Seven Tips for Better Photographs

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Vladimir Horowitz, arguably one of the greatest piano virtuosos who ever lived, practiced every day. Which brings us to the answer to the classic question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? “Practice, practice, practice.”

From time to time I’m asked to judge photo contests and this year, because of time restraints, I’ve decided to stop judging both real-time or on-line competitions. As an alternative, I’ve refocused  on mentoring sessions for photographers to help them address specific questions about their work and can be scheduled any convenient time. In addition, as I have for the past several years, I’ll be doing 1-on-1 portfolio and website critiques for charity during the holidays. Look for a post about this soon.

In the meantime, here are a few tips that I would like to pass on to help you score higher in your camera club’s next competition:

  • A popular misconception is that a photograph must be technically flawless to win. Not true. The picture doesn’t have to be perfect but has to be technically competent. A perfect but boring photograph won’t win any prizes.
  • That’s because impact separates winners from also-rans. In any contest there will be lots of entries and some of them are going to be very good, but you only have one chance to make a good impression to make the judges want a second look.
  • Don’t be a fair weather photographer. Often the best photographs are made under less than ideal conditions.
  • Make the image bold. Use strong composition with simple lines that say speed and power, or use a formal, symmetrical organization to create a Zen-like quiet mode.
  • Don’t be passive. Photograph subjects you’re passionate about, not ones you think the judges will like. What the judges want to see is that the photographer cared about the subject.
  • Avoid eye-level camera placement. Climb a ladder, climb a lamppost or climb a hill to provide your entry with a dramatic camera angle. Lie on your stomach, use wide-angle lenses and shoot up against the sky to simplify the background.
  • Get close to your subject. Use a macro lens, close-up filters, or bellows to show a simple everyday object in a way that has not been depicted before or at least not lately. Good exposure helps too.


Along with  Barry Staver, I’m co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available for $21.88 with used ones selling at giveaway prices—just four bucks—from Amazon, as cheap as a Grande  Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks.

PS. Today is Mary’s birthday. If you are a friend of hers on Facebook, please wish her a Happy Birthday!