50 Tips from 50 Years Behind a Camera


I picked up my first camera in September, 1966. In the five decades since then, I’ve come to understand a number of truisms about the art and craft of picture taking.

The following are 50 tips I’ve compiled, based on my professional and personal experiences shooting with film and digital cameras, ranging from 8mm Minox spy cameras to 20 x 24" studio salon cameras.

My list is broken down into two sections: Basic and Advanced. Some of these tips are obvious, others less so, but they all hold true as guides for better picture-taking habits.


1. Read the manual. Your camera should be transparent to you and intuitive to use. Even seasoned pros don’t know everything about their new cameras.

2. Open your eyes better cameras do not make you a better photographer. If you’re not visually attuned, your choice of camera is inconsequential.

Pictures are happening all around you, but if you want to see them, you have to open your eyes and look around.Allan Weitz, 2016

3. Unless your subject can maul you, get closer. Tight close-ups have better visual dynamics. If you prefer more personal space between you and your subject, use a telephoto macro lens.

4. Can’t get closer? Try cropping. Today’s higher-resolution cameras allow you to crop deeper into the frame with less impact on image quality. (Bonus tip! Yes—it’s OK to crop. If anybody tells you otherwise, have them to talk to me.)

5. Want to isolate your subject from the foreground and background? Shoot at wider apertures.

If you want to isolate your subject from the foreground and background, shoot at wider apertures.Allan Weitz, 2016

6. Want maximum depth of focus? Stop your lens down to smaller apertures.

Smaller apertures bring more of the foreground and background into focus.Allan Weitz, 2016

7. It’s far better to take fewer, strong photographs than lots of so-so photographs.

8. Don’t chimp. It’s counterproductive. Stare at your pictures when you get home.

9. The “correct” exposure isn’t always the best exposure. Sometimes lighter or darker is preferable.

Select highlights emerging from darker shadows add a noir look to the photograph and help make a more powerful image.Allan Weitz, 2016

10. The best light occurs during the first and last hour of daylight. And don’t forget the half-hour preceding sunrise and half-hour after sunset to make sure to bring a tripod for that. 

Allan Weitz, 2016

11. Turn off Auto White Balance when taking pictures during the first and last hour of the day. AWB tends to neutralize the magical golden light that made you take out your camera in the first place.

The last thing you want to do to a great sunrise or sunset photograph is neutralize the gorgeous light.Allan Weitz, 2016

12. Midday sun is picture-friendly during winter months and dreadful during summer months.

13. Be patient. Sometimes you have to wait for the photograph (or the light) to happen. Some things cannot be forced or faked.

14. Taking great photos on sunny days is easy, but not so easy on cloudy days. On cloudy days, try warming the scene by setting the white balance to the Cloudy or Overcast icons, or by adjusting the Kelvin rating.

The blue tonality of overcast skies can be easily corrected by adjusting the white balance (WB).Allan Weitz, 2016

15. Clean your lenses regularly and always have a lens cleaning cloth within arm’s reach.

16. Always breathe on the lens surface or moisten the lens cloth with a few drops of lens cleaner before cleaning lens elements. Never dry-clean a lens and never apply cleaning solutions directly onto the lens—only on the lens cloth.

17. Recharge your batteries as soon as you return from a photo shoot.

18. Insure your gear. Make sure your cameras and lenses are insured against theft under your business or homeowner’s policy. Many plans can also cover you when traveling—check with your agent.

19. Purchasing clean used or refurbished gear is a good option for stretching your budget.

20. Before you buy another lens, master the lens(es) you already own.

21. Adjust your diopter. Even if you rely on autofocus, make sure your diopter is properly adjusted for your eye.

22. Aim your camera face-down when changing lenses. Dust falls downward, not upward. Let gravity work in your favor.

23. Use a tripod whenever possible. Tripods guarantee sharp pictures and allow you to move about without affecting the camera position.

Allan Weitz, 2016

24. Turn image stabilization off when using a tripod to prevent damaging the IS mechanism.

25. Don’t grip telephoto lenses overhand like a binocular—palm them in your hand and tuck your elbow against your rib cage for added stability.

Allan Weitz, 2016

26. Exhale before squeezing off longer exposures. Holding your breath tenses the body and increases the pulse-rate. Exhaling relaxes the body.

27. Look at other people’s photographs—there’s always something new to learn.

28. Avoid busy backgrounds—keep things simple.

Busy backgrounds seldom work as well as photographs with less going on in the foreground and/or background.Allan Weitz, 2016

29. There’s no rule that says your subject must be centered.

Advanced / Professional Tips

30. Always pack a low-profile camera support that allows you to shoot from ground level, tabletops, and other places tripods are too large to access.

Ground-level camera supports are terrific tools for capturing pictures from uncommon points of view.Allan Weitz, 2016

31. Color or monotone? Some pictures are all about color, while others are better in monochrome. Fortunately, digital RGB files can easily be turned into monochrome files. The trick is to know when a photograph should be black-and-white.

Black-and-white pictures of flowers? Sure, why not?Allan Weitz, 2016

32. Avoid shooting from eye-level—get higher or lower for different points of view.

Allan Weitz, 2016

33. Shooting landscapes or architecture? Always pack a bubble level.

Grid lines are terrific when photographing architecture and landscapes but, for best results, always use a bubble level.Allan Weitz, 2016

34. Whenever possible, scout your intended location beforehand. Study the light, stake out camera positions, and resolve any roadblocks that might impact your plans.

Allan Weitz, 2016

35. With the exception of protecting your front lens element, the need for filters is debatable when shooting digital. Polarizing filters, which cannot be emulated electronically, are the exception.

A Polarizing filter eliminates glare and reflections from the surface of the water while increasing color saturation. Allan Weitz, 2016

36. Buy the better lens. It’s invariably built better, takes better pictures, and when treated properly, can outlast your next few cameras.

37. Larger and faster or small and lighter? Is f/4 fast enough for you, or do you really need f/2.8?  Comparable lenses with a slower aperture are typically smaller, lighter, less expensive, and equally sharp (or sharper).

38. Learn how to clean your camera sensor—it’s not hard and it reduces post-capture editing time.

39. Nothing juices up a color photograph like the color red.

This photograph wouldn’t pack half the visual punch if the gas pump was blue or green.Allan Weitz, 2016

40. Listen to your gear. You should know the sounds of your camera and lenses, and be able to recognize when something doesn’t sound right.

41. Just as you should know the sound of your gear, you should be aware of unusual vibrations, grinding or meshing, or camera and lens controls that start feeling tight or perhaps too loose or wobbly.

42. Shooting in sandy, gritty, wet, and/or windblown environments? Clean your gear before heading out on another adventure. Empty your camera bag and vacuum every pocket, corner, and recess.

Allan Weitz, 2016

43. Originals: Unless you’re getting paid very well, never surrender original (or raw) files to anyone.

44. Got everything? Make a checklist of everything you need before heading out the door (Batteries, chargers, related cords, adapters, cable release (or remote), gaffer tape, a flashlight, a Leatherman or similar utility tool, etc.). If you say that you’ve never arrived at your destination only to find you left your memory cards at home, I won’t believe you.

45. Back up your files—all of them, and keep at least one set of backup files in the Cloud and/or a remote physical location.

46. Always make sure any software-dependent device or accessory you purchase is compatible with your computer’s current software and operating system.

47. Auto ISO is a good alternative to slowing your shutter or opening the lens when shooting under low light.

48. If you have to choose between getting a blurry low-noise image or a sharper but noisier image, choose the sharper but noisier option.

49. Before posting pictures online, embed a watermark and copyright notice.

50. Don’t start breaking the rules until you know and understand them.

Allan Weitz, 2016

There are dozens of other must-do tips for better picture taking. What are yours? I’d love to add them to my list in the Comments section, below!


I always backup my Images to 3 different brands of Portable Hard drives, It cost me $450AU to retrieve a heap of Photos on one Hard drive many years ago, they suggested I back up to 3 different brands as all three will not fail at the same time.

Len, good advice from your local advisors and to our readers from you. Thanks so much for checking in and posting your comments!

Wow, these tips are spot on!  Thank you.  One additional thing regarding tip #22:  When I'm changing lenses, not only do I point the sensor downward I make sure it's turned off.  I was told once that if the sensor is energized it can electrostatically attract dust to it.

Hi, James! A great piece of logical advice of which many photographers may not be aware. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Thank you for the tips so very grateful.  I have only taken one semester of photography.  So much to learn.  I just do it for personal and hobby reasons. 

Thanks Susana, and remember - enjoy taking pictures... that's all that counts.


Thank you for the list.  As to "chimping," I have two Panasonic Lumix cameras and the electronic viewfinders are set to include the histogram and gridlines (with other information).  I guess that falls under "pre-chimping."  Press a button, and the view becomes clutter-free.

'Pre-chimping' is still on the fly list so keep on doing what you're doing.

We'll let you know if this rule changes in the immediate future so pre-chimp on...


  One or more beanbags makes getting sharp pictures vehicle much easier. I think a good remote control is essential for long telephoto pictures.

  Great list!

One or more beanbags makes getting sharp pictures from a vehicle much easier. I think a good remote control is essential for long telephoto pictures.

Great article, thanks, Allan.  I am tempted to suggest a copy should be included with each "starter camera", to give beginners some encouragement and steer them off the shoals.

As long as I get a piece of the action for each camera sold I'm in!

Great Idea... I'm going to begin contacting camera manufacturers after lunch today.

Thanks for the return tip!


I always suggest to my workshop students to only shoot RAW, and if you have a dual card camera, shoot RAW to both cards for an in-camera redundant backup. And I always suggest the camera's Auto WB. If it needs adjust, it's simple in Lightroom. If they insist on JPGs, then typically most scenes will better than if they chose a camera preset WB, or picked their own K temperature. 




The scene looks fine to the eye, but is later viewed disappointingly beyond the dynamic range of the camera medium, especially for popular digital capture.  That's why pros use scrim or other balancing media where possible, or maybe take blended exposures.  When translating to print, this range is even shorter still.  Pick up any mass circulation magazine or catalog and behold the many blown out highlights, for example.  Learn when to shoot to the right and when to deliberately underexpose as a beginning effort. 

Remarkable photos are far more about the photographer than the camera.  Don't be fooled into thinking that a "better" camera will make you a better photographer.

Ain't that the truth...

Good point Light...


Great photographs are all about mastering the effects of light, contrast, emotion and the "wow factor.  Study great photographs and learn from them.  

Spend far less time on forums and far more on shooting photographs.


Have you ever considered manufacturing fortune cookies for photographers?

I think you're onto something here...


I do chimp, but not in the way it is implied in the article. I chimp to and look at the histogram and the blinkies to modify, if necessary, the exposure. I also made it a habit to sit down and read the manual from end to end. With digital, your first battery charge time is the best way to do this, along with checking for firmware updates and getting a workflow lined up. (Check to see if your favorite post processing software supports your camera)

Knowing what every button/dial on the camera body/lens does and when to use it is another good tip. Spend the money to get a WR rated kit, just having that has saved my bacon many times.

Based on your rational disposition we will grant you forgiveness in this matter... but don't make a habit of it...


Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.



I'd eliminate #8.  The ability to "chimp" is one of the gifts of digital over film.  As a 40-year veteran professional, I appreciate the ability to check my images on the fly. 


John B

Chimping within reason is OK, but my guess is a lot of incredible moments have been missed because the individual behind the camera was so busy looking in the rearview mirror they missed the opportunity to photograph the on-coming bus.

Know what I mean?


Allan is correct.  Many times I have seen PROS chimping and while they're absorbed with their LCD screens, they are missing the fleeting moments that provide those amazing shots that they don't get.  Chimping has it's place, but everything in moderation.


- Jake

Excellent tips and impessive photos, thank you !

what is the make/model of the ground level camera support shown with #30? I have aa specialized need for photographing auto shows and that unit looks like it would fulfill or be adaptable to my needs. Really enjoy the suggestions- am forwarding to friends! Thanks!

Hey George,

It's called a Platypod Pro Max and I'm always finding new ways to use mine.

And I'm pleased to hear you enjoyed my list of suggestions and you're passing them along.

Many thanks!


It's a good idea for a photograph to have a 'hero'.

The white balance is what I say it is.

White balance and a calibrated monitor! (That's another tip!)


21. Adjust your diopter. Even if you rely on autofocus, make sure your diopter is properly adjusted for your eye.

Or make sure that your vision corrective prescription is up to date. I have CSS: "Can't See Stuff" without glasses. I am nearshighted; without glasses, I can recognize familiar people by their facial blob; for reading, I take my glasses off. With three SLR cameras, two are non autofocusing Canon SLRs (A-1 and New F-1) that I don't have diopters for; changing the 5D to adjust for me, may make it unusable if I need to have another take a photo (I'm not part of the selfie culture, but I have handed my cameras off to strangers for photographs of me).

It would be time consuming to take off my glasses before taking a photo, plus I may miss something happening from my left eye peripheral view.

If you dont have #2 you'll struggle to achieve good results. Great list!


Ain't that the truth... many thanks!


Just wanted clarification on tip 14. Lowering the K to warm the photo. I usually raise the K value to "warm" the image and lower it to "cool". For instance to emphasize the contrast between the blues and whites I would typically lower the K value, sometimes below 3000, situation dependant. Am I understanding this correctly? I'm no professional mine you just someone who enjoys photography and learning. Great article by the way. Your tips either reinforced what I was already doing or more importantly helped solve some of the problems I was having. Thanks.

Hey Max,

I understand your confusion but I stand with my wording. The way the Kelvin system works is the lower the number, the warmer the color temperature. That said, to warm up daylight (approx 5600-degrees) or overcast/cloudy skies (approx 6000-degrees) you have to lower the color temperature towards 3400-3200-degrees, which is comparable to a tungsten lamp. 

And I'm happy to hear my tips resonated with you.

- AW

A Higher K leads to a warmer Image. I'm not sure what you are saying is correct at all, If i were to lower my color temperature on camera or in post to 3200 with a cloudy scene my photos would turn completely blue. I'd really consider rewording your artitcle and reconsidering your thoughts on the kelvin system. Higher Kelvin Setting equals warmer photos.

Dyslexia alert! 

Christ you're right!

My wiring crossed me up on this one!

Good catch!



Max - See below.

Dyslexia struck... you're correct and I'm mistaken!


Great tips. One thing that I've done is turned off image review for my Canon 5D III. Also, I set the White Balance to Daylight when I'm shooting outdoors; I often forget to change it when I'm in different lighting conditions, such as indoors.

Here's tip #51 for Ralph - Always check the WB setting before setting out.



Here's #52 for me: Check the exposure compensation on the 5D III; I often change it to -2/3 for sunrises and sunsets and also forget to change it back..
With my A-1 and F-1, it's a piece of cake to look at the top of the camera to see what I have it set to. But on the 5D, I have to hit the Quick Settings button

Allan Weitz wrote:

Here's tip #51 for Ralph - Always check the WB setting before setting out.


I'd expand #17: Recharge your batteries as soon as you return from a photo shoot and reset all the adjustments on your devices to a known default state to prevent unpleasant surprises on your next outing.


Every image tells a story. Having said that, understand two things:

1) Before you make an image you need to understand the story you're trying to tell. If you don't understand what you're trying to say, how can you explain it to anyone else?

2) No one else will see Your story. They will see their story. You can (in various ways) emphasize the story you're seeking to tell, but you must accept that there is no one answer. Perspective IS Everything.


Points taken Mike. And if you've ever overheard people's comments and/or interpretations about artwork hanging in a museum or gallery you already know no two sets of eyes see the same thing.

Thanks for piping in!

- AW

Great sugestions! I would add one more which I have recently learned, being new to DSLRs .... If thinking of buying a camera with a smaller ("C") sensor, remember the old standards for wide, standard and telephoto lenses (such as 28mm, 50mm and 135mm respectively) must be adjusted by the correction factor. On the one hand, an extraordinary (and relatively costly) lens like the AF Nikkor 20-35/2.8 on such a camera becomes a rather mediocre 30-50/2.8! (wide angles are "reduced" for lack of a better word, by smaller sensors, but similarly telephotos are "maximized" by them) while an inexpensive 70-300/3.5-5.6 (nowdays about $200) becomes an exceptional comparable 100mm to 450mm giant capable of fine portraits and extreme tele-shots.

Bottom line - If you prefer telephotos APS-C is your friend.

If you prefer wide-angle lenses keep hoping there's always room to step back a few feet to get the shot.


Hey Allan- hope you're well. I'm actually looking to downsize from full frame SLR to the.  C Sensor  mirror less. Either Sony or Fuji. Visited the store but need more visits to be sure. Take care 

Lemme know when you're in the area next time... 


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