Towards Better Pictures 2

Jaguar Drivers’ Club

Area 17  –  Bedfordshire                                              


Towards Better Pictures


This presentation is aimed at members with compact cameras and with, perhaps, only a passing interest in photography. It attempts to propose a few simple ways to obtain a more satisfying result, and to equip you with a few tools that allow you to record the scene that you saw and the emotion that you felt at the time, and thus obtain the enjoyment that comes from producing a good picture, one that you might want to show friends or put on the wall of your lounge.


We will talk about the pictorial aspects of creating a picture and of using the light to enhance the picture, so that you achieve something that gives you greater pleasure. There will be no talk of equipment or technicalities.



Camera Settings


Make sure that your camera is set at its highest resolution.


Make sure also that it is set at its highest quality.


Scene Modes


I believe that far too great an emphasis is placed upon technical aspects, and far too little upon looking for and “seeing” a picture, so as a way of freeing you from the technical, I will propose the use of just four of the scene modes with which your camera is equipped. Every manufacturer has their own way of providing these features, so you will need to explore your camera manual to get the detail.


Landscape Mode


Everything in focus from foreground to background

May create movement or blur, so support camera on a wall, post or table


Macro Mode


For ultra close-up pictures of small subjects such as flowers or insects

Be aware of distortion

Limited range of focus


Portrait Mode


Subject in clear focus, background out of focus

Subject stands out

Distraction of background “clutter” is reduced



Sports Mode


Freezes movement

Good for anything that is moving

Shutter delay may become a problem


Composition & Light

We all see things in different ways and what we think we see is not what our eye sees. The brain interprets the scene and will be influenced by your knowledge set and by your experience. If we all went to one location, I doubt that anyone would produce exactly the same pictures.


When your eye views a scene, it sees by moving around the whole in a series of smaller images. Be aware, too, that we “read” a picture from left to right and from top to bottom.


The use of perspective is important to create depth in an image. This is achieved by;

Relative size of the elements of the image

Overlapping of objects

Geometric recession

Atmospheric recession

The use of shadow

Definition of each element


When you compose your picture in the viewfinder, you will make two key decisions.

What will you include?

When will you press the shutter?


Importantly, what will you exclude? Everything in your picture should be there as a result of a conscious decision to include it.

Choose the zoom on your camera to frame the picture, to show only the things you want to show and exclude the irrelevant.


Every picture should have a subject.

The subject should be obvious.


Where do we place the subject?

In the centre, the picture becomes static, placing off to one side produces a more dynamic feel, possibly of movement.


Where do we put the horizon?

Generally, avoid putting it in the middle, this creates the feeling of two separate pictures.

A low horizon emphasizes the sky, a high horizon emphasizes the fore-   – ground, is that what you want to show?

Vanishing point with high horizon gives greater sense of distance.

Verticals are always vertical. Horizontals may be – e.g. seascape


Which brings me neatly to the rule of thirds.

Place subjects on the meeting points


Look for natural lead lines that can be used to draw the eye to the subject.


For a moving subject, leave space in the frame for the subject to move into.


Does the picture suit the vertical or horizontal?

Horizontal (landscape format) emphasizes width, vertical (portrait format) emphasizes depth.

A diagonal produces a more dynamic feel.


Try to avoid taking at your eye level, choose a low viewpoint or a high viewpoint.


For a portrait, especially of a child, get down to the level of the child’s eyes.


Try all the options, there is no cost implication in digital photography.

Take time to consider, move around, explore the subject.


Include something to give a sense of scale.

Include close up detail as well as the long view.

Simplify, remove the chaos.





Photography has been called “painting with light” so first look at the source of light, its direction and its nature, and either aim to work with what is there, or return when the light is as you want it for your picture.


Has intensity (but, in general, let the camera take care of that)

May be harsh (sunny) or diffuse (cloudy). Try to exploit the conditions.

Has colour

Morning light is blue or cold

Evening light is red or warm

Remember the magic hours, the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset

Has direction, produces shadows

Front lighting loses detail

Top lighting can often produce unpleasant effects, eg dark eye sockets

Side lighting emphasizes and shows texture and shape

Rear lighting produces silhouettes, but can produce attractive results with translucent subjects


At any given time of day, the direction of the light is fixed. You should work around

and move around to suit, or plan to shoot at the time when you are likely to achieve the result that you want.


Roger Gage