7 Essential Photography Tips All Photographers Need to Know


Hi, Ed Mercer here.

I’ve been a professional photographer for over 30 years, and I often get asked for advice for new photographers. Together with my business partner, Norma Rickman, I’ve come up with a list of 7 tips I think are essential for all photographers from beginners to advanced to know.

So let’s get started!

Tip #1-Always Be Prepared

One of the few things I remember from my brief time in the boy scouts is the motto “Be Prepared” and that’s so important when it comes to photography. Of course we all know we need some kind of camera, whether it be an SLR, Rangefinder,Tablet, Smartphone, or any of the new GoPro or Drone cameras when we want to capture images. Of course, there’s much more to consider if we want to be prepared before we shoot. Batteries, camera cards, and lensed are just as critical to capture images as cameras are. No surprises there. Everyone knows these are essential items. Without them, there are not pictures to capture.




Tip#2-Be Aware of Light Quality & Location

Anyone who has studied photography or art will tell you that one of (if not the most important) elements in your photography is the lighting used to create the image. All the images below were taken with existing light. Just knowing when the best times of the day are to take photos as well as where to position yourself for the photo creates the best images possible.

“Sweet Light”

Whenever you can, the first couple of hours of the morning and the last couple hours of the day are considered sweet light and will give you great images. The light has a beautiful golden hue, plus the close to sunrise & sunset casts fewest harsh shadows that can be problematic. The 2 images below of the sunset and boats are examples of sweet light.

“Midday Light”

You can also get great photos during midday as I did with the snow scene shown below. You just have to move around and compose your scene so that you avoid areas of harsh light and shadow that are sharp contrasts to each other. This will cause metering problems in your camera, and is difficult to adjust in post processing.

“Available Light “

Available light is also very flattering as you can see in the portrait of the young girl below. This photo was also taken later in the day. I reflected some light back into her eyes with a white reflector to add nice soft light to her eyes. So try and be aware of the quality of light and where to locate the light source in your images.





Tip#3-Get A Little Action In

I love to go out for the day to take photos of beautiful places and things, and they’re everywhere around us. However, beautiful things sometimes aren’t enough to be interesting on their own. If you can get some action going on in your photo or a subject within the photo, you are going to get a better photo. The photo of the red flower below is a nice flower image. But the photo below of the yellow flower with the bee in it has added interest because of the bee doing his thing.

flower copy


“Make Sunsets More Spectacular”

I love to take photos of sunsets and sunrises just like everyone else. Whenever we head down to Florida for vacation we always wind up at the beach for sunset photos. Inevitably, we’re always met with a crowd hoping to get their own sunset photos or just enjoy the moment. Now sunset and sunrise photos are beautiful all by themselves, but they’re even better when you can include some action by a secondary object in your photo. The vibrant sunset photo below on the left is a great sunset photo. But the sunset photo below right which includes the sailboat makes an even stronger impact because it includes a secondary subject (the boat.) Motifs and secondary subjects in your photos make the photos more interesting and is a good exercise for your creativity.





Tip#4-Don’t Always Rely on Auto

Don’t be afraid to take your camera off the automatic settings. There are just some shots you won’t be able to pull off in auto mode. The photo below of the fireworks is an example of when auto mode would let you down. Your camera will likely have trouble with most photos taken at night as the internal exposure meter is fooled and will usually produce muddy looking images instead of the sharp crisp image of the fireworks shot below.

“Water Scenics”

Water scenics is another place you have to be careful using auto mode. If you are trying to get a certain effect from waves or a soft cotton effect to running water like the image below with the waterfalls you need to learn and control your cameras manual settings.

“Freeze Motion”

And if you want to freeze motion like the football photo below then you need to be shooting at a fast shutter speed to stop the motion and you would do this manually depending on the effect you desire. You can also use aperture priority to accomplish this as long as you understand your settings.




Tip#5-Find the Picture within the Picture

Always watch for the pictures within the picture. I always see extra photos within the photos that I take, as you can see in the example below that I took at sunset in the Fall. The original image is the full image and I was happy with that. However the owner of the marina also wanted a tight shot of the marina. When I studied the original shot, it was there within the original photo. Out of the same image, I also had another water scape of the boats on the left, as well as a real nice cloud formation that I can use alone as an image or as a background in another image. So always watch for pictures in your pictures. You will find lots of them if you look.

pictureinpicture copy

Tip#6-Check the Background Before You Press the Shutter Button

It is always a good idea to get a good look around the scene you are photographing to make sure there are no distractions or content to ruin your photograph. The photo on the bottom left is the before picture that I took without paying attention to what was written on the wall. I also could have done a better job of controlling what was showing in the background. Now I was able to make this a better picture with some cropping and Photoshop on the bottom right image. However if you can keep the photo as clean as possible, you will have more resolution to work with to create larger and better quality reprints from your finished work.

before copy

grafitti copy

Tip#7-Try Different Focal Lengths/Angles to Photograph From

The last tip I have for you is to photograph your subject from different angles and focal lengths. It will give you many different looks and choices. The 3 images below are shot withing 10 feet of each other and within 5 minutes between exposures. It wound up being a great spot and I was able to get 3 images that I was very happy with. I shot the first sunset on the left below as it was when I arrived. I turned to my right for the middle picture below and used the tree to frame the same area but from a lower angle. And the shot on the lower right was just me turning to my right, staying at the same angle and getting the gazebo in the foreground of the sunset.




These tips have helped a ton of my clients in the past with solving their photo challenges. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask. We are here to help and make photography as fun for you as it is for us.

Ed Mercer
Chief Photographer/Editor