What makes a photo great?  There are three key basics to keep in mind:

  1. Subject
  2. Composition
  3. Light

These three tips to taking a great picture are the basics to all digital photography. In this first installment of this new series of Digital Photography Basics  there are three principles that are paramount to creating a professional looking image and really making something that will stand out when you print your digital image on canvas or on photo paper.

1. Subject:

  • The subject is the part of the image that your eye will notice first. It is the focal point.  It’s what you want people to see.
  • The subject also tells a story in a digital photograph.  The eye and the brain are connected and make up a story about a photo, whether you are aware of it or not.
  • Another way to put it is to look at images without a subject.  Which image is more compelling below? With a subject in this image you ask yourself: where is he? what is he holding? How did he get here? etc…

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash


2. Composition:  

  • Composition is how your subject relates to the surroundings.  There are some rules and guidelines which are good to know when composing your digital image.
  • The most fundamental is the rule of thirds. This means to imagine two vertical and two horizontal lines equally dividing your screen. (Most digital cameras, even iPhones allow you the option to see this grid whilst taking a photo.) For example these can help in keeping you photo level if you use the horizontal lines to help line up the horizon and vertical lines to help with trees or tall buildings.
  • The idea is that in order to take a more compelling photo, generally speaking, you’ll be better off if you position your subject off center and in one of the intersecting corners of the grid.

  • Another principal in composition is the principal of direction of movement.  Even though your digital photos are stationary, more often then not your subject will have some implicit direction of movement.
  • In the image below the eagle is moving from left to right,  leave more space in the right side of the frame that allows the eye to follow the movement of where it expects this eagle to be flying. It just makes a more compelling photo than framing the eagle right in the middle. Also the photo of the waterfall at the top of this page follows this rule as well.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

  • This principal can also be applied when taking photos of people, especially portraits. You are trying to follow the direction of eyesight. This image of the woman below is an extreme example but makes the point. 

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

3. Light: 

  • Light is essential to taking a good digital photo. You will get a better, higher quality and sharper photo if you have more light.
  • If you have a choice of indoor or outdoor shooting, almost always choose outdoor as there is more light.
  • Another way to think of this is natural light vs artificial light.  Natural light, in most cases, will give you better results.
  • Soft light vs Hard light.  A cloudy day is better because it is soft light and you don’t get a lot of shadows and light is dispersed evenly.
  • Hard light or a bright sunny day means deep shadows and harsh highlights, light isn’t distributed evenly.
  • On a bright sunny day the human eye can see into the shadows and highlights, but a camera sensor is different. Through the lens of a camera things look quite different and need to adjust for one or the other but you can’t for both. That’s what makes photography in hard light so difficult.
  • The best times to shoot are the golden hours. Either the first few hour of light in a day or the last few. Both the featured image at the top of this page and this image below shows off great color during the golden hour.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


So keep these three principles to digital photography in mind when you are out there shooting.  And remember when you do get that epic shot, get it printed out on Canvas or Paper so you can enjoy it. Got a picture in mind? Get started here 

If you’d like to learn more in upcoming blog articles, please subscribe.  Also, I’d love to hear any feedback.  Cheers and happy shooting!

This contact form is deactivated because you refused to accept Google reCaptcha service which is necessary to validate any messages sent by the form.