Improve Your Photos 60 Seconds at a Time

If you are tired of reading long explanations and confused by tricky photo techniques, here you can have it short and sweet. Arranged by topics, each subject takes less than 60 seconds to read.

Once you’ve read the ideas and tips, picture in your mind some photographs you have already taken. Think of how they could have been improved by applying what you have learned here. Visualize how you might have taken your photos differently. Already your photography is improving!

Light | Landscaping | People | Color | Composition | Being Ready


Dancing with light

Dancing with the light

  • Light from the side brings out shapes, textures and structures. That’s why early morning and evening are rich times to photograph.
  • With the sun behind your subject, you get some of the most dramatic visual effects … but exposure could be tricky to get right. Try it anyway!
  • When the sun is high and the light is hard, don’t fight it to try to get it all. Concentrate on exposing the bright parts properly and work with the shapes of shadows.
  • For light and shadow effects you need the sun, of course, but colours are often more intense on half-sunny or overcast days.

The color of color

Colour of colour

  • Natural light is white, while artificial light is often shades of yellow, orange or green.
  • Our eyes naturally adjust to colored or tinted light sources to make them appear white and so will your digital camera but only within certain limits
  • If you want warm-colored pictures work earlier or later in the day when natural light tends to be more orange.
  • This image shows warm light from an evening sun but bluish shadows from the cloudless sky

Mastering flash

Mastering Flash

  • Balance the flash with day light for stunning results. Your camera may offer a ‘slow flash’ or ‘synchro flash’ or ‘daylight synchro’ setting.
  • Direct flash on groups of people produces better-looking images than direct flash on a single person.
  • The latest cameras allow you to set high ISO speeds e.g. ISO 800 which can help avoid using flash altogether.
  • Avoid red-eye by turning up or providing more light in the room.
  • If you use your camera’s red-eye reduction setting when taking flash photographs of people you avoid red-eye, but there’s a delay in taking the shot which may cause you to miss the moment.

Choosing your time

Choosing your time

  • Low or cross lighting at dawn or dusk produces wonderful lighting and colors.
  • At dawn and dusk there are natural shadows to help give depth and form to your subject.
  • For early evening shots, you will need longer shutter times i.e. longer exposure to make up for the low light. This makes it likely your photographs could be blurry due to camera shake, so lean your camera on something – anything steady – to keep still during exposure.
  • Don’t be afraid to point the lens at a setting sun , but whatever you do avoid looking at the sun directly, especially through the viewfinder of your camera.

Landscaping your photos

Composition essentials

Composition essentials

  • It’s best to keep your horizons level in your photographs, otherwise your shots will appear crooked (unless that’s what you want!).
  • Keep the main points of interest away from the centre, and from the extreme edges – better, still, try placing them in different parts of the image and see which works best.
  • Don’t shoot everything from a standing position. Look for unusual angles by changing yours (and the camera’s position).
  • Better to avoid completely empty space in your photos.

Framing the lines

Framing the lines

  • Don’t be afraid to use take portrait photographs – that is, with the camera on its side.
  • Use natural features in the environment to create a frame for your subject or to lead the eye through the image.
  • Zoom in to create a sense of intimacy. Remove from your shots elements like the sun or the sky, which give a feeling of open space.
  • Experiment with framing. Try framing your shots with lots of foreground and very little sky, or lots of sky and very little land.

Zooming around

zooming around

  • Zooming-out allows you to capture more of the view.
  • A wide-angle lens will keep everything in focus while helping to maximise the ‘depth of field’, or feeling of depth in your shots.
  • Zooming-in will flatten the sense of perspective and make distant objects appear closer together.
  • Zooming-in will also affect the amount of your picture that is in focus allowing you to isolate details against an out-of-focus foreground and/or background.
  • Be careful to avoid camera shake when zoomed right in, as tiny movements in your hands become magnified.

Prospecting the perspective


  • Create perspective by using the lines and shapes within the shot to draw the eye.
  • Tall buildings can appear to ‘lean back’ when photographed. Getting something in the foreground of your shot helps balance this.
  • Increase the sense of perspective by using a wide-angle lens and adding foreground interest.
  • A low viewpoint and wide-angle setting helps to contrast the size and shape of objects in interesting ways.



  • Foreground is the area that is closest to the camera: the stronger it is, the stronger the rest of the image.
  • An object in the foreground first invites the eye, then lead the viewer deeper into the photo.
  • Include foreground objects to add a sense of scale and perspective
  • Experiment with allowing the foreground to totally dominate the photo

Cool proportions

Cool proportions

  • The central part of your scene usually draws the camera like a magnet so it ends up in the centre – try resisting that tendency
  • Place the main point of interest towards the sides of your photographs for more dynamic compositions
  • Place your horizon near the top or bottom of your shots to add emphasis to the ground or to the sky
  • In this picture you can see there is a smallish amount of sky while the rocks have been placed high in the image to allow the silhouette of the trees to be significant.

People with you

Lighting faces

Lighting faces

  • The soft light you get on overcast days is especially good for photographing people, as it delivers the best skin tones
  • Side or ‘cross’ lighting is more interesting because it gives depth and form to your portrait sitter
  • Keep backgrounds and other distractions to the minimum so that the viewer can concentrate on the face
  • In this picture, soft light from a window lights the faces of the girls from the side, while a zoomed-in setting throws the foreground face out of focus.

Depth of feeling

Depth of feeling

  • Use your zoom lens to shorten the ‘depth of field’ (depth sharpness) in your photograph, and throw the background out of focus. This adds emphasis to your subject.
  • Use your zoom lens to fill your photograph, rather than leaving your main point of interest floating in space.
  • Zooming in will flatten perspective, which generally produces a more flattering shot of your subject.
  • In this picture, a zoomed-in setting focuses on the girl, throwing the foreground objects out of focus.

Natural frames

Natural frame

  • Use a person’s surroundings to be a natural picture frame the photo
  • People will often smile and pose stiffly for their portrait: if you don’t want a smile take two or more pictures – a second or two after a smile, the pose relaxes and you have a more natural shot.
  • Look for the natural junctions of the human body (where it seems natural to ‘cut-off’) if you are not including the whole person in the shot.
  • Soft light is easiest to work with: try sitting your subject near a window.

Childish tricks

Childish tricks

  • Get the children used to you and the camera by firing off lots of shots first.
  • For small children , pre-focus the camera. This is done on most digital cameras by pressing down halfway on the shutter button. Then move yourself backwards and forwards with the child to keep the shot in focus.
  • Get down on your hands and knees to stay level with your subject and appear less intimidating.
  • Use something to draw the child’s attention away from the fact that they are having their photograph taken.

Coloring the essentials

Bolder colors

Bolder colours

  • Redder colors will create a warmer feel for your shots than blues or greens.
  • color affects the way we look at pictures, so try to use color creatively in your shots.
  • Look for images that contain contrasting colors, such as red and green or yellow and purple, to add tension or drama.
  • Using shades of the same colors will create a sense of harmony.

The best light is free

Free light

  • Bright sunlight gives colors a more intense or ‘saturated’ feel.
  • Midday light has a bluer quality, which can give photos a harsher feel.
  • Try to place strong colors against large areas of even tone or color – this helps bring out their intensity
  • Look for color contrasts – red with blues and greens, for example.
  • Photographs taken at the beginning or end of the day will have a warmer tone due to the natural orangeness of the light.

Emotional colors

Emotional colors

  • Different dominant colors lead your viewer towards different emotions which impacts on the way your shot is experienced
  • Yellow is associated with happiness, but orange may moves us toward concern – hence the use of amber as a warning light.
  • Red is the universal color of warning. Use it with caution – a little bit of red in your shot goes a long way!
  • Greens and blues usually have a calming effect, hence their association with landscape
  • The many colors in this shot are held together by the large areas of yellows, giving it an unmistakeable sunny Mediterranean mood.


Lines of force

Lines of force

  • You can create a sense of direction using naturally occurring lines.
  • Slanting or ‘oblique’ lines imply movement, action and change.
  • Curved lines or S-shaped lines imply quiet, calm and sensual feelings.
  • Lines that converge imply depth, scale and distance, for example, the outer edges of a road converge as it disappears into the distance, giving a two-dimension image three-dimensional depth.
  • Repetitive elements create a sense of rhythm, which is often more interesting if the rhythm is broken by a missed element.


rule of thirds

  • Imagine two horizontal and two vertical lines equally dividing your shot, then place subjects on the lines or where they intersect with each other: this can be a help in deciding on compositions
  • Place your horizon on the top or bottom line to add emphasis to the ground or to the sky respectively.
  • In this picture, the composition combines color contrasts with proportions closer to another principle, the Golden Section, which gives pleasing proportions.
  • Just pushing your composition slightly to one side so it feels a little uncomfortable can give your photos a dynamic it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Focusing away

Focusing away

  • The human eye is drawn to elements that are in focus, and this will influence how your photo is seen.
  • Auto-focus (standard on most digital cameras) will focus on what is in the centre of the frame. Use pre-focus to move your subject away from the centre of the frame. (This is done on most digital cameras by pressing down halfway on the shutter button.)
  • Use your zoom lens to reduce the ‘depth of field’ (sense of depth) and throw the background out of focus. This will emphasise any in-focus element in the foreground.
    Photo © Wendy Ang

Being ready

Drive your motor

Drive your motor

  • Take lots of pictures. With digital cameras shots cost you hardly anything at all.
  • Move around as you photograph to experiment and give yourself plenty of choice later.
  • Stay alert for that chance-of-a-lifetime shot: keep your camera turned ON, keep your mind switched to ON.
  • In this picture, the golden eagle put its wing on the falconer for only a few very short seconds, and the falconer grinned for even less time!

Vantage points

Vantage points

  • It is almost always worth clambering up a wall or steps to get a little higher – but don’t get yourself into trouble with authorities.
  • You may also have to wait for the best light.
  • And you might have to wait for a composition of passing people to arrange itself
  • The best position may depend on the zoom setting that you choose.
  • In this picture, I had to wait nearly thirty minutes for everyone to get themselves into position.

Shutter lag

Shutter lag

  • Shutter lag is the time a digital camera needs to capture a picture after you have pressed the shutter button.
  • Reduce shutter lag by focusing beforehand, hold the shutter button down half-way or half-pressure and wait for the moment.
  • Reduce shutter lag by turning off any unnecessary automatic features such as red-eye reduction.
  • In this picture, the only way to catch the air force jets at the right instant was to release the shutter just before they reached their ideal positions.

Always ready

Always ready

  • If you see a good picture you may be early: an even better one may come in a few seconds
  • Get your exposure and focusing and framing set up while you wait for the perfect shot
  • Hold the camera to your eye all the time; in the half-second it takes lift the camera you could miss the shot
  • In this picture, I spotted the shepherd from a car, screeched/skidded to a halt, got the car to disappear and waited for the flock to approach me – using the time to work out the best viewpoint to meet them.

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What is?

October 4, 2007 @ 3:09 am

Nice tutorial. I’ve saved it to my harddrive to go back over. You just won yourself a new regular visitor.



September 24, 2007 @ 6:31 am

For a standard camera user like me it is very good advice. thanks



November 5, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

Great tips. Images indeed look more attractable when the main "object" is not in the middle of the picture.


David Jennings

September 22, 2007 @ 1:37 am

lol, think they mean 60 second jobs at the time of taking a photo. Great article, thanks.



September 22, 2007 @ 12:03 am

taking pictures in daylight is fine, it’s way more difficult in a dark enviroment with lots of moving objects like on parties, a cafe or disco.
i have a canon powershot a710is (european version). photos i take in those circomstances have the following problems:
– grainy pics above iso400
– too dark without flash
– too bright with flash, even on the lowest setting
– blurred image of moving objects
– difficult/impossible AutoFocus (shaking)

does anyone have tips for me on how to get better pictures? (with this compact, buying and carrying around a digitalreflexcam is no option at this moment)


Damien Robinson

October 5, 2007 @ 7:14 am

Mate, this is an excellent site.

I subscribe to your RSS feeds and have a read during my very busy working day.

Love it and keep up the good work.




October 5, 2007 @ 12:26 am

This article was wonderful. I am not a novice photographer, I come from a family of remarkable photographers. With that, the information in this article is spot-on for those who are learning and a wonderful reminder for the rest of us who always need reminding. Thank you!



November 24, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

That’s all true tips!
Only…. this is an "60-second" post? 😀



September 23, 2007 @ 6:23 am

Thanks for all those explanations ! I’ve just bought a Canon XTi camera and I’m learning as I’m still a newbie ! So many interesting points in your post ! Thank you very much ! In my favorite bookmarks !! 😀



July 29, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

That’s is a great simple tips! Bravo!



September 21, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

Found this article linked from All of these points are so obvious — as I read this, I thought, "Well, of course it is, and yeah, everybody knows that…". Except I never think about any of these things when I’m actually taking pictures. If I hang on to this list, maybe I’ll start. Good job. Thanks.


Dave Kaufman - Techlife

October 4, 2007 @ 8:24 am

This is a great article. I just wrote you up in my syndicated column and blog. I added that I like to think of cropping as a powerful way to improve photos too. I often use that tool when I was not the original photographer. Great gems in this article.



September 23, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

Awesome compilation! I found you through Lifehacker. I tumbled this article, so I hope others will be able to find your quick and easy tips as well. Keep up the great work, and the awesome shots!



September 25, 2007 @ 10:49 am

some useful tips there, nice one.


Michael Cummings

October 21, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

Nice info man. This is great for people who need help with composition. I have been thinking about writing a blog post like this last week for some people to see but now I can just point them your way.



September 21, 2007 @ 5:28 pm

came here from lifehacker cool site man 🙂



September 21, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

Great tips, but definatly more than 60 seconds 🙂



September 27, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

Each SUBJECT is supposed to take 60 seconds. I loved all articles at the site!



September 22, 2007 @ 12:57 am

Lau maybe giving welcome constructive criticism, but I don’t agree with it. Each section has a gem of advice in plain english. This is one of those pages I’ll be book marking to come back to occasionally and polish up my photog eye.



September 23, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

Woah! Lotsa information here! Although a lot of it I didnt know about! Great post! I would now be visiting your blog regularly for sure!


Kyle Byron

September 26, 2007 @ 8:52 am

Oone quibble: As far as the Rule of Thirds goes, you don’t want to imagine 3 vertical and horizontal lines; that would split the screen into 4ths. Imagine 2 vertical and horizontal lines, and you get thirds.



September 24, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

Yes, it’s so useful. Great!


guidmaster´s .NET blog

October 6, 2007 @ 4:23 am

Trackback from guidmaster´s .NET blog

links for 2007-10-19


Robin MacFarlane

September 25, 2007 @ 5:08 am

Great job, a really interesting article.



September 26, 2007 @ 7:54 am

I people are missing the point about the 60 second thing.

Improve your photos in 60 seconds.

Each mini article/tip can be read in less than 60 seconds.

Each article has new advice or a technique therefor improving your photo knowledge each time you read one.

Good stuff, great read.



Tom Ang

September 29, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

Thank you all for the great feed-back and I’m glad so many are finding the tips helpful. And special thanks to Kyle and Rich for reading the blog so carefully. We’ve corrected the error in Rule of Thirds and am about to clear the entry for Dancing with Light.

After a decade of writing for what amounted to a wall of silence (i.e. books) it’s a blast of fresh air to be in contact with readers, and WONDERFUL to be able to polish/correct/refine quickly in response to your comments.

A couple of thoughts for cbu and your low-light problems, to share:
– if your point-and-shoot camera flash is too bright (usually only a problem at close-up distances) get a white post-it or tape a piece of tissue over the flash to tone it down.
– search for software applications to reduce noise; they can be very helpful.
– sure you set aperture-priority AE and set the largest aperture to ensure shutter time is as short as can be
– if there is good light on parts of your subject but it’s dark elsewhere, try setting under-exposure of around 0.5 stop or 1 stop to get a shorter exposure and less motion blur.



October 6, 2007 @ 11:17 am

Very good article to know about how to take great photos.



September 16, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

Well, it’s a really looong story, covering almost all the basic things, but, for a 60 seconds job, it’s too much. Maybe if you split things a bit. Otherwise, short clear explanations are welcome.


Jane Consumer

September 22, 2007 @ 7:43 am

Trackback from Jane Consumer

Be a better photographer in 60 seconds



October 7, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

Great tips here. Very useful. The single most effective piece of advice I ever got was "fill the frame" with your subject. My images became far more interesting and my photography eye developed.



September 26, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

Thank you for the feedback.
I added "… at a Time" to post title since that’s probably more accurate. We just meant to convey the brevity of each lesson, which may have been confusing since the entire post is quite long.



September 27, 2007 @ 1:07 am

Great advice. Thanks.


Eiriks forfatterblogg

September 24, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

Trackback from Eiriks forfatterblogg

Bedre bilder på fem minutter



September 25, 2007 @ 4:58 am

Waarom is deze site niet in het nederlands.


Cool Photos

September 29, 2007 @ 9:55 pm

very long but it’s an awesome guide to bookmark, almost everything is covered, and with semplicity…congratulations


Tan The Man

September 21, 2007 @ 5:43 pm



Pete Bony

November 25, 2007 @ 9:55 pm

I’ve been using an SLR for more years than I care to remember but reading this page I now realise that a little more thought and a bit of "back to basics" like the tips that you have given are likely to bring my photograohs a bit more impact. Thanks for reminding me about a little thought!



September 23, 2007 @ 1:18 am

thank you for this post!!! I printed out and I’m going to check off every time I follow acomplete set and then journal about it. It’s very simple and direct, thanks, clau



October 21, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

Great tips for taking photos! Thanks!


Fabio Ornellas

October 21, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

Very nice article!! Short and direct.

I miss some examples of "good" and "bad" for each of tips though. Would make it longer, but visually better to get the point.

Keep writing the way it is! I loved all articles at the site!

Thank you!


Trip Hop Clan

September 17, 2007 @ 10:06 am

Trackback from Trip Hop Clan

Simple steps to take the best photos in any situation


Sebat's Weblog

September 30, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

Trackback from Sebat’s Weblog

Fototips in 60 Sekunden



October 2, 2007 @ 12:26 am

awesome stuff



September 23, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

wow, exhaustive summary! thank you.

but it certainly took me more that 60 seconds to read it 😉



October 7, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

Thanks for those great tips. I will be waiting for more from you.



September 24, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

Waarom is deze site niet in het nederlands.

M.Vr.Gr. H.v.d.L.



September 25, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

A lot of fairly light material.

For flash, a good rule of thumb would be to turn it off and use it only if you absolutely positively have to. Natural light is a million times lighter.

Also "but whatever you do avoid looking at the sun directly, especially through the viewfinder of your camera." You forgot to add the bit about looking both ways when you cross the street and making sure you eat vegetables with every meal…


Didiek Hariadi

October 27, 2007 @ 3:56 pm


a guidance that’s make me happy, and push me try many obyect



September 26, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

By far the biggest offense novice photographers make is taking a photo with the main light source behind the subject. Unless black silhouettes are what you’re actually trying to create, the resulting photo usually loses detail on the subject and has blown out highlights.



September 22, 2007 @ 2:09 am

Thanks for all those explanations ! I’ve just bought a Canon XTi camera and I’m learning as I’m still a newbie ! So many interesting points in your post ! Thank you very much ! In my favorite bookmarks !! 😀



September 27, 2007 @ 12:04 pm

In "Dancing with light", you create some confusion. Is the 3rd bullet supposed to be about the same topic as the first bullet & the accompanying photo?
– If so, it’s wrong. When "Facing the sun, with your subject in front of you", you are NOT "standing between your light-source (for example the sun) and your subject".
– If not, then it belongs in a different tip.

This tip would be easier for you to describe and for others to understand, if you simplify by describing it in terms of the position of the main light source. This tip seems to be about having the sun mostly behind the subject, instead of its usual position mostly behind the photographer. Forget about saying, "with your subject in front of you". (When was the last time your subject was elsewhere?)


mokum von Amsterdam

September 25, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

Great list, nice examples and valuable information.

Thanks, this might even improve my images 😛

mokum von Amsterdam


Yves Van den Meerssche

September 22, 2007 @ 2:24 am

Excellent list ! Thanks


Michelle Hysell

October 13, 2007 @ 1:44 am

This website is very useful- thanks! Each SUBJECT is supposed to take 60 seconds.


Mark Brouch

September 22, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

I liked it. Helped a newbie like me out alot. Thanks!



September 24, 2007 @ 12:10 am

Wow, the longest 60 seconds of my life.

[…] dicas para melhorar suas fotos em 1 minuto! No site iDigitalPhoto você encontra um curso grátis de fotografia que está dividido por temas. Cada tema tem a duração de apenas 1 minuto. Nada de explicações […]



December 9, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

Very exhaustive list which covers a lot of basics. Thanks.



February 9, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

This covers a lot. I think it will help me

[…] Then explore DPS’s 10 ways to take stunning portraits and idigitalphoto’s list of 60-second lessons to improve your photography. […]

[…] rest of the article. Digital Photography Tips For Beginners Digital Photography Composition Tips Improve Your Photos 60 Seconds At At Time You might want to try this…look for Flickr groups that are about your P&S camera and see […]


Mike Hann

May 20, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

Very good for a quick lesson. For most this would make them feel pro!

Was wondering if you could also write about the cameras – I mean, the choices and their relative advantage for photography.



Ashley Adams : Postcard Printing

August 25, 2009 @ 9:19 am

Hey, this is nice that you have given all the basic points to take good pictures.. I really appreciate your effort.. I think this will work as a wonderful guide for the amateurs.. you have made it long but simple to understand.. I shall be waiting for more tips from you..



September 2, 2009 @ 5:08 am

Awesome Article, I have shared this link on some photography forums also


Mathias Belmore

October 9, 2009 @ 3:49 am

Well worded and quite aptly written.



December 1, 2009 @ 1:53 am

The article was excellent. It had the level of detail that is needed for a novice photographer like me. I know that some may find it too easy or too detailed, but I think it was just right.

[…] Improve Your Photos 60 Seconds at a Time […]

Very nice of you to share your wisdom. This is a great collection of photographic tips. Thanks you.



March 23, 2010 @ 2:49 am

Like the author noted, get something that grabs their attention and takes their mind off of the fact that they are getting their photo taken. Make it fun to smile for the camera. Have kids “watch the birdie” with a toy from SmileForMeToys. Create positive first experiences with cameras and kids for a lifetime of capturing memories on their own.


mokum von Amsterdam

April 12, 2010 @ 9:41 am

One of the very few photo sites I keep coming back to. 2,5 years ago and now again and I still like & learn from it.



July 12, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

Great article and time doesnt matter at all while reading[learning] new things. 🙂
I have sony s2100 cam, Its point and shoot cam.
Can anyone please tell me,How can I click pictures with focused object in centre and blurred surroundings??


Red Rose

August 12, 2010 @ 7:01 am

I enjoyed a lot.I have a canon 50D and I am an amateur photographer. I am interested in taking abstract photos but I dont know how. I would be glad if you tell me the best way to creat such photos.rgds.


Photo/Music = Life

January 16, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

This helped alot. I needed help with my picture taking and now that I did they’re going to look better(:

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