A few days ago my parents received a photo atlas of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in southern Colorado, authored and illustrated by a family friend. He runs a small photography business from his website, and has gained prestige in the field of digital photography over the years. Last year I interviewed him about his photography, and he offered the following advice to newbies: “Now there are so many possibilities of taking good technical pictures that lots of people can jump into it. A distinguished photo is good or bad based on its composition.”

I’m amazed at how many students that go abroad transform into prolific photographers.  With so many photo ops abroad, it’s worth taking a few minutes to learn some tips on taking good pictures. Here are a few very basic photographic rules from my parent’s friend that are guaranteed to make your pictures better.

1. Divide your picture screen into three equal parts. Try to have the object of a photo in just one of them. This is called the Rule of Thirds.

2. For portraits, make sure there aren’t any background objects that stick out of your subject’s head.  Even shadows can make a person’s head look a little lopsided or goofy.

3. Also for portraits, make sure you don’t cut out any body part at the limbs.  People tend to look disfigured in pictures when this happens.