Ensure you're taking the most envy-worthy photos with these guidelines from a pro.
From Belize to Burkina Faso, Montreal-based photographer Mikaël Theimer captures the world with his camera, snapping street scenes that reveal the humanity among us. "My favourite thing to shoot is life as it unfolds," he says. His passion is apparent not only in the book he coauthored, Portraits of Montréal (an adaptation of the popular blog Humans of New York), but also in the classes he teaches for The Photo Academy, an international school of photography.
Here, Theimer shares his top tips for amateurs armed with only a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera.
1. Remember the rule of thirds
If you apply only one rule to your photos, make it this: Imagine your frame is divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically, giving you nine sections on the screen. Place the important elements of your picture on or at the intersection of those lines.
2. Find the magic hour
Natural light has a huge impact on image quality. Afternoon—when the sun is high and bright—is usually the worst time because it creates strong shadows where you don't want them. The best time is just after sunrise and right before sunset.
3. Know when to use the flash
Turn the flash on when your subject is within 10 feet of you (any farther and the flash will be useless) or when you're shooting a backlit portrait (the flash will compensate for the lack of light reaching your subject's face compared to the amount of light in the background).
4. Enjoy your food
Seriously, just eat it. But if you must take a photo, use all available light sources. Candlelit dinner? Get that candle close to your plate or seek some extra light from your companion's smartphone flashlight (your flash will be too harsh and make the plate look flat and sad). Use your elbows to keep steady because low light means a slow shutter speed, so your camera will need to be perfectly still.
5. Amp up the camera's photo quality
If you have enough room on your phone or your camera's memory card, set the picture quality to the maximum. More pixels means more cropping possibilities, so you can shoot from afar and fix it later.
6. Take these tools
Invest in some tiny lenses that broaden your camera's capabilities, like a macro or fish-eye lens. A powerful wide-beam flashlight can help in some cases where your flash fails you; point it at your subject from a 45-degree angle to create a striking contrast. Take a tripod for a steady surface from which to best capture dark interior architecture.
Photography Challenge: Photo scavenger hunt
Step away from standard tourist shots—yawn—and catch something entirely unexpected. Here are some ideas—can you capture them all?
- A stunning floor treatment
- An action shot
- Anything at magic hour
- Fetching fauna
- An unusual perspective
- A sign that makes you laugh
- An appealing architectural detail
- A sunrise or a sunset
- A memorable doorway
- Local flora
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