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The Big Move is tomorrow and the house is full of boxes, I’m doing everything I can to finish up everything that needs doing on the internet before I get disconnected, there are a million and one things to do and I have worked a 40 hour week in the last two days but at the same time it feels good to get some jobs ticked off my list.

Also just quickly to let you know I’m setting up an Amazon store in the UK/Europe for the sales of my photos, as always you can buy them through my site but they will soon also be available through Amazon as well! and off course are available on Ebay starting from just 99p!

9 Ways to Take Better Pictures Today – without spending a fortune

1)      Carry your camera around with you everywhere!  How many times have you seen something spectacular in everyday life and wished you had a camera to capture it. Create space for it in your bag and make packing it a part of  your daily routine.  Not only will this ensure you never miss a shot, but it will also help you to get to become more familiar with your camera, practice and re-practice certain settings and experiment more with your photography.

2)      Join an online photography forum and/or create an account with Flickr. The benefits to this are limitless. You will be able to; meet other like minded people; learn from them; be inspired by them and also ask for feedback on your photos. Comments will be constructive and help you to become a better photographer.

3)      Learn the Rule of Thirds. One of the main composition rules in photography is the rule of thirds. To use this effectively, you need to imagine a grid of 9 even squares in across the image (your camera may be able to do this for you within its settings). You should then place things of interest at one or more of the four points the lines of the grid intercept. This will help frame your picture properly.

For landscape photos you can use this rule to work out where the horizon should be in your picture.  If the photo has an interesting sky then place your horizon along the bottom line, but if the foreground is much more interesting place your horizon along the top line.

4)      Take your camera off Manual Mode! You will use your camera to its full potential by taking it off this and taking control – the camera doesn’t always know/default to the right settings! Try using Aperture Priority to control how much of your photo is in focus and try using Shutter Priority to control how long your cameras shutter is open, which can then control movement.

5)      Try a new technique! Every time I go on holiday I try a new technique, it could be something as simple as Macro Photography or Panoramas. Alternatively you could try something more complicated like Light Painting or HDR.  There are so many techniques out there and you wont know which one you like best (or comes more naturally to you) until you try.

Add some fun to your portfolio and search these techniques on the internet, or buy either one of my eBooks (available from Amazon or my own website) How To.. Night photography or Beginners guide to your DSLR – getting off Auto, as both of these will show you how to achieve HDR, Light Painting, Panoramas, Zoom Burst and lots of other fun techniques for you to try.

6)      Use a Tripod! To eliminate camera shake a tripod is essential. Unless your camera is steady your pictures will blur and you will be frustrated with experiments in light trails, long exposure or HDR. This is also keenly felt in low lighting situations where the shutter stays open for longer to let in more light. If you move during this time (even just the smallest amount) you will end up with blurry pictures. The sturdier the tripod the better, but you needn’t spend a fortune and there are some decent mini tripods to be found. Walls and other flat surfaces can be used, but are trickier to keep the camera steady.

7)      Use Leading Lines! Leading Lines draw the viewers eyes into your photo. These can be anything from roads to paths, fences, hedges… essentially anything that is a line going through your image, normally (but not essentially) into the middle of your rule of thirds grid. Whilst this can be effective with a lead into the horizon, having an object of interest at the end of your line creates an even more spectacular image.

8)      Use a Frame. Another good composition tip is using a frame to encase your subject. This helps lead the viewers eye into your photo, focusing on the subject and giving the picture more dimension. Typical frames include; doorways; archways; windows and trees. This will tend to work best when your frame is darker than your subject. If your frame is in the foreground (which it should be) make sure you focus on the subject in the distance for best results.

9)      Walk everywhere where possible (especially when travelling)! Not only will you get to see more and get fit at the same time, but if you have remembered Rule 1 and are carrying your camera you will find an abundance of treasured images to unearth. For example the photo below of Istanbul was taken whilst I was walking to find my accommodation after just arriving in the country. If we had taken the bus we would have missed this opportunity and it has proved to be one of my most popular photos.

How to… Night Photography eBook

Beginners Guide to your DSLR – getting off Auto eBook Tuckergg Giovanna Tucker

Istanbul, turkery

Have you ever wondered how I did my photo Zoom Zoom Zoom (a light trail past Big Ben), well here I spill the beans on the technique I used to achieve this and how you can too!

If you enjoy this tutorial feel free to recommend it to your friends, and let me know how you get on!

Tutorial on how I did light trails in front of Big Ben

Light Trail Technique

You will need a tripod for this technique (or at least be able to lean your camera on something to keep it sturdy) as you will be opening up your shutter for a few seconds or more at a time and you will need your camera to stay perfectly still. Otherwise you will get camera shake and your photos will be blurry.

You will also need a camera that lets you control your shutter speed, and you will need to be doing this technique during or after twilight, on a night that has little or no wind to help with camera shake.

Here a few settings to get you started, you will need to experiment, as not every situation is the same. The lighting, the time of night, how fast the cars/buses go past will all influence the shutter speed you need to use. To start off, I’d advise that you use the recommended shutter speed (below) and experiment from there.

Here are the settings you will be using:

  • Shutter Priority    
  • Shutter speed of 6 seconds (use this as a starting point but if you are taking photos – from a bridge for example – you may need a shutter speed of 30 seconds to get a long continuous line of light)
  • Or use bulb mode (instead of setting shutter speed at 6 seconds – more on this below)
  • ISO 100 or as low as you can get it
  • Tripod (turn your image stabiliser off if using a tripod)
  • Shutter release cable or your 2 second timer
  • You won’t be using a flash!
  • Optional tips: Warm clothing, a torch to see what you are doing, extra person for security


This technique will take a bit of practice and depends on how fast the cars are going past you, how dark it is outside, and where you are positioned.

Find yourself a safe place to stand off the road but so you can get a good photo of the traffic. Position yourself so you have something of interest in the background (so you can get a photo of the lights of the car going past your point of interest). This technique will also create a striking image from up high on a bridge, looking down and capturing the light trails of cars below you, or from the vantage point of a corner on the road so you can create lights that bend.

Set your camera to the above; remember you will have to play around with your shutter speed a bit until you are happy with the result, start with the 6 seconds and go from there.

Use a shutter release cable or your 2 second timer on your camera so you don’t bump your camera during the photo. Wait until the cars (or even better buses, due to their distinctive colouring!) are about to go past (if you are using your 2 second timer you will need to press this 2 seconds earlier to allow for the timer) and then press the shutter button down, wait and then review.

If you still see the vehicles in your photo you need a longer shutter time, unless that is the picture you are going for.

If you are shooting a long stretch of road you will need a longer shutter speed to capture a long light trail and, if there are gaps in your trail, try a longer shutter speed.

As alluded to, you can use ‘bulb mode’ if your camera has the function to. This is when you can control how long your shutter is open for. You press your shutter down when the car/bus etc enters the frame and press it again when the car/bus leaves the frame. This way you don’t have to guess how long to leave the shutter open for.

If you are having problems with your exposure and you are overexposed, decrease your aperture (by going up in the aperture numbers), and if you are underexposed do the opposite and increase your aperture (by going down in the aperture numbers)

But most of all just practice and enjoy! 

cuban lady up close

Later on I will be covering How to take Photos of People Inside and Outside separately, so for now it’s just an overview of the general practises when taking photos of people.

People in General

  • Aperture Priority (AV)
  • Aperture of f/5.6  (to make the background blurred and the person really stand out!)
  • ISO 100
  • Shoot in RAW
  • Or if you have a Point and Shoot Camera – Portrait Mode


Shooting in Aperture Priority will give us control over our depth of field, by shooting at a aperture of f/5.6 or less, enables you to blur out the background so your subject stands out more.

Ask for permission before you take someone’s photo, most countries don’t speak English so a simple gesture of holding the camera up and smiling/nodding should be sufficient, as long as you are approaching people in a friendly manner they should be ok with you taking their photo, and it’s better to ask than take the photo and have an angry person running after you trying to grab your camera off you.

Do your research before you go as some cultures believe the camera captures their spirit or soul and will become very angry if you take their photo, even to the point of trying to take the camera off you. 

In some countries like Peru and Cuba the locals expect you to pay them if you want to take their photo, they dress up in traditional clothing and it’s their ‘job’ to stand around having their photo taken, other countries you can hire a model to walk around with you and get them to pose in traditional custom in front of places or doing things for your photos.

As well as people, sometimes it is common to be asked to pay for pictures of animals, again this is true in Peru where llamas are on the side of the road next to people dressed in traditional costumes, these are tourist favourites and as great as it is to get these photos, just be aware that most tourist will be taking these exact pictures so try to take it in a different way/angle or you will just end up with the same pictures as everyone else.

While this is all great do try to remember to take photos of other people as well as sometimes people dressed up in traditional costume is just for show for the tourist and not a real representation of what they would wear/or who they are.

Don’t give money if it is not asked or you, as this can be taken the wrong way, some people might be insulted, or think it is for something else(!) and others will then expect it from then on in, setting a precedent for other tourists.

Take photos of everyone – old and young, female and male, try to get a variety of photos.

You can always start friendly banter with the locals by letting them know where you are from, sometimes this works in your advantage especially if your country is known for something everyone enjoys i.e. New Zealand with the All Blacks or Lord of the Rings.

Try not to have a too distracting background, as this will take away from your portrait.

Take pictures of people in their environment, encourage them to keep doing what they are were doing, as they are likely to stop and pose for you but it’s far more interesting if they keep doing what they were previously doing, especially if its everyday activities that you don’t normally see like dying fabric for scarves or wood carving.

Try to take people’s faces and not the backs of their heads!  This is just common sense but you have no idea how many photos are of backs of heads.

Use the zoom on your camera for bold face shots, imagine weathered fisherman, or old Cuban lady with a cigar in her mouth.

We can identify with people more if they have had their photos taken in cloudy weather or under shade, than in full sunlight, as their pupils are open and they are not squinting at the camera.  So if the weather is cloudy use this opportunity to take photos of people!

Keep taking photos even after the sun goes down, your camera can capture more than you can see, but you will need to increase your ISO.

Don’t centre the person in the photo, think the rule of thirds and place them in one of the intercepting squares (Rule of Thirds to follow)

If they are looking off to one side or their eyes are looking in one direction add some space in the photo in the direction they are looking.

If you don’t get in close enough you can always crop the photo when you get home, do try to get it right at the time though as it’s easier to get it right than have to edit when you get home.

Learn a few phrases of the language so you can say Hello, and Thank You and even can I take your photo if you are really good!

Don’t ignore other parts of people too i.e. their hands if they have interesting tattoos etc, or if they are working with their hands, try a tight crop shot of their hands while they are working.

Don’t always get your subject to look into the camera, try capturing them while they are looking out in the distance or while they are looking at something else.

If the person is in the shade, try using your camera flash to get rid of the shadows on their face.

Try black and white photos as well these can be very striking especially if their face is worn with lines.