How to take the perfect photo according to the experts

Professional photographer Nick Rains has a simple message for anyone wanting to lift their photography game: stop relying on your smartphone for Kodak moments and buy a decent camera.

"All cameras are compromise, especially when it comes to size," Rains explains.

He points to his smartphone, sitting on the table in front of us, in Leica's flagship Australian store in Sydney where he is helping launch the new Leica CL – a mirrorless APS-C camera that you could slip out at the dinner table without anyone blinking an eye.

"If you're going small, you have to pay a price somewhere –?there are all sorts of ways that compromise can be made."

"When you want to go passed a snapshot to something that will mean something to somebody who doesn't know the backstory, that's when you need to take control and use the camera as a tool to achieve a particular end - that's when a smartphone will reach its limits."

Lift your wallet, then your game

His answer to the limitations of smartphone photography, like the tiny camera sensor and lens or poor low-light handling, is obvious: go for sophistication over buttons to avoid the pitfalls of persuasive PR.

"From a marketing point of view, lots of buttons or megapixels is a good thing, but when you go further than that, you get a camera that is actually simple," says Rains. "The more sophisticated the camera, generally, the simpler.

"People think, 'I need a DSLR, because they're better'," he explains. "But they soon realise they're a lot harder to use and they're inconvenient. If they only spent a little bit of money on it, they'll find the lenses aren't that sharp or the autofocus is a bit dodgy."

If you're nodding in comprehension it's likely because at some point you bought a DSLR camera, only to get less-than-average results. You're not alone. But, there is hope.


Keep it in focus

Once you've dropped some coin on a new camera, the next steps to taking better photos are to think like a camera.

"Be clear with what you're saying," advises Rains. "Filling the frame, being bold with the composition, is one of the easiest things to influence and immediately has results.

"The camera takes things literally, so the common mistake is not filling the frame with the subject, so you're not clearly saying what you're drawing the viewer's attention to. That's what photography is: communication."

Take it to the streets

If practice makes perfect, most of us are in a position to practice photography every day: on the way to work, on trains, over lunch, in the park, in a bar or café.

"Street photography is quite a random process," Rains admits. "It's often considered to be that instant reaction to something, but that's not quite the case. [It] usually involves constructing a picture and looking for a place where it works, and hoping that the convergence of shape or person or event works.

"Maybe you've found something interesting, like a beam or light or a shape, or a sign that says something amusing, then you wait for your moment to arrive - it may not - then it becomes a timing thing."

Quit making mistakes

Finally, now that you're starting to think like a photographer, you may start realising how much you don't know what you don't know about taking photos.

"If it's not obvious what the interesting thing is, if you need to explain, you've failed," says Rains. "Ask yourself, 'why am I taking this picture? What's important? What is it about what I see, that inspires me to get my camera out of my backpack?'"

Every day, in literally billions of ways, people across the planet share their view of the world on social media. But how many of those photos do you actually pay attention to?

Unlike your phone, a more advanced camera can take care of elements of operation that distract you from the decisive moment, like autofocus or light metering, and leave you free to simply take the damn photo.