Tips for taking better pictures: Avoiding Common Mistakes

A few tips to help you avoid the most common mistakes when taking pictures.


Know your camera!

  • Every camera is different and it is essential that you check your camera settings before you begin, or your photographs might be unusable.
  • Take time to get to know your camera’s settings. Wrong settings and mistakes are hard to see on the small camera screen.
  • Take time to view test images on a computer screen before you go out.
  • Set your camera to maximum quality (large file) setting. You can’t make a small file larger!

Know your subject!

  • Think about your subject. What are you trying to take a photograph of?
  • Ask yourself if your subject is interesting and relevant to what you are trying to say.
  • When photographing for NGOs, remember to include people in your photographs.
  • Avoid photographing meetings!
  • Focus on your subject and simplify your background (see Composition Tips for more information on this)

Be steady!

  • How you hold the camera will affect the quality of your photographs.
  • Whenever possible move your body closer to your subject instead of using the camera’s zoom feature.
  • Stand stable when taking a picture, especially in low light.
  • Keep the camera still and hold with a steady grip.
  • Use a tripod when photographing in in very low light or at night.

* Adapted from the Save the Children Photography Field Guide

Jenn Warren specialises in photography, communications, Communications for Development (C4D) and graphic design for humanitarian and development clients. Jenn has worked for a wide range of government, donor, UN and NGO clients. Her photography and writing has been published internationally.