Photography Tips

Hello there friends!

You may remember way back in October, that Lee left for a couple of weeks in Kenya. I sent him along with a camera, and he came back with some very fun pics. Before he left, I was throwing every possibly photography tip I could think of in his direction, because I really wanted him to be happy with the images he captured in Africa.

I thought I should write a few of these tips down, and share them for my blog readers out there who enjoy using their camera (whether it be iPhone or a point and shoot) to make pretty pictures. All of us begin somewhere in photography– for me it was with a hot orange Vivitar camera in kindergarten-(which I just googled, and alas, could not find a photo of). And, hopefully one or more of these items will help you on your photographic journey!

1. Look for pretty light.

Photography is a documentation of light. It is about how the light highlights shapes, reflects colors, and adds depth. And yet, oftentimes people want to look for pretty scenery before they consider the light. Here are a few tips:

  • The higher the sun is in the sky (noon being the highest), the harsher (and less flattering) the light will be. If you think about it, if the sun is shining straight down on the top of your head, you are going to have shadows under your nose, chin, lips and eyes. The closer you can take shots to dawn or to sunset, the more gorgeous the light will be.

Sometimes we HAVE to take pictures in the middle of the day, however. There are a few solutions here.

  • One- wait for the sun to go behind the clouds. The cloud acts as a diffuser, spreading the light out (and hence not straight down on your head).
  • Two- Utilize open shade. Have your subject stand in the shadow of a large building, under a tree, or another structure, like a pavilion to take the shot. This seems counterintuitive to most people– usually people think they need to bring their subject into the brightest light they can find. Put them in the open shade and you’ll be much happier with the results. (One warning though: if you are using a tree as your shade, make sure that you don’t have dappled light all over them from light falling through the leaves.)

2. Look for an interesting angle.

By this I do NOT mean tip your camera cock-eyed to make the portrait set at an angle. This was all the rage a few years ago. You can shoot one shot out of oh, let’s say, every 3,000 like this. No more. Promise?

By “look for an interesting angle” I actually mean this– try getting down low, up high or shooting from a different vantage point. Most people shoot just standing up straight, but have you ever tried shooting the same subject from a squat? How about shooting up at the underside of a flower rather than straight down from the top?

Another tip that almost merits its own point, but fits here: shoot children at their eye level. Squat down to their level and shoot from there. Get down where you can look straight in their eyes, and it will be a much better image than always with their heads cocked up to look in the camera.

3. Compose your shots with a foreground, middle, and background.

Usually people think only of their subject, which they want to be right in the middle of the shot. Often we think also of the background. But, to create a more visually interesting image, include something in the foreground as well.  If you are on a beach, try including some driftwood in the side of the frame as you focus on the sunset going down over the water. Or at a birthday party, include part of the back of the child’s head looking down at the birthday cake. These are just ideas– but the next time you look through your viewfinder– see if you can include something that you might have otherwise left out, to give your photo three parts, and hence increased depth and interest.

4. Practice the rule of thirds.

This rule was explained way back a year ago, but as a little refresher– think of the rectangle of your photo as divided into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. Try to put the subject of your image (like one of the eyes of the person you’re shooting) at one of those places where the third lines come together. Having your subject slightly offset makes for a much more compelling image than just setting the person in the dead middle.

5. Try not to shoot only “posed and smiley.”

Some children, especially, tend to go through a phase where every time the camera is out, they plaster on the hugest, cheesiest, fakest smile ever. Is this really what you want every one of your photos to look like? Try stepping back and taking pictures as though you are a journalist, sent to cover the assignment. Don’t tell everyone to look at you, but take some time to capture candids. Keep your camera to your eye, and wait for people to exhibit different emotions, which you can then quickly capture. It is so valuable to have photos that document the way our every day lives are lived.

6. Shoot, shoot, shoot!

The more you shoot, the more likely it is that you will take more visually arresting images. What I don’t mean is that you need to shoot the exact same pose 40 times in a row, but do keep shooting. Try different angles and compositions, and take way more than you’ll ever need or want– this is the beauty of digital– you can delete all but the best later from your computer if need be.

7. Shoot “tack-sharp.”

I would venture to say that the single most important rule that will make or break a photo is whether or not the image is sharp— crisp, clean, and with the right thing in focus. If you are shooting in full automatic, with a point and shoot camera, there is not too much you can do to affect how sharp your photos are, other than being sure that you are very still when shooting, or placing your camera on a stationary object before pressing the button. However, if you are shooting in manual, and are able to change your focal point, lock in on the subject’s eyes, and then just practice practice practice getting consistently sharp images.

And to end, some randomly stumbled upon photos from April 2009. Yay for spring green returning to our lives!

Want your own beautiful photos? I love Contact Jessica!


Mom I’ll try to remember some of this as I journal our trip to Italy!

Jessica H. Jessica,

This couldn’t have come at a better time! I just got a new camera and was hoping to find some great tips. This is perfect! Thank you.


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