- Natural light is your friend. When you are shooting outside, always make sure the sun is in front of the subject. If sunlight is behind the subject, your photograph will appear dark and the focus will be off because the background will be lighter than the subject. However, sunlight isn’t always the hidden factor to mastering photography. In the heat of a day, sometimes the sun creates dark, ugly shadows that are irreversible no matter how you position your subject. In this case, use the flash on your camera or smartphone to ease the shadowing.
- Natural smiles are the best smiles. When photographing a person, the best way to get a pure reaction is to take candid photos. Candid photos aren’t posed; they are meant to catch a person “in-the-act”. For instance, catching someone’s reaction at their initial entrance to their surprise party is a candid photo. When you are taking a photo of a loved one, don’t ask them to smile. When you ask your subject to smile, you’ll end up with a sheepish grin like it’s 6th grade picture day. Try to make them laugh, or compliment them in a specific way (as in, don’t just tell them they are pretty or handsome. Tell them that you love the way their eyes glisten because it reminds you of a diamond, etc.). This works exceptionally well with people who don’t like their smile. Their reactions will be unfiltered bliss, and they will end up looking passionate and true instead of fake and awkward.
- Have pretty backgrounds. When you are taking a photo, especially in your home, make sure there is nothing gross or embarrassing in the background. This could mean anything from having the television on in the background to accidentally catching two dogs doing the nasty in your backyard. “Photobombers”, accidental and intentional, are super common and completely avoidable if you always double check your surroundings. Watch out for rogue trash cans, strangers, dirty dishes, a pile of laundry, kids doing bunny ears…there are endless possibilities when it comes to photos being ruined.
- If a photo isn’t meant to be loud, don’t make it loud. Obviously I don’t mean volume on this one. Though Instagram makes it so easy for us to share photos, don’t spend an hour in the editing stage of posting your photo. This is the best way to make your photo look unprofessional and obnoxious to look at. Unless you are photographing sprinkles, a rainbow, or a parade, you most likely don’t want to use any filters or frames that will enhance the color palette. Sometimes, a muted or dulled color scheme can make for the prettiest photos. Play around with fading the colors within your photograph before you crank up the colors within your picture.
- Take note of natural lines. If you want a sloppy photo, make sure your horizon isn’t completely flat and your skyscraper is leaning at an angle. In all seriousness, sometimes the key to a great photo is as simple as checking to make sure what you are photographing isn’t crooked. The easiest way to assure this is using the grid on your camera or smartphone while taking the picture. If you happen to miss this while shooting and end up with lopsided structures, this is easily fixable by rotating and cropping the photo in a photo editor.
- Stop using the zoom feature. Especially with smartphones, the zoom feature takes away from the clarity of the photo and offsets the lighting. This is the most evident at concerts or recitals, when what you are taking photos of on your smartphone is lit vibrantly on a stage. 9 times out of 10, the problem you will have with using the zoom is that the more you use it, the less you can actually see your subject. All the photos you will have of your child’s ballet recital will look like a scene from a ghost hunting show: they’ll all be bright white figures instead of cute ballerinas. To avoid all the mishaps that a camera’s zoom feature costs, crop the photo instead once it is taken. From a distance, harsh lights and shadows aren’t as prominent and cropping the photo will give you the same effect of a specific viewpoint on your subject.
- Move yourself to be closer to the subject. If you’ve ever seen silly photos of photographers contorting themselves into strange positions just to take a photo of a flower, they are actually taking a great photo. It’s important that you place yourself up close to what you are trying to photograph, not carelessly snapping a picture from your comfort level and certainly not using the zoom feature. Taking photos of wildlife and close-up portraits are the best example of this. When you want to take a stunning photo of a person, get close to their face and make sure your camera is shooting as clear as it possibly can. This will illuminate the true beauty within their face; their freckles, their retinas, their teeth, will all be shown to their best ability. However, if your subject happened to forget to put on mascara or has a humongous zit pulsating from the bridge of their nose, perhaps this isn’t the best angle for them today.
Taking photos should make you feel good about the art that you created by shooting them, and the subject should appreciate and feel good about what you made as well. These tips provide you with enough help to boost your skill level when it comes to taking photos of what you love, even if they’re only being taken on your smartphone. Remember these tips and put them to use and you will have amazing photos to cherish forever.