• Wagon at Sunrise in Durham. Ron Bowman / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 1/13/2021 9:53:39 AM

Did you know there are nearly 450 million photos being posted to social media daily? With so many people taking and sharing photos, it’s no wonder that many people are searching for tips and ideas on how to take better pictures.

Last month, I explained “focus” and provided tips on how to prevent blurry photos. A good and meaningful photo needs to be in focus, properly exposed, have one main subject or theme, be artistic, unique and have an emotional impact on the viewer.

This month, I’m going to cover “exposure” the second quality of all good photos and “one main subject or theme,” the third element.

Have you ever taken pictures that were too light (overexposed), or too dark (underexposed)? All cameras (digital and those built into phones), have a built-in light meter that is constantly taking a reading of the light in your scene and adjusting the exposure to produce the best picture. If the background is very bright or very dark, the camera will automatically increase or decrease the exposure to provide the best picture. The problem occurs when your main subject (like a person) is framed against a bright, or dark background. In this case, your main subject (person) will often appear too dark or too bright because the camera is reading the background light.

Some of your more advanced camera phones provide adjustments to correct for exposure and all digital cameras provide manual adjustments to increase or decrease the exposure. You also have two other options for correcting the exposure. If you upload your pictures into your computer, you can adjust the lighting and then save a copy of the photo. The other option is to move in closer to your main subject, so that your main subject fills most of the screen. This way the camera isn’t affected as much by the background light.

Now, let’s talk about “one main subject, or theme.” Your goal is to direct the viewer’s attention and focus to one main area of your photograph. If you have multiple points of interest, then the viewer’s attention wanders about and the photo starts to lose impact and meaning.

Before taking your photo, ask yourself, what story or message do you want to convey? Be mindful of background objects that might draw attention away from your main point of focus and move in closer to your main subject, to minimize a cluttered background. If you use Photoshop software, you can remove unwanted objects that draw attention away from your main subject. For those of you who own a digital camera, or a camera phone with zoom capability, you can use your zoom lens to focus in on your main subject. This often causes the background to appear less sharp, which focuses attention on your main subject. The challenge with camera phones in general, is that they tend to take a wide angle view, which may be great for landscapes, but not so great for pictures of people, pets, etc.

Next month, learn about one of my favorite subjects:  the elements of an artistic photo.

Ron Bowman is a New Hampshire photographer, with more than 50 years of experience photographing weddings, real estate, and New England Landscapes. He is a member of the Lakes Region Art Association and can be reached at You can also view his work and read his full profile on his website at

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