by Nick Kelsh

posted Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 9:19 AM EDT

If I had but one piece of advice for amateurs it would be SHOOT CLOSE UPS. But the ability to combine close ups AND overall shots will take you to the next level.

Knowing when to back up and see the big picture requires a special set of skills — emotionally and visually.

Overall shots are usually about place. You should always be asking yourself what showing the location will contribute to the viewers response.

Sometimes a picture of a person isn’t really a picture of a person; it’s a picture of a person in a place and their relationship to it and the person doesn’t need to visually dominate the picture to make that work.

And sometimes putting space around a subject simple creates a mood. Lots of emptiness enhances a feeling of loneliness, for example.

If you’re creating a set of photographs it’s almost mandatory that you mix it up with close ups and overalls. Visual variety is the spice of photographic thinking. An extreme close-up of a bright red maple leaf is always going to look good next to an overall shot of the forest.

The tree and the hills are just as important as the baby. This picture is all about WHERE THE BABY IS. And the farm buildings and the toy tractor tie it all together and tell a little story.

If I had to give most amateurs one photo tip it would be get closer to your subjects. It’s the biggest mistake they make—they just don’t fill the frame with their subjects.

But it’s a related skill to keep your eyes open for overall shots. It’s a wise photographer that can do both in the same situation.

(An exceptional educator and a world-class photographer, Nick Kelsh is the founder of How To Photograph Your Life, an excellent source of affordable photography training and tips. Nick’s courses can be conducted by yourself in your own time, or with feedback from Nick and your fellow students. If you appreciated this article and want to improve your photography, visit How to Photograph your Life and sign up for a course today!)