One simple thing you can do that will make a big difference is to learn to get closer to your subject. Whether you use a zoom or you actually move your physical body closer to your subject, the benefit is the same. You should fill your frame with your subject. Not only does it make the subject more obviously the subject, it can eliminate distractions from your background. It sounds simple, but I promise it you will love the results!
Let’s look at some at examples.
Example 1. I suppose you could argue that this picture is an environmental portrait, so it’s good to be zoomed out. But honestly, I prefer to see faces more clearly. And who really wants to see those white legs of mine anyway?
Much better. And it still looks plenty “outdoorsy.”
Example 2. I don’t care for the electrical box & the poles in the background, and the luggage in the foreground.
Quick crop. Much better.
Which brings me to a point I’d like to make. In these images, they are obviously the same photos, only cropped in closer. I did this for one, to show you the difference in the two images. You may wonder, why not just do this — crop after the fact in a photo editing program and not worry about getting closer while you’re shooting. Two reasons.
First, never use an editing program to “fix” things you could have corrected in camera in the first place. This is a pet peeve of mine. Why not take the time to take a good image in the first place? You need to get rid of the mentality that you can “fix” in Photoshop. Yes, Photoshop is an awesome tool, and used correctly can make great enhancements to photographs, but don’t allow it to become your crutch. Be a photographer, not an editor.
Secondly, the more you crop a photo, the lower quality your image will be, because you have reduced the number of pixels. It may not make much of a difference if all you are using the images for are to post online, or even to make a 4×6 print. But if you start making larger prints, you will be able to tell a difference.
Example 3: You don’t like your child’s “creative pose.” My youngest thought it was a great idea to lay across the pumpkins like this, but I didn’t like the pose quite as much. My answer? Take one for her, and then zoom in and do a closer crop for the other pictures. I actually think the zoomed in version is pretty cute.
So, make an effort to get closer to your subject and see what you think. I’m sure you’ll like the results!