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Ten Top Tips for the Amateur Photographer

Ten Top Tips for the Amateur Photographer

DSLR cameras are becoming more and more affordable. The Canon 500D even enters multi lens High Definition video capabilities but it is very easy to be “All the gear and no idea(r)” Steffan Hill is one of Belfast’s top professional photographers focusing on portraiture, film stills and reportage.

Steffan has taken time to offer up his top tips for those learning the art of photography.


1. Always shot RAW format files if your camera can.

This is the ultimate format which gives you incredible control over your shots. With memory cards much cheaper and with more capacity there really is no reason to not shoot raw. Programs like Adobe Lightroom make processing raw a breeze.

2. Keep the sensor clean.

A little bit of maintenance will save a lot of time later on the computer trying to remove dust spots. Never use a brush or compressed air like Kenair to clean the sensor, as propellent can mark it. I use a thing called a rocket which is ideal. When cleaning, hold the camera body with screen facing up and sensor facing down so as dust can fall out easily.

3. Always hold the camera with 2 hands.

Sounds silly but the amount of times I see people with a compact camera’s snapping away with one hand. If you are using a slow shutter speed, tuck your elbows into your body for support, or lean against anything to help you keep steady.

4. Composition and Lighting

To make a great photograph think about the 2 most important elements, composition and lighting. You can be in the most beautiful countryside, but on a dull grey day you won’t get a nice shot. You don’t need bright sunshine, dramatic lighting works just as well, but avoid flat lighting!

5. When composing follow the Rule of Thirds

Although don’t be afraid to break it now and again! Be aware of what is in both your foreground and background. If shooting a portrait make sure that a tree or lamppost is not protruding from your subjects head. If shooting a landscape, remove the crisp packet or other such litter that is just visible in the foreground.

6. Think about depth of field

By using a large aperture on a long lens as a way to isolate and emphasize subjects.

7. Focus First

When using a camera with auto focus, don’t forget to focus first and then re-compose the picture, especially if you are taking a snap of family or friends.

8. Changing Shutter Speed

Think about using a slow shutter speed for effect, like moving water of traffic at night. It’s very easy to experiment now with digital to work out the best exposure, but don’t forget to use a tripod!

9. Use fill light when there are harsh shadows.

Say when photographing a portrait in bright sunshine. Turn the subject with their back to the sun and either use flash or something white/silver for a reflector. This will also stop them from squinting. Try not to use direct flash, try bouncing it off something white.

10. Be quick and try to capture ‘The Decisive Moment’

This defined by Henri Cartier-Bresson : “Photography is not like painting, there is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative, once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

A massive thanks to Steffan for taking the time to give us his top digital photography tips. Why not visit his website / portfolio at

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