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Take great photos

One of the biggest challenges when shooting photos is getting to the heart of the story without have the benefit of explanation or embellishment. These basic photography tips will start you on your way to capturing amazing photos. Check out the links below for example photos and more advanced techniques.

Get a variety of shots -- and a lot of them
Resist the temptation to shoot only a few images of a scene. It's always better to have more material than you think you need. Shoot wide, medium and tight shots, because a series of images with different points of view will help portray emotion and show the scope of the scene. The best shots are often the most simple, so don’t forget to get in close to your subject to capture emotion and intimacy.

Use the rule of thirds
When taking a picture, it's not surprising that your first instinct may be to place the subject smack dab in the center of the frame. But for a more compelling composition, imagine the scene that you're going to photograph with imaginary lines dissecting the frame into three sections, horizontally and vertically. Rather than always placing the subject in the center of the frame, put it in one third of the frame -- just a bit off-center. This placement gives the subject room to "move" in or out of the frame; it also adds pizzazz to the overall photograph, showing the viewer the environment the subject is in.

Know how to use your flash
In low-light situations, use a tripod and a flash that is balanced with the available light. You can also try using your flash with a slower shutter speed. If you can, take the flash off your camera and avoid pointing it directly at the subject. You can bounce the flash off the ceiling or wall if your camera has the ability. And keep this in mind: The best flash photos are those in which you can't tell the photographer used a flash.

Check the background
Try to avoid distracting backgrounds. Plain backgrounds often work best. And don't forget to make sure your subject doesn't have anything sticking out of his or her head, like a tree or a utility pole. (It happens more than you think.)

Keep it steady
You must hold your camera steady to get a quality shot. A tripod comes in handy, but you can also try to use something (like a railing or table) to prop your elbows on to help steady the camera.

Frame your elements
Try using elements from the foreground of a scene, like tree branches, to create a frame within the edges of your photograph. The use of framing draws the viewer to the main subject and helps to add depth and interest.

Light it up
Be sure to consider the quality of the natural light around you when you're taking your pictures. The great, golden light available in the afternoons and early evenings is much more illuminating and flattering than the harsh daylight in the middle of the day. Always remember to keep the sun at your back.

Map out the story
Think ahead about what shots you'll need. You can even sketch out a storyboard if you are shooting a narrative. And remember to vary your shots. It takes different angles to tell a complete story.

Learn more
Photography 101
CNN photojournalists illustrate the above tips and more in this photo essay of strong iReport and CNN images.

Visual storytelling
More beautifully illustrated photography secrets from CNN photojournalists.

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Travel photography
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