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.

India for kids

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!

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 Occasionally, Daniel will even make his way onto Twitter as @DanielMcBane.

22 thoughts on “Six Basic Photography Tips for India”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 🙂

    • 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.

  4. Hey, great share…..

    I am planning to visit India next month for a vacation. Thanks for sharing these tips on Photographing Indian places as I am very fond of clicking the serene beauty of different places. Your post is definitely going to make my job easy.
    Thanks for sharing this post. Keep sharing more….

  5. Very detail article , I also used to carry flash gun with me on trips but then i realised its no use when you are wife and baby,
    buy yes if you are traveling for solo paragraphing purpose then i would say its must

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  8. Hi,
    A great guide. I remember my time when I was doing my graduation from Jaipur, I used to take my bus from the bus stand near the Hawa Mahal. It was a tourist spot to click a photograph every time you visit the city.

    Jaipur is a remarkable place to live. It is a small city with genuine people and cultures that have been in existence for decades.

    This post gave me a true reminiscence of my college life. Truly, India has some beautiful spots to create and click stunning photographs.

  9. 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.

  10. i remember when i was very actively doing photography in Delhi I was so amazed that this city has so many place to be photographed. there are n number of opportunity take it city spaces or forts or chandni chock street the list is endless.

  11. The rule of thirds has been such a huge learning point for me! I spent so much time cropping and repositioning pictures which would take away from the clarity and the sharpness of a picture. I’d lose the beauty of the picture in its self! Thank you for sharing these tips, I’ve always wanted to travel to India so I will have to put this on my travel list! Where would you recommend to site see?

  12. Wow, the article is much detailed and informative. Photographs are the soul to flash all our memories back and make them lively. I always try to take pictures but they do not turn satisfactory.
    I always focus on the subject , and I guess that’s where I need to improve now. Hope your article will help me out.

  13. Awesome post, really interesting and informative blog. I appreciate your work. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks for providing this essential guide to obtaining high quality back-links. This will benefit many, including us, so really appreciate your article!


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