4 Simple Rules to Improve your Photography

Keeping it Simple 

One of the things that I enjoy about my photography, more specifically landscape photography, is that quite often my wife will join me ‘for the walk’. Whether we are walking along the beach or hiking to a waterfall we get the chance to be together until we get to the destination and the process of setting up my gear begins. Usually she will sit on a rock and watch me, read a book, or she will wander around exploring.

It was much to my delight when one day, on one of these hikes, she looked at me and said “maybe I should get myself a camera and start taking some photos too”.  Well, I have to tell you, that was music to my ears! Instantly I begin thinking about updating my camera and letting her use my old one – after all it was good enough for me to learn on. “Oh no!” she told me. “I don’t want anything that complicated, just something simple that takes nice photos”.  Guess I have to wait for that upgrade.

We sat down together and began exploring the web and finally agreed on one of the new Canon Powershot cameras. (Yes I am a Canon man) The Powershot is nice and compact, simple to use, but also has  advanced features so if there is any desire to get a little deeper into it – there is room to grow.

The Look

The day we bought the camera was actually quite exciting. We got it home and unboxed it and my wife seemed so excited while we were putting it together, fixing the strap, installing the battery – it was ready to go and she was ready to take a picture – “OK” she said. “Now what”? Well, being the loving, caring husband that I am, I was really pleased to show her that I had already installed the user guide on her iPad, so I opened it for her, handed it to her and said “read through the manual and familiarise yourself with the camera and it’s features”. She looked at the iPad, looked up at me, looked back at the iPad and look at me and said – “it’s 242 pages”! “Yep” I said. “Best place to start and if you have any questions just let me know”. Then it happened, I got….the look. It was that look that instantly told me that I got it wrong. This was not the answer she was looking for.

As my darling wife continued to give me ‘the look’, I thought about a better way to approach her desire to keep this really simple. “OK, forget the manual, let’s talk about light. You see there is golden light, daylight, diffused light…….” The look didn’t budge. “OK, forget the light, let’s talk about exposure. You see, there is the aperture, the shutter speed and the sensitivity of the sensor…..” She didn’t flinch.


I needed to adopt a new strategy and quick. This wasn’t going the way I expected. Then I remembered to use the same training principle that I was taught time and time again during my time in the corporate world– KISS…Keep It Simple Silly. The idea was to help her to take nice photos in the simplest way possible without the need for her to learn the 600 features in the manual. This would, I hoped, lead her to learning more about the camera and photography in the future. “How about this, how about we put the manual away, we keep the camera set to Auto, and I just show you a few things that will help you take nicer pictures”? The Look turned into a smile.

The 4 Simple Rules to Improve Your Photography

So, regardless if you have a smartphone, a point and shoot camera, or a DSLR their a few simple things you can you do to improve the quality of your pictures without becoming a ‘photographer’? A great place to start is to learn a few very basic rules of composition. If you pay attention to these four basic composition rules you will see a dramatic change in the quality of the photos you are taking.

  • Rule of thirds – Don’t place all of your subjects in the centre of the picture. First imagine that your picture frame has two horizontal and two vertical lines equally spaced one third of the way through the frame so it represents a tic tac toe grid. Place the main subject or the focal point of your picture on any point where two of the grid lines meet. This results in a more dynamic, nicely balanced picture.
  • Watch the background  – It is all too easy when taking photos to focus your attention on the subject and not even notice what is going on in the background. It is so easy to have an otherwise beautiful shot spoiled by not noticing the branch or pole that appears to be protruding from your subjects head.
  •  Leading lines – Leading lines are lines within an image that leads the eye to another point in the image, or occasionally, out of the image. Anything with a definite line can be a leading line. Fences, bridges, even a shoreline can lead the eye.
  •  Putting something in the foreground – Add something to the foreground of your shots to add depth to the scene. It can give the impression that you are standing in the scene. A foreground subject can add context, perspective and interest to a photo.


 My guess is that after my wife masters these four simple composition tricks she will be eager to get even more creative. Then we can explore exposure, depth of field and subject movement…stay tuned!

Rule of Thirds



Brian Bird
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