January 10

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Dan’s 3 Tips to Ensure Great Photographs

By Dan

January 10, 2012

Alpenglow on the Chugach Mountains, Anchorage, Alaska

The other day, my ultra runner friend Beat, who usually takes a compact camera with him out on races, asked me to give him one tip for getting better photos. “Just one?” I asked?

I had to think for a minute, and not wanting to be pinned down to a single one, I actually came up with three tips that I think are crucial to ensuring great images.

No matter what camera you use, DSLR, micro four thirds, point and shoot or  iPhone, and no matter what kinds of subjects you’re shooting- people, landscapes, sports, action, adventure or travel, here are my 3 tips to ensure great photos.

1. Be there.

In order to make great images, you have to put yourself out there into the world, into the places that excite you and ignite your passions. My friend Beat has no trouble with this one, because he’s often out there in the elements for 24-48 hours at a time, sometimes longer. I know it sounds simple, but hey, it’s my number one tip.

2. Have your camera accessible.

My all important tip, right there with number 1. In order to shoot great photos, you NEED to have your camera right there with you at all times, and make it accessible. I usually keep mine in a waist pouch, where I can get it out and up to my eye within seconds. If it’s not there, it’s in the quick access pouch of my Lowepro Photo Sport 200 pack, clipped to my Peak Designs Capture camera clip, or it’s already around my neck, with one arm through the strap if I don’t want it to bounce around. Want to take great photos- then keep your camera handy.

3. Take LOTS of photos.

Pros know this one. In the process of going after that one great image, they shoot tons of frames and weed out the bad ones when they get home. The reason for this is simple. Moments, expressions, light, action, creativity, and body positions are all fleeting. The slightest variation in any of these things can make or break the shot, and if you only shoot a few frames of your subject, you’re very likely to miss that one exceptional, dynamic, fantastic, wonderful moment.

Besides, with digital photography, once you pay for your memory cards, pixels are free, and hard drive space is pretty much the cheapest part of the entire photography equation.

3 1/2. Have a Definable Subject.

You already knew this, but I decided to throw it in anyway. Never hurts to hear it again. Having a definable subject in your photo is what’s going to catch your viewer’s interest. Playing it against some other element in the frame and relating it to that secondary subject is what’s going to keep their attention and draw further interest into your image.

So, there it is, Beat, and the rest of you. Take my three and a half tips and go create some great photographs. Or, throw it all out the window and come up with your own tips. If you think of a good one, post it below.

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.


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Terry Bourk

I have read you new book “Behind the Landscape.” I could not “put it down” meaning that I kept at it because each photo you presented/analyzed was interesting and informative. I am trying to develop an eye for composition (both the scene and the light).

Thank you! The examples you present and the suggestions are very helpful. Purple Mountains, McKinley River and Wonder Lake are fascinating.


Roger Sinclair

You have done it again! Another triumph.

Your generosity to share, the clarity of thought and concise explanation thereof is brilliant. Perhaps I should also mention the beautiful photos and the talent necessary to produce them.

Thank you, Dan.