Whether you love snapping pics with your smartphone or just got your first DSLR, these beginner tips will get you up to (shutter) speed in no time!

1. Learn the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds essentially says that pictures are more interesting and well-balanced when they are not centered. Imagine a grid placed over your images with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines that divide the picture into nine equal sections. Now imagine you want to take a shot of your cat. Rather than positioning Whiskers at the center of the photo, you’d place them along one of the four lines, or at the points where the lines intersect. While this definitely is not a hard and fast rule, it will train you to start thinking about the positioning of your subjects which will become important as you learn more!

2. Take advantage of the “golden hour”. For outdoor photos, photographers love to shoot in what they call the “golden hour”. This is either the hour following the sunrise or the hour preceding the sunset. This will fill your photos with soft, warm light giving them a serene, peaceful vibe.

3. Don’t expect perfection in one shot. If you were getting into archery, you wouldn’t expect to hit the bullseye on your first shot. It’s the same with photography! Take loads of shots of the same subject. Try different angles, lighting, landscape, portrait, etc. You’ll be surprised what you learn about photography, not to mention your personal taste and style!

4. When possible, don’t zoom. Zooming can heavily decrease the quality of your images. Don’t be afraid to get in close to your subject to keep the focus on them while retaining as much picture quality as possible.

5. Don’t forget to edit! After a long session of taking photos, it might be tempting to pick a couple favorites and call it a day. But editing with even just basic software can really bring out the best in your images. YouTube has great tutorials on editing and it’s an essential tool in any great photographer’s toolkit.

Written by Ashley Heizer, a Library Associate at the William E. Durr branch. Ashley enjoys taking pictures of the world around her, which usually includes cats, plants, and cake.

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