The Composition Rule You Need to Start Using Today

Composition rules are rules that are used in photography to create interesting and beautiful images. The goal of most photos is to draw the viewers eye to a point of interest, while creating something visually appealing.

There are many different composition rules, but the one that is most used, and most important in my opinion, is the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds breaks a photo down into 9 sections; three horizontal and 3 vertical and you want to position important elements along those lines, or at the points where they meet (an axis).

In the following example, I have used one-third of the photo for the houses and two-thirds for the sky. Breaking it up like this creates a more interesting shot than if it were split 50/50. You could also take this shot two-thirds houses and one-third sky.

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In this example, I have used the Rule of Thirds in 2 ways:

  1. Breaking the scene up two thirds water and one third sky

  2. Placing the canoe and family on an axis

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This rule is an essential photography technique and can be applied to any photo to improve the composition and balance, but all rules are meant to be broken sometimes, so once you’ve mastered it, you are also allowed to break it and use your creative genius and creativity however you feel inclined. :)

The Best Lighting for Photography

Light is THE most important part of photography.

But not all light is created equal, and I want to share the types of light you want to look for when taking a photo.

Natural Light vs. Artificial Light

Natural light is light that comes from the sun - we love this light.

Artificial light is light that comes from lightbulbs, flashes etc. – we want to avoid this light.

Artificial light creates a yellow tint or unwanted shadows in photographs.

The following two photos show the difference between a photo taken with the lights on (image 1), and the same photo taken with the lights off, using only natural light (image 2).

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The difference is subtle but is even more obvious when taking photos of people because they’ll have shadows under their eyes and look a bit yellow.

To get better light, open the blinds, move towards windows or better lit spaces, and turn off all overhead lights and lamps.

Flat light vs. Bright Light

Flat light refers to light that avoids harsh shadows and extremely bright areas.

In other words, shade or non-direct light.

While indoors, getting too close to a window where the light is streaming in can wash out the subject you’re shooting. It’s better to move away from the window, where the light is still good but not hitting your subject directly.

While outdoors, you want to find shaded areas. It may seem confusing since I just told you how important light is, but it’s in moderation. Shaded areas are still very well-lit and will provide flat light which creates a much more flattering photo.

Here’s an example; The first photo of this family sitting on a park bench is taken in bright light, and you can see that there are a lot of shadows on their faces and bodies, as well as some glare on the man’s face. In the second photo, we’ve moved into a shaded area where the light was flat.

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Avoid Uneven Light

We also want to make sure it is even light, so there are no shadows creeping in.

Here is an example of uneven soft light, where we can see that there is some light on her face. I don’t think the photo is ruined, because look how freaking cute she is, but it’s more ideal not to have these shadows when possible.

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Now that you know the best types of light to take photos - try to look for it before you start shooting :)

5 things to do to set your camera up for success

If you’re anything like I was when I bought my first camera, you played around with all the settings so many times trying to figure out how to use the darn thing that you don’t even remember what you changed.

Here are 5 things to do to your camera before you start shooting: 

If you aren’t sure how to change any of these just google the change you want to make with the model of your camera and there will be tons of videos on each online.

  1. Put your lens on auto focus

Unless you know how to use auto focus, it’s easiest to put your lens on autofocus so that you increase the odds of easily focusing on the right spot. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a say in where to focus, you still aim and half click to focus in on whatever part of the photo you want, but it just helps you do this.

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2. Adjust your diopter

There’s a little dial located on the top right corner of your viewfinder (it’s tiny, look hard). That’s your diopter and turning it adjusts the way things look through your viewfinder, just like when you’re at the eye doctor and trying to find the perfect lens for your glasses.

Look though your viewfinder and focus on something dark, like black trim, or the tv… then turn the dial and you’ll see the focus getting sharper or more blurry. Choose the setting that is clearest to you.

Make sure you’re focused in on something or it won’t work, you can focus by aiming at something and half clicking down so it grabs it.

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3.  Set to auto WB

White balance (WB) removes unrealistic color casts, so objects appear the same way they do in person. It deals with the relative warmth or coolness of white light and there are many different white balance settings depending on if you’re inside, outside, sunny day, cloudy day, lights on… a lot to think about really. We want to put the white balance on auto (AWB), so that the camera automatically adjusts the white balance depending on the type of light we are shooting in.

4. Set to jpeg large

Unless you plan on using photoshop, or blowing your images up for a billboard, you probably don’t need your photo size to be in RAW. Choosing jpeg will give you great quality photos, while not taking up a ton of space on your SD card and computer.  

Go into your settings to ensure your picture size is set to JPEG Large. Straightforward in most cameras but Canon has an icon, see below.

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5. Make sure there’s no exposure compensation

Exposure compensation is used to change exposure, making photographs brighter or darker.

Make sure it’s set to 0 otherwise your photos may turn out too bright or too dark.

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Now you’re all set! You shouldn’t need to change these again, so set it and forget it.

6 Unexpected Reasons to get a DSLR

There are tons of technical reasons why owning a DSLR camera is a great thing, such as “better photo quality” or “flexibility with settings”, but above and beyond those obvious reasons, there are a ton of others!

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Here are 6 unexpected reasons I think you should get a DSLR if you don’t already have one:

1.   You preserve memories

Is there really any other reason needed?

Time goes by way too quickly, especially for parents. I’m sure every mom has wished that they could freeze or slow time because their kids just seem to be growing up way too fast. Since we can’t, being able to capture these moments through photography is a way to preserve memories so that we can look back and remember them fondly. This is not only something you’ll love to look back on, but important for your kids who will one day cherish the photos of their childhood.

It’s never too early or too late to start preserving the beautiful memories you and your family are making.

2.   You’re more intentional about the photos you take

Remember back in the days of film cameras when there were 24 shots on a roll, so if you were going to an event, you’d make sure to get the best 24 shots you could? You wouldn’t take 15 of the same thing, you’d take one and hope for the best. Because you had a limited number of photos, you’d put more thought and intention into the photos you chose to take. Nowadays it’s so different with digital photography because we are able to take hundreds of photos at one event. While this is convenient, I think it also takes away the thoughtfulness that goes into taking a photograph and we may not get the same quality of photos.

That’s one thing I love about bringing my DSLR with me. When I know I have it, I am more thoughtful about the photos I want to take. I set it to the side, and then enjoy myself while keeping my eye out for moments I think would be great to capture.

3.   It gives you a creative outlet

Using the creative part of our brains is something that can get difficult when we are balancing a million things at once. For anyone who enjoys being creative, photography is an amazing way to have a creative outlet, while enjoying our day-to-day activities AND reaping all the other benefits, many of which are listed in this post. J

You don’t necessarily have to take photos of your kids, you can take photos of nature, your home or whatever interests you or catches your eye. This also leads me to my next point…

4.   You’ll see beauty in things you didn’t before

Once you learn the basics of photography and how to use your DSLR, you’ll start to look at things differently. You’ll see beauty in things you may not have before. You’ll have an appreciation for good lighting, certain colours or find yourself looking at a scene as if through your lens. You’ll notice the small curls of your daughters hair, or the way the sun hits your sons face as he’s eating dinner.

This is something I love about photography, I feel like I see beauty in things that I wouldn’t have noticed before.

5.   You can put your phone away

Having a phone connected to our camera is handy in many situations, however there are times it’s important to put the phone away.

When we have our phone in our hands, we’ll end up checking texts coming in or even hopping on our email, Facebook or Instagram out of habit. I always feel rude having my phone out when in social situations so being able to keep it in my purse and just have my camera handy for photos is really nice.

6.   You’re more likely to print them off

This one is still a challenge and something I myself need to get better at. I wish I printed off more photos or made more albums and vow to do so as soon as we have kids. But the reality is, when your photos are only on your phone, they’re mixed in with a bunch of random photos of who knows what, and you’re less likely to load them onto the computer to create albums or prints.

With a DSLR, the only way to share and enjoy these photos is by uploading them to your computer. Once they’re there, it’s much easier to send through to the print center or put onto a USB to take in for printing. It’s also great to have them all in one place, so that at the end of a year or end of a trip, you can sit down, pull out your favourites and make an album on Shutterfly or whichever album printing company you use. :)

So have I convinced you yet? :)

One other thing I want to say is that if you do make the leap, don’t worry about getting a camera bag! It’s our instinct to want to protect the camera, however when your camera is safely tucked away in your big camera bag, you’re less likely to have it handy when you need it. I don’t use a camera bag but instead toss it right into my purse whenever I’m going anywhere I think I may want to take photos.

Do you have any unexpected reasons to add to the list?

How to Choose a DSLR Camera

Interested in getting a DSLR but not sure where to start?

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When you’re in the market for a camera, the choices can be overwhelming. For beginner photographers, the best camera should be easy to use, provide useful features, and help you learn the ins and outs of photography.

To keep it simple, here is a list of features to consider

  • Auto focus (highly recommended) – The more focus points in the viewfinder the better, cameras range from 9 to 50 and the more you have the easier it is to properly focus on the area you wish to capture. This doesn’t mean you NEED a lot, you only really need a few.
  • Low Light performance (aka, good/high ISO capabilities)
  • Size, Weight or Grip feel – If you don’t want anything too big or heavy, factor this into your decision.
  • Flash option – Many cameras have a spot to add an external flash which is handy if you want to get into flash photography later. The on camera flash is something very few photographers use on a regular basis.
  • Video performance – Most cameras come with video recording capabilities, but if this is important to you, you may want one with the best video capabilities.
  • WiFi – A handy feature but not something I use.
  • Full frame or crop sensor - Beginner cameras are typically crop sensor and don’t have as great of performance in low light, or to get to as high an ISO. More expensive professional cameras are usually full-frame.
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In January 2018, Reviews.com went out in search of the best DSLR camera for beginners. They consulted professional photographers, read photography sites, and then tested four highly regarded cameras to find out which DSLR offers the best user experience.

I will summarize their findings for you here.

The Winner:

Nikon D3400
A built-in guide will help beginners learn the basics of advanced photography, and its lightweight design and variety of lenses makes it a great camera to practice and grow with. Plus, it’s relatively affordable at only $650.

  • Best for: A high-quality, entry-level DSLR that helps you learn.
  • Price: $750, including an 18-55mm lens.
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Others to Consider:

Canon EOS Rebel T6i
A microphone port and adjustable display screen makes this camera a great option for shooting video. But in terms of technical specs, it won’t perform as well as the Nikon or be as easy to use. It’s also an investment at $750.

  • Best for: Excellent video capabilities with little instruction.
  • Price: $750, including an 18-55mm lens.
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Pentax K-S2
A surprisingly solid camera with technical specs that outperform our top pick. It’s also slightly cheaper at $600. However, it has a much steeper learning curve and won’t be the best fit for beginners with little experience.

  • Best for: A solid camera for those who have mastered photography basics.
  • Price: $600, including an 18-55mm lens.
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There are new camera models released every year, and the quality continues to get better and better. One thing that some people don’t know is that the quality of your lens means a lot more than the quality of your camera body. Of course it’s always great to have both a high quality camera body and lens, but as a rule of thumb, they say that you should spend 1/3 of your budget on the camera body, and 2/3 on the lens.

Many camera bodies come with what they call a “kit lens”. This lens is fine to start out, but for higher quality photos, you’ll eventually want to upgrade. If your budget is small, you can always start with your camera body and kit lens, and then purchase a better lens once you’ve figured out your camera and saved up for the lens that best suit your needs.