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Learning photography is a process. A long one. And it’s never done. It takes time to learn the basics, but you can then improve for the rest of your life.

You can find hundreds of tips and tricks to improve your photography. But I want to focus on the 5 that are really simple and quick to apply. Actually, you can apply all of them today.

Composition & the rule of thirds

A great view isn’t enough to make a good photo. Next time you you get an opportunity to shoot a spectacular landscape stop for a moment and think about the composition. Don’t just take a photo.

Rule of thirds perfectly executed in photo by Krzysztof Bogucki

Look into your viewfinder. Move around with your camera. See what looks best. If you’re not sure what frame is a good frame you can always relate to the good old rule of thirds. Believe me - it will make your photo so much better.

Another great example. Pic by Jon Scott.

Straighten your frame

I’m a perfectionst. I really like when everything is perfectly aligned. I love knolling. One of the most common mistakes amateur photographers make is the skewed frame. That slight tilt to the one side that just breaks everything.

Image slightly titled to one side. Doesn't look so good.
Image slightly titled to one side. Doesn't look so good.

Sure, not all photos are supposed to be perfectly aligned, but you can immidiately spot the one that was supposed to be straight but just isn’t.

Straightened frame. Much, much better. And it was an easy fix in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Straightened frame. Much, much better. And it was an easy fix in Lightroom or Photoshop.

With straighten tools in Lightroom and Photoshop it’s really easy to fix this. But of course it’s always better to just compose the frame better while taking the photo. That’s what that grid in your viewfinder is for.

Pay attention to what’s in the background

Few months ago I asked Scott Kelby for one single best tip he can give amateur photographers. Part of the tip I received was:

What will really make or break your photo is the background.

It's the background that makes this pic. Photo by Paweł Kadysz.

Less is more. Having too many distractions in the frame will make your photo look cluttered. Use the low aperture to blur out the background. This also relates to the first tip I mentioned. Properly framing can help you unclutter your photo.

If you don’t pay attention to what’s in the background you might end up with something embarrasing. And we all know what I’m talking about.

Stop and look

Not every photo is worth taking. If you’re not shooting a reportage or a wedding, you don’t have to capture every single moment. Shooting 83 photos of the same view is not always a good idea.

Long Distance by Chris Lawton

Stop for a moment. Take a look. Notice the light, imagine the frame. Think about the story you want to tell with the photo. Is it interesting? Is this photo worth taking? Will it have any value for you? Or will it end up in trash can as soon as you download it to your computer.

Take a look at the series by Eric Patzer. He tells an awesome story every day with a single photo.

School's Out! by Eric Patzer

Shooting less and thinking more will make you a better photographer. Imagine your memory card can only fit 24 photos. But don’t get me wrong, you should still practice every day.

Avoid the harsh light around noon

Best time to take photos with the natural daylight is called the golden hour. It’s usually the hour before the sunset or the hour right after the sunrise.

One of the common mistakes that photography beginners make is doing a photoshoot around noon on a sunny day. The light at that time is far from flattering. The shadows are harsh. And it’s hard to properly expose the photo.

This wouldn't be half as good if it wasn't taken during the golden hour. Time of the day is very important. Could've been straightened though. Photo by Mouhsine Idrissi.

So instead of taking your camera out at noon wait few hours and go for a walk after dinner. I guarantee the results will be much better.

Anything else?

Do you have any other quick tips for beginners? A piece of advice newbies can use right away, with no additional gear? Leave a comment below.

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