Learning how to take great pictures is an artistic opportunity to capture life for the sake of posterity. Years from now, when your life is way more boring, you'll lament the fact you've got no photo evidence of the time when you were cooler. Perhaps that's for the best, but let's ignore that.

The days of the Polaroid snapshot are long gone; these days even amateur photographers come armed with enough equipment to turn a poorly contrasted photo into a professional quality portrait, and iPhones can be used to create professional-grade photos.

However, not every man is born with a photographic eye, and no matter how expensive his gear is, he still may struggle to take great pictures. Learning how to take great photos is not a science, but there are some general photography rules that can help you get great results. If you follow these simple steps, you will be well on your way to putting the title of photographer on your business card – right below the line that reads amateur gynecologist. You're a real class act.

  • Focus on the Dominant Eye

    When taking pictures, it is important to remember to have a visual focus, so that the part of the photo which you want to emphasize is the sharpest part of the image. This philosophy has a tendency to go south when doing close-up portrait photography, because we get too close for the lens, and end up with a blurry picture. In general, it's a safe bet to focus on your subject's dominant eye. In using this method, it is relatively easy to check your work because if the focus on the eye appears to be off then the photo is likely not salvageable. When taking photos of people, the key to a great picture is in the eyes.

  • Stop Moving Around

    While enthusiasm for photography will certainly help your product, some people have a nasty habit of moving around way too much, trying to getting in touch with their inner Mario Casilli. The purpose of a fast shudder speed is to freeze all motion, because unless motion is eliminated from the shot, your photos are going to turn out blurry. Ideally, if you are taking photographs of fast-moving action, you want a very fast shudder (like the ones used in sports photography). If you don't have fancy equipment, a tripod will help eliminate the blur from camera shake, so that any blurring comes from the motion itself, which usually makes for a better result. Remember to take your time, because it is better to have thirty awesome shots and not lose hours sifting through thousands of digital nightmares looking for “the good one.”

  • Wipe Off Their Grin

    It never fails, every time you point a camera at someone in an attempt to take a picture of a priceless moment, they immediately flash a fake smile. In all actuality, a smile is not always necessary, depending on the subject matter of the photo. As a photographer, you are the director of your shots, and you will sometimes need to dictate demands like "wipe that silly smile off your face" or "please for the love of god put down the 'I Heart NY' bag." Direction can transform those terrible tourist snapshots into amazing portraits that will be cherished for generations.

  • Utilize Natural Night

    People who rely solely on the flash of the camera to provide their photographic lighting should be tarred and feather. Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme, but flash is a pretty cut-rate lighting method with a short range of effectiveness, and the harsh white lighting has a bad habit of washing out your subject. Instead, try using a high ISO and a low aperture while utilizing your flash as filler for capturing images in places with low light. In darkly lit areas, turn on as many lights as possible, and be mindful of shadows.

  • Gain Some Exposure

    Rather than relying on Lightroom to resolve all of your exposure issues after the photo shoot, it is in the best interest of your photographs (and your time) to shoot for obtaining perfect exposure with your camera. This is why photographers spend time with light meters before they begin to shoot -- professionals know that the time you invest in setup saves you lots of time in post-production, and the same goes for home photography. Plus, while this may not always be the quickest method for taking pictures, you will begin to produce vastly superior images.

    Make sure to take your camera everywhere with you, because only practice will make you a better photographer. You also never know where, when and how a great picture will come together.

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