How to Take a Winning Photo

Landscape © Paul Mozell
© Paul Mozell

Bob Speare has seen his fair share of photographs. Not only was he one of Mass Audubon’s photography instructors (in addition to being a regional director for our wildlife sanctuaries on South of Boston including the Cape & Islands), but he was also a photo contest judge. When evaluating the contest entries, Speare looked for several qualities.

To help you take a winning photograph, he shares tricks of the trade.

Bob's Tricks of the Trade

Know What Your Camera Can Do

“Before you take a photo, first find out what your camera can do for you,” says Speare.  A few things to keep in mind:

  • Depth of field: The area in front of and behind a focal point that remains in focus. Landscapes require a longer depth of field while wildlife and plants benefit from a shorter one.
  • Sharp focus: All the elements that are meant to be in focus are very crisp, with no hint of blurriness.
  • Balanced colors: Time of day, overhead lighting, and the white balance function on your camera all play into how colors will appear in the finished product.
  • Good exposure: Overexposed images are distracting and underexposed images lose details. Play with the exposure compensation on your camera to fine-tune the contrasts.

Focus on Creative Composition

  • Boundaries: Look carefully around all the boundaries of the frame before you take the photo. What’s in the picture? What’s not? What should be? Vary your positioning and perspective based on the answers to these questions.
  • Leading lines: Identify directional elements that will drive the eye to the depth of the photo. Diagonal lines tend to be more interesting than vertical or horizontal.
  • Framing: Adding a frame helps tell the story by giving it a sense of place or time. It can also help create the perception of greater depth. Just be careful that your frame doesn’t compete for attention.
  • Rule of thirds: To help you determine where the subject should be, divide the viewfinder/screen into a tic-tac-toe board. Items of visual interest should be placed along the vertical or horizontal lines, not in between.

Want to Learn More?

Learn more about how to capture the perfect shot in an upcoming photography class.


Already have a winner?

Enter the photo contest between June 1 and September 30!