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How to take better photographs

Want to take photographs to help share the story of your charity's good work with the world?

Or perhaps you need imagery to include in your organisation's communications, but want to avoid the pitfalls of copyright and crediting which can come with using other people's work rather than creating your own imagery.

This guide gives some tips for taking good quality photographs, focussing on 'the four Fs' of photography.

Things you'll need

  • A camera
1

Frame

Choose carefully what to include in the photo and what to leave out. Think about what story you are telling and remember that everything in the frame will influence the viewer, and they won’t know anything that you don’t show them.

2

Focus

Many cameras will focus with a half-press, then take the image with a full press. Only complete the press when you have chosen the frame you want and when it has focused.

3

Follow through

After you make the decision to take the photograph, the camera still needs to do the work, so don’t snatch the camera away. If you pull away too early you could have motion blur, or miss the frame that you want. The camera will take less time to take the photo if there is lots of light, and if you are not zoomed in.

4

Flash/light

Think about where the light is coming from. People standing with bright light on them may squint, but with bright light behind them they might end up in shadow.

Try to keep the flash off as standard and only put it on when you know you need it – your camera may suggest using flash when it is not necessary, and light from the flash can look unnatural, or reflect off eyes, glass, metal, and even skin.

Although it might seem odd, using your flash can sometimes improve your photos if you're shooting in bright sunlight. The extra light can help to fill in harsh shadows.

5

Ethical considerations

Think about informed consent, which means people are agreeing to having their photo taken, and they know why the photo is being taken and where it may be used.

Do the subjects in your photo know you are there and have they given informed consent to be photographed?

Are the people in your photo able to give informed consent? Special consideration might be given to people who have specific communication requirements, or may be too young to give consent. If this isn’t possible, can you tell the story you want without people being identifiable?

Are you representing people in a fair and honest way? Would a viewer assume something from seeing the photo that is either incorrect or could cause harm or distress to the people in your image?

Are there any additional cultural considerations to be aware of? Some cultures have different views of what is acceptable in terms of dress, appearance, or who is photographed. Have you thought these issues through? 

6

Answer the questions in this checklist

  • Is the camera set to the highest resolution?
  • Is the subject in-focus and not too grainy? Zoom in to the image to check, either on the camera or on a computer.
  • Is everything you want in the frame? Have you cropped anything out that should be in the photo? It’s easy to miss off the tops of heads.
  • Is there anything in the background you don’t want? It could distract from the subject or message, or include people who have not given permission to be photographed.
  • Is there enough light? If not you may need to change position, or use the flash.
7

Review

After taking a few, review what you have so far, to check all is well before carrying on. No one wants to spend their time creating photos that cannot be used!

Further information

This guide was written by PhotoVoice. PhotoVoice has delivered projects across the world, promoting the use of photography for positive social change. They have developed innovative digital storytelling methods which encourage people to tell their own story through photography.

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Page last edited Jul 25, 2017 History

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