Have three copies of every image - one primary and two backups
Backup your images on two different types of media - an external hard drive and a CD, for example
Have one copy of your images online in Dropbox with another online storage provider
Even though photography is a creative exercise, and, ultimately, you should decide what your photographs look like, there are an awful lot of rules that get talked about to improve your photos. The rule of thirds comes to mind, as does the rule of straight horizons. There’s the F/16 rule and the golden ratio, as well as many other tips, tricks, and suggestions that when taken together create a virtual textbook of techniques photographers are supposed to use.
But there are other rules - unspoken ones - that many beginners don’t hear about. We’ve put together a list of the top five of these guidelines, which, like the more formal rules of photography, can get you on the path to taking better photographs.
The 3-2-1 Rule
This rule isn’t about actually taking photos but is instead about what you do with your photos after taking them. When backing up your photos, follow these guidelines:
The Un-Rule of Thirds
When you’re just starting out, the rule of thirds is a great tool to bring better balance to your shots. It also helps you develop your photographer’s eye, looking for ways to compose a scene that is interesting and visually stimulating.
The issue with the rule of thirds is that if you never stray from it, all your compositions will look the same, with a subject slightly to the left or right or center. So, the un-rule of thirds states that once you’ve grown comfortable with composition and framing, get away from placing your subjects to the left or right. Instead, there might be times when the best location for your subject is smack in the middle of the frame, or perhaps even on the very edge of the frame. The point is that the balance that the rule of thirds gives to photos is great, but learning how to vary the balance and visual weight of your images is important as well.
The Default Camera Setting Rule
Constantly having to change your camera settings can be a bit confusing for beginners, and it takes a lot of time - time away from actually taking photos. Something that many beginners are never told is that you should set up a default camera setting that will allow you to turn the camera on, bring it to your eye, and start shooting.
For example, if you typically shoot landscapes, make the default setting aperture priority mode with auto white balance and a small aperture. Doing so will allow you to fine tune the aperture to control depth of field and give you a white balance that will be close enough in most situations, but that will also give you some latitude in post-processing. Creating that kind of a setup will ensure that each time you go out to shoot a landscape, you’ve got the appropriate settings (or close to it) already dialed in. That will save you time and the headache of having to make major changes every time you go out to take photos.
The Legs Before Tripod Rule
Tripods are an essential part of your gear. They provide a stable foundation upon which you can place your camera for clear, sharp images. They are a must-have if you take long exposures, if you shoot with a telephoto lens, and if you are working in the realm of macro.
The problem with tripods is that they tie you down to one place. While you might set yourself up in what you think is the best location to get the shot you want, an even better view might be a few feet away. Before setting up your tripod, try walking around the location and taking a few test shots while handholding your camera. Doing that little bit of research will ensure that when you setup your tripod, you’re in the best possible position.
The Keep the Camera Out Rule
It’s impossible to take photos if you pack up your gear at every chance you get. That’s why many seasoned photographers tell newbies to take their camera wherever they go and to keep it out until the very moment you leave the shoot location. Why do this? It only takes a few seconds for a sunset’s coloring to change, for the expression on a baby’s face to change, or for the wildlife you’ve been waiting for all day to suddenly appear. What if in that moment you’ve just zipped up your camera bag? One of the easiest ways to get better photos is to use the old Boy Scout mantra and “Be Prepared.” Keep that camera out and within reach until there isn’t any light left or your ride is starting to drive away!