Quick Guide: Taking Photos

Taking your own photos—whether to demonstrate concepts in your book, add visuals to break up the text, illustrate the steps in a clinical process, or fill the gaps for tough-to-find figures—can be a great option to meet the needs of your readers.

This guide walks you through the various aspects and considerations of taking your own photos. The information will help you plan ahead to ensure that the photos you take will translate to high-quality and productive visual features that enhance your publishing project.


Type of Camera

The type of camera you use is not as important as the type of images it produces. Nowadays, smartphone cameras are so advanced that they produce high-quality images that are comparable to those taken on professional digital cameras.

Stick to your smartphone camera if you’re not proficient in using a professional digital or other digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera. The default phone settings will be high enough quality for our publishing purposes.

If you prefer to use a DSLR camera, we recommend using the camera’s automatic mode unless you’re well-versed in using its manual settings. The auto mode will automatically adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and focus depending on the available lighting.

Other Equipment and Camera Features

Tripods should be utilized whenever possible because they:

  • Reduce camera movement and improve image quality.
  • Allow for smooth panning in the case of panoramic shots.
  • Allow for angles beyond your own reach while maintaining stability (i.e., below or above eye level).
  • Allow you to more easily focus on elements such as lighting or composition since your hands are free!

Selfie sticks are a good option if you need to take your own headshot as it creates distance between you and the camera, reducing the informal, social media-esque appearance of the photo.

We recommend using flash when taking photos in the dark, at night, indoors, or if there are a lot of shadows in your environment. If shadows are an issue, take the photo with flash opposite any light source within your surroundings. This will help to fill in the lighting gaps.

An optical zoom lens is a true zoom lens, typically an attachment like the kind you see for professional film cameras. Optical zoom lenses allow you to zoom in a manual sense, producing better quality images than a digital zoom feature, which is what most people use on their smartphones. (Digital zoom uses in-camera processing, which enlarges the pixels and ultimately reduces the image quality.) If you do not have an optical zoom lens, it is better to take photos without using digital zoom and crop the images as needed later.