Six Basic Photography Tips for India

India has to be one of the best countries on earth for photography. With its dramatic scenes and vibrant colors, even mediocre photographers like me can leave India with hundreds of great-looking photos on their memory cards and hard drives. In a country where even bad photos often end up looking pretty good, a few simple tips can result in some pretty incredible shots.

1. Don’t Just Center Your Subject

The “Rule of Thirds” is probably the most basic and well-known composition rule—basically, it says to divide your photo into thirds, creating nine rectangles, and to place your main subject on one of the points where the lines intersect. Obviously, your photo will sometimes look better with the subject placed elsewhere, in which case you should feel free to break this rule, but generally, you want to avoid putting your subject in the center. It is almost always more eye-catching when placed off-center.

The camel and rider are centered in this photo
The camel and rider are centered in this photo
See how much better the photo is when you move the subject off-center
See how much better the photo is when you move the subject off-center

2. Pay Attention to the Foreground or Background

Many amateur photographers, myself included, can become so focused on the main subject, that we completely forget to pay attention to the background behind the subject (or the foreground in front, if the subject is located in the distance). When setting up your shot, scan the whole area of the photograph to make sure there is nothing to distract from your main subject. You want the background (or foreground) to add to the story you are trying to tell with your image, not distract the eye from it.

3. Fill the Frame with the Subject

As a general rule, the closer, the better. This point continues the one above, in that the best way to avoid a distracting background is to minimize the background altogether. So try filling the whole frame with your main subject and see what happens. More often than not, you will end up with a stronger photo.

Filling the frame with the girls makes this a stronger image
Filling the frame with the girls makes this a stronger image

4. Use a Fast Shutter Speed to Freeze Motion

If there’s one word to describe India—in the large cities, anyway—it’s chaotic. People, animals, cars, motorbikes, the whole country seems to be in constant motion, which can lead to a lot of blurry photos. In order to avoid this, you need to use a fast shutter speed. I would say, try to get at least 1/500th of a second. On cameras that let you control these settings, your best bet is to use the “shutter priority” setting (labeled Tv on the camera). This setting will let you choose the shutter speed and will then automatically adjust the other settings for you. Many point and shoot cameras do not have manual settings, so you’ll have to check your manual to see which automatic settings use faster shutter speeds. Generally, you’ll want to avoid the landscape setting, as it sacrifices shutter speed for a higher aperture.

Of course, sometimes you’ll want to blur the motion to make your images more dynamic, in which case you should choose a slower shutter speed. In this case, you’ll also need a tripod or some other method to keep your camera steady.

5. Don’t Use a Flash

Of course there are times when using a flash makes sense: if you’re taking pictures of people or an object directly in front of you, for example. But most of the time, you should avoid using a flash. This is especially true for landscape shots, as most flashes have a range of less than five meters and will thus have no effect on lighting the scene. In fact, they will often lighten an object in the foreground–or even dust particles in the air—while making the distant landscape you were trying to capture much too dark. To capture good landscape shots in low light, you’ll have to use a tripod or some other method of holding the camera steady.

Jaisalmer Sunset
Using a flash would have illuminated dust in the air and made the sunset too dark

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Use a Flash on Sunny Days

I know I’m contradicting my previous point, but in certain cases, using a flash on bright, sunny days can greatly improve your images. Basically, when you have a darker subject in the foreground (like a person’s face) and a very bright background (like a bright, sunny sky), you will end up with an image where the foreground is much too dark or the background is much too bright. If you use a flash, you can illuminate the subject in the foreground, while keeping the background properly exposed. I brought this point up, because it is a fairly common situation in India, where you get a lot of bright days.

If you are currently traveling in India or are planning a trip there in the near future, try some of these tips and see if they help. Then try the exact opposite, because the great thing about the digital photography age is that it costs nothing to experiment. And that leads to probably the best tip of all: take as many photos as you need and try every technique you can think of until you get the image you want. Good luck and happy shooting!

Don't go to India without a camera

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Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any additional tips for beginning photographers? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

About the author:

Daniel Mcbane
Daniel Mcbane

Daniel McBane has been traveling and working overseas for the past ten years. During that time, he has visited numerous countries and experienced countless crazy, hilarious or just plain weird adventures. You can check out his funny stories on his blog DanielMcBane.com. Occasionally, Daniel will even make his way onto Twitter as @DanielMcBane.

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Amazing Facts About India
India For Kids: Amazing Facts About India

What to learn about India? What to teach your children about India? Are you travelling to India? Here is a simple book that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about this amazing country. My book, India For Kids is designed especially for children but travellers going to India can also take advantage of this simple book. You can find out more about the book here India For Kids: Amazing Facts About India which is available on all Amazon stores.

Shalu Sharma

Shalu Sharma is a blogger and a writer from Bihar, India. She is the founder of YouBihar, the Bihar social networking site and writer on tourism in India. Apart from blogging, she is also a mother who does cooking and washing. She also watches movies and read other blogs. You can follow her on .

45 thoughts on “Six Basic Photography Tips for India

  • March 14, 2013 at 9:23 am
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    I take photos as a hobby and nobody has taught me anything. I just make focus on Subject to catch beautiful picture.

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  • March 14, 2013 at 9:34 am
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    Welcome Daniel to Shalu’s blog :)

    Lovely tips on photography! It reminded of the time when I was in college and had a camera all to my self. I just used to click anything and everything – that crazy phase it was – but I loved it. But with time, it’s become the past now, though it’s one of my all time favorite hobby alright.

    I like the point about using and not using the flash, something that depends even on the camera we are using at times. I guess a lot depends on the type of camera we have and the light when we use the flash.

    Thanks for sharing. :)
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    • March 14, 2013 at 11:07 am
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      I do that a lot too–just snap photos of everything around me without thinking. I always have to remind myself to slow down and think about the image before pressing the shutter button.
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  • March 14, 2013 at 10:56 am
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    One should really be careful while taking photographs. Useful tips. Thanks for sharing with us.

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    • March 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm
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      One of the fun things about taking photos is that you can pretty much do anything you want. But yes, to get better photos, it helps to take a minute to think about each picture before snapping.
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  • March 14, 2013 at 11:32 am
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    “Don’t Be Afraid to Use a Flash on Sunny Days” I understand it’s really best idea to take a god photo, Thanks for nice advice.
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    • March 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm
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      Yes, it seems counter-intuitive, but a flash on sunny days can be very useful, especially when shooting portraits.
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  • March 15, 2013 at 12:27 am
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    Great pictures, India is an excellent area to take good pictures.

    You shared some great locations for picture taking. I appreciate the scenery and the snap shot advice.

    Thanks

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    • March 15, 2013 at 10:53 am
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      Thank you. Finding great locations to take photos in India was easy, so I can’t really take any credit for that…
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  • March 15, 2013 at 4:06 am
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    Good ideas and great shots. Flash on sunny days is an interesting thought.

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    • March 15, 2013 at 10:54 am
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      Thank you. Yes, the flash can help a lot. I’ve seen so many portraits with dark faces that could have been improved simply by using a flash.
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  • March 15, 2013 at 5:00 am
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    Flash are both a blessing and a curse. They can either make or break our photos. Learning to use flash and the right time and at the right distance is very crucial.

    Thanks for the awesome tips Daniel; especially the ones about using flash!
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  • March 15, 2013 at 7:13 am
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    great tips for Photography these are very helpful tips for Photography .and i agree with India is best country for photography ,,every thing you get in India whatever you want for Photography beautiful natural views to historical monuments and so many things

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    • March 15, 2013 at 10:51 am
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      You’re right, it’s the large variety of subjects that makes India a good place for photography.
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  • March 15, 2013 at 7:49 am
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    One of the fun things about taking photos is that you can pretty much do anything you want. But yes, to get better photos, it helps to take a minute to think about each picture before snapping.

    Reply
  • March 15, 2013 at 10:50 am
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    Great comment, although I liked it better when I wrote it. I don’t really understand why you felt the need to copy and paste it…
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  • March 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm
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    Great tips! Took me a long time to learn all of these, wish I had read this instead!
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    • March 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm
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      I know what you mean–it took me a long time, too and many bad photos…
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  • March 16, 2013 at 6:08 am
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    Thank you. Yes, the flash can help a lot. I’ve seen so many portraits with dark faces that could have been improved simply by using a flash.

    Flash on sunny days is an interesting thought.

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    • March 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm
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      I know, it’s a very common problem in travel photography, especially in sunny areas, like most tourist destinations in India.
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  • March 16, 2013 at 5:49 pm
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    Great tips thanks I definitely will try these out, especially your first tip. I always try to center my subjects but you are right the second photo looks so much better.
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    • March 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm
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      Yes, this is very common. When I first started taking pictures, I used to always center everything, too.
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  • March 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm
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    Hi Daniel,

    You are welcome on Shalu jee’s blog.
    The first tip is the coolest one, I’ve never given a thought to it or should I say never tried this one.Off-center photo is appealing.

    Thanks for this share.

    Sapna

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    • March 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm
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      Yes, it’s a simple thing to do but it can end up improving a lot of photos. I’m glad you found my post useful.
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  • March 19, 2013 at 9:56 am
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    Great tips! These information is very much helpful to me because I’m definitely into photography. And I love to learn more about photography techniques. I’m pretty sure many people will benefit from this post. Thank you for this great information. I’m looking forward for more great updates from you.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm
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    These are good tips regarding photography. Also, the tips are also available for a lot of settings, not just India. However, the info is well structured and I enjoyed reading it.

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  • March 27, 2013 at 3:13 pm
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    Thank you so much for posting this article! All the most helpful tips and tricks for photography I could possibly need – now just need to apply them myself!

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  • March 28, 2013 at 4:44 am
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    I’ve been to India once and really enjoyed it – lots of things to photograph there which means your index finger gets tired of pressing the shutter!
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  • March 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm
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    Thanks for sharing nice information, it really helpful to everyone. It is necessary to understand the logic and go right direction….

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  • April 4, 2013 at 11:57 am
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    Thanks for Sharing valuable tips Dan!!

    Really great to share some tips of whatever stuffs they know!!

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  • October 16, 2013 at 9:23 am
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    Very nice. But I think most of these don’t have to only apply when you’re in India. These are good to remember anywhere you are in the world.

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  • October 10, 2015 at 1:19 pm
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    Well, Photography was my passion in my school days, but was not able to do it, due to some personal problems, but now, I am back learning new stuff about my favorite career option, which is photography. BTW, a nicely crafted post.

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  • November 17, 2015 at 8:12 pm
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    Since then i have never risked myself on using flash during sunny days since i think it will mess up my portrait idea. Now, if i will have the chance, i will risk it since this blog tells me to do so. If i get good shots, I will definitely let you know!

    Reply

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