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Taking Good Photographs
May 1, 2015

iPhone concert
Even camera phones can produce compelling images. (bareform/flickr)

We have heard it before. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Today, more than ever, photographs have the power to inspire, upset or tell complete stories. To make sure your photographs are as compelling as possible, follow these tips from National Geographic.

Avoid direct sunlight. Your subjects will be cooler, happier and more attractively lit if they don’t have a sunbeam hitting them in the face. If it’s an overcast day, you’re in luck. This is one of the best outdoor lighting situations for photographing people. If it’s a sunny day, have your subjects stand in the brightest patch of shade you can find.

Wait for the “magic hour.” During sunrises and sunsets, the sky is colorful enough for even a camera phone to capture land and sky with fairly good exposure.

Stabilize your camera phone. In low light, camera phones slow the shutter speed to let in more light and have a longer opportunity to capture movement. Hold the camera phone with both hands and brace your upper arms against your body when you shoot.

Apply the rule of thirds. When composing a picture, imagine two horizontal lines and two vertical lines crossing like a grid on top of it. Place strong lines and divisions like the horizon on the grid lines and let elements of interest fall on the intersections.

Use simple backgrounds. When the background of your picture is cluttered and the lighting is questionable, fill the frame of your camera phone by moving in closer to your subject.

Get the right tone. Shooting in black and white can help develop your photographer’s eye by letting you concentrate on the relationship between light and shadow without the distraction of color.

Try different angles. When photographing adults, experiment with both the angle of your composition and the angle of light to see what’s most flattering.

Want more photography tips? Read National Geographic’s full list.

This is the fifth in a series on media development. Other parts in this series include What is News?Getting the Story, Telling the Story and Ethics and Law.