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6 Ways to Take Great Photos & Videos

We are not the greatest at taking pictures or filming videos. Like if this list was for our personal use, it would probably look like this:

  1. Don’t forget to clean your lens!
  2. Can’t shoot with your lens cap on!
  3. Your hand is covering the lens!
  4. It’s on front-facing camera mode!
  5. You need to focus before capturing!
  6. That was video record you just did, you want to take a picture!

The last one is the funniest when you have a picture of people freezing a smile pose for 4 seconds on a video that was supposed to be a picture. That one never gets old.

Beyond those, the following 6 principles help us a lot in keeping out of the “they have no idea what they are doing” category. These fundamentals can be applied to anything from a camera phone, a point-and-shoot or a DLSR and except for the last one, they all apply to both taking pictures and shooting videos. Here are the real 6 ways to take great photos and videos:

  1. Keep the sun behind you
  2. Apply the rule of thirds
  3. Be on the same level as your subject
  4. Consider shooting at sunrise/sunset
  5. Take time to setup
  6. If talking to the camera, look at the lens

Here’s a little more information on these, plus some examples to get the point across:

1. Keep the sun behind you

That is, keep the sun shining on your subject. If you’re the one shooting, try to keep the sun behind you so it will light up your subject well. Straightforward but crucial; just be aware of how lighting affects your subject. For video we are researching some simple lighting equipment to make it more pleasing to the eye.

When we were in Korea, it seemed absolutely everyone was conscious of this rule. They were moving everyone around so the lighting was ideal. Never did that in Canada…just took the picture. Can’t see your face? Oh well.

Here’s a bad and a good example:

This one’s lighting isn’t so great, it’s behind our head

Here, the photographer has the sun to their back, so our faces are lit up

2. Apply the rule of thirds

Most people automatically put their subject in the middle of the frame. Generally though, the subject looks better on the sides. Imagine your frame is divided into 3 equal parts. Then put your subject in the 1st or 3rd box. That’s a bit oversimplified, generally cameras have a grid 3×3 on the screen and you want your subject somewhere where the lines intersect. If you got a camera like that, that’s what that is for. So, if I had the full grid on this picture, the top left intersecting lines would overlap over the lady. 

Woman wading in river-thirds

I moved the line out of her way(she “wouldn’t have” being covered by a line), but this is in fact a good rule of thirds example

3. Be on the same level as your subject

Imagine you’re shooting a group of people sitting down for a picnic(photo/video shooting, you have a wicked imagination). You may be inclined to stand above them and capture. It is more pleasing to the eye, though, to capture from the same level as your subject. From capturing kittens to kids, you’ll have to get on your knees.

And take a lesson from a shorter person videoing a taller person from the shorter person’s perspective. In the SteriPEN Review, you can see the awkwardness of not being on the same level in some shots(my head is cut out and I’m trying to bend into the shot in places). Cut us some slack though, that was some of our first attempts at shooting.

4. Consider shooting at sunrise/sunset 

The best color filter you can have is a natural one. At dusk and dawn, light travels through more atmospheric particles(you heard me), therefore filtering light in a spectacular way. This accounts for the beautiful colors we see when the sun is low. Whenever you can, take advantage of shooting at these times. We generally opt for sundown rather than sunrise…we’re missing out though.

The SteriPEN Review above has a clip in the end that we videoed at dusk, and it gave it good color. 

5. Take time to setup

Especially when someone is in “tourist mode,” they will take pictures from any position, regardless of how it looks. But a few seconds to setup turns an awkward picture into an awesome one. If you have to rearrange a group of people, switch on a light, pull down the blinds, or move to a better position, do it, it’s worth your time. 

Moondance Restaurant Interior in Pokhara, Nepal

Had to find the right angle on this one, took a bit of moving around and waiting till people moved

6. For video: If talking to the camera, look at the lens

I feel really weird talking to a camera, but if that’s what you’re supposed to do, you have to look right into the lens and not at the person shooting. And if you’re shooting from your computer, particularly difficult is not looking at the picture of yourself. Practice until you can look at the lens, people will notice if you don’t. Still working on that one…

The SteriPEN Freedom Review(above) was one of the first times I was trying to do that and it was really awkward, but it’s getting better now. 

And that’s it! We hope there was something of value there for you. Feel free to share what tricks work for you to take quality photos and videos!

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