software.
Music can help engage an audience and evoke emotions. When considering music in your film, make sure it fits with your story. See this resource for guidance, Videographers (Music Rights Australia) Remember, you will need to have permission to use any music that is subject to copyright. For more information on copyright and music royalties, see:
- Creative Content Australia
- The Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) website
- The Australian Government’s Intellectual Property advice.
There are some resources you can access for free or cheap music tracks that are not limited by copyright, remember to always credit free music in your films. Try these sites:
Now that phone cameras have essentially caught up in terms of photo quality with their DSLR counterparts, shooting landscape photography on the go is no longer just the realm of professional photographers. With powerful phone cameras at our disposal, capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments has never been easier. No need to lug around a heavy DSLR to capture beautiful, complex images in nature when your phone camera is significantly more compact and just as powerful. But with all this creative potential at our fingertips, why is it that landscape pictures taken on mobile rarely convey even a fraction of the awe or splendor of the original experience? Learn More
Digital storytelling is becoming increasingly popular with not-for-profit organisations around Australia as they try to find new ways to capture what they do and demonstrate the importance and ongoing need of their contribution to the broader community.
Connecting Up recently identified five types of stories the Australian not-for profit organisations are telling online:
- Cause Sharing
Cause Sharing is about creating a film to show why your organisation exists. These types of films may make no specific reference to an organisation, but clearly depict the need for the organisation and the work it does. With this type of film you might include your organisation name and logo at the end of the film before the credits.
- Changemaker Spotlight
Changemaker Spotlight is about creating a film to give your staff and volunteers a voice. These films focus on personalities within your organisation, and give your audience the chance to to connect with you on a personal level. Their value lies in real stories of real people allowing many touch points for an audience to engage with.
- Community Voices
Community Voices demonstrate the wider community’s support and appreciation for your organisation and the work you do. These types of films are a powerful way to engage participants, friends, families and personal networks around your organisation and give them an opportunity to explain why they support your organisation and the work it does.
- Call to Action
Call to Action engages people and communicates clear tasks to encourage them to support your cause. Calls to Action engage the community in your work but to be effective, you need to give your audience a task that they can pursue when the film is finished.
- Community Impact
Community Impact is about creating a film to communicate the benefits of being involved. Here, the focus is the impact that fundraising, or volunteering, supporting, being involved, can have on the person/s contributing. These insights can be a powerful way to encourage more people to contribute to you organisation and its programs, not just financially, but in others ways as well.
There is little question that social media plays a role in the promotion of various outdoor locations, and in some cases, has led to significant resource and social impacts.
It’s logical to ask, “Would this place be as impacted as it is now had it not been for Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest?”
Following concerns that the use of social media to spread the word about beautiful, photogenic locations and the subsequent degradation of those locations in Tasmania, Natural Resource Management South (NRMSouth) has published a guide to ethical nature photography.
While Tasmanian focussed, this guide and the principles it suggests can (and should) be applied by Queensland photographers. Sections include:
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