by Simon Ellingworth

To take a good photograph you need to know what good looks like. Sounds daft, I know, but training your eye is very important. In this article, I’m going to show you several free sources of amazing photography, one of which even tells you “pro tip” per picture, plus an exercise to train your eyes. This exercise will help you take better pictures on an iPhone or any camera.

simon ellingworthThe first and my all time favorite is the British newspaper, The Guardian: Eyewitness series. Although photo journalism is not my thing, you can’t help but be amazed, intrigued and learn so much from these images. It’s available on the web or where it really shines is on an iPad ( )  if you have one.

The pro tips are on the right hand side online, or behind the info button bottom left hand side on an iPad.

This tells a story with a single powerful image and I feel its simplicity is its strength.

Photo courtesy The Guardian UK.

Photo courtesy The Guardian UK.

When you take a look at each image I want you to start to do the following exercise:

Your mind analyses pictures in a fraction of a second without you consciously understanding the logic or the process. I want you to become very aware of the process, its super quick so pay attention.

Your eye will enter an image at a point it is drawn too, then wanders around gathering information until it can exit and move on to the next task. That’s why some images hold your eye for longer than others.

I often close my eyes load the images and then concentrate on observing my mind and my eyes.

  1. Put your finger on the point your eye is draw towards
    (often the lightest, brightest or most colourful point)
  2. Mentally trace the path your eye takes around the picture.
    (spot any S shapes or reverse S shapes?)
  3. Has the photographer used the rule of thirds?
    (Here’s a link to one of’s 10 easy lessons on composition)
  4. Has the photographer shot from his eye level
    (a lower or higher perspective make a huge difference)
  5. What is the photographer trying to SAY?
    (Strong pictures have a narrative)
  6. How has the photographer used the environment to do this?
  7. How has the photographer used light?
    (i.e: darker edges keep your eye in the picture for longer)
  8. Why does the picture work?
  9. Does it evoke an emotional response?
  10. From the above list, what could you apply to your pictures?

The second source I can recommend is from the news agency Reuters called The Wider Image ( ) and is only available as an iPad app. It has a lead image and then a slideshow per story, but no pro tips I’m afraid.

Screenshot courtesy of Reuters

Screenshot courtesy of Reuters

Give the exercise a try. I want you to become very conscious of good images and why they work. Once you have mastered this, I’ll teach you to apply it to your own images.

If you like the simple way this tip taught you a complex subject, you’ll love my Lightism blog’s 10 free simple lessons to take your photography to the next level or many of the other great blog articles which are updated weekly.


“How to train your eye to take better pictures” originally appeared on and is reposted here with permission.