Sierra Nevada Airstreams - Recreation with vehicles in the Sierra Nevada and American Great Basin areas -> owner's guide -> touring

Take better pictures

A famous anecdote floating in photographer's circles goes somewhat like this. Once a photographer was invited to a friend's place for dinner. During the regular chit-chat, the photographer set out to display his prized images to his hosts. The Hostess was quite impressed and quipped: "You take some really good pictures. You must have really good cameras and lenses." The photographer was astounded by the comment, but didn't utter a word. After dinner was served, he grabbed his opportunity, and remarked: "You cook really good food. You must have some really great utensils." [ - good set of tips on this page, too]

We take pictures to record, remember, show off, share, and see. Photography is an avocation for most of us and a profession for some. You can spend as much on a photo outfit as you do on an RV. You can also spend a lifetime learning about the art and science of photography or just use the automated equipment and supplies that are so readily available. It took a half century or more before people came to accept that a photograph was not a simple rendition of reality but rather a perception that showed a lot more - and a lot less - than the person at the camera could see. Knowing just a bit about this phenomena can help you take better pictures.

There are just two basic concepts an amateur photographer can keep in mind that, when coupled with today's automated cameras, can make for significantly improved results. The first is about using light to expose the subject for a desired effect. The second is to use where you aim the camera to compose your pictures to enhance their subject and the stories they tell.

Exposure, flash, lighting, and shadows

Even with automatic cameras that have built in flashes, getting good lighting is the first consideration for the photographer. Each time of day has its own quality of light. Shadows can hide important parts of a face or detail in a landscape. The flash will not produce good results if the subject is too close or too far away.

Try to get the light behind you. Use cloudy days or shade from trees or awnings to help reduce shadows.


"Good pictures are created, not found. Beginning with an understanding of exposure, the outdoor photographer must build an image out of the shapes, textures, colors, and movements of nature. On its most basic level, composition is simply the arrangement of elements in an image to create a pleasingly "balanced" picture. At its best, composition enhances the photographer's message, building an emotional as well as physical dimension in an image." - Jonathan Hanson

The art of composition is that of choosing how to place things in your picture so that its subject and purpose is made clear. Make sure you have a clear subject and avoid cluttering up the picture with distractions. The subject should be the largest part of the photograph. Have people looking or action moving in towards the center of the picture rather than out past the edges. Keep horizons level and square and place them so they are not dead center across the middle of the picture.

One part of composition is that of framing your subject. Provide foreground elements to help provide a sense of scale and frame the primary subject to help identify what the picture is all about. Use overhanging tree branches to frame a scenic overlook. Have foreground rocks provide a solid base for perspective. Leave one or two sides of the subject un-framed to provide a sense of expansion and continuance.


One of the great things about modern digital cameras is that you can take a lot of pictures without spending a lot of money. You can try different views and then view them on screen for critique about what works and what doesn't. When you view your pictures, select your favorites - those you think deserve a spot on the wall or in a special showcase. Then go back and try to figure out what it is that made those pictures so special. When you take your next picture, think about making it a special picture, too.


Everybody and their brother (and sister) offer courses in basic photography and there are many web sites promoting these courses. There are also a few with tutorials and explanations about photographic topics that you can use to learn on your own. Here are a few sites to review in your journey to learn more about photography. on taking great pictures []

Silverlight Photography. [] Original hand made photographic prints. Photography tutorials and resources. If you are new to photography or maybe feel it is time you learned a bit more about it you will find what we hope are some useful tutorials in both online and downloadable formats along with some other resources which you may find useful and a forum to assist you in finding any further help or advice you may be looking for.Keep up with site updates through our newsletter.

Basic Photography Skills for Web Developers. [] Some thoughts by Genevieve Shiffrar, College of Letters & Science web developer, May 2001

dmoz tutorials [,_Help,_and_Tutorials/ ]

Brad Mitchel Photography tips [ ]

Phill Grosset - take better pictures contents []

Arts, entertainment, and recreation links page []

If you find any of these have ceased to become useful or if you have other sites to recommend, please let us know - email

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Last updated 05/04/2003