4 Tips For Taking Better Photos

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Happy Wednesday – I hope everyone is having a great week!  Recently I’ve been getting a bunch of questions about who takes my photos for me – and I think everyone is always so shocked when I tell them that my boyfriend & mom take 100% of my photos!  The fact that people think our photos look professional is such a huge compliment because to be honest, most of the time we are just kind of learning as we go.  I took a photography class in college, so I was able to learn the basics of how to use a DSLR camera which is what we use to take all of the photos you see here on the blog (my Instagram is a mix of DSLR photos & iPhone photos!).  Trust me – it took us a while to learn when to shoot, where to shoot, what settings to use, and just how exactly to get a good photo!  The great thing about digital photography is that you can try so many different things until you figure out just what works best to get the shot you are looking for.  Today I thought it would be fun to share 4 of the biggest things that we’ve learned over that can help you to take a better photo – whether it be for your blog, for Instagram, or just for fun!   (Warning: this post is long! 🙂 )

  1.  Lighting is Everything – This is the #1 rule of photography – the word photography literally means “drawing with light”!  Here are my biggest tips for how to use light to your advantage when taking photos:
    • Outdoor, natural light is always best!  Always.  Also avoid shooting too early or too late in the day, because if it is too dark outside you won’t be able to achieve the bright, crisp image you’re looking for.
    • We always try to shoot in the shade whenever possible.  If you’re standing under a tree (like I am in today’s photos), be aware of the little spots of sun that creep through to make sure that they aren’t on your face or anything like that.  If you look in the photos above, I found the one little patch of pure shade, and that’s where I am standing.
    • When you are shooting in the shade, try to make sure the background behind your subject is also in the shade.  If you don’t (ie: you’re in the shade, but the sun is shining brightly behind you) then you will end up super dark because the sensor in your camera is having to try to adjust and compensate for the bright background behind you.
    • Sometimes you can’t find shade, or it just doesn’t work for what you’re trying to do.  Be aware that if your subject is standing directly in the sun, they will have shadows on their face from the sunlight.  The trick to getting around this is to make sure the sun is behind your subject to achieve the fewest amount of shadows possible!
  2. Be Aware of Your Composition – This is where the “art” of photography comes into play!  Here are a few of my biggest tips for creating a compelling, beautiful composition:
    • The Rule of Thirds – This is the easiest trick in the book for creating an interesting photo – simply position your subject 1/3 of the way into the frame, either from the right or the left.  It has to do with the way our eyes view and process a photo – having things slightly off center makes them more visually appealing.  You can see the first 5 photos from today’s post were taken that way!  If you are taking photos on your iPhone, there’s already a 3×3 grid that comes up on the screen when you open the camera that makes this super easy to do.  However, don’t feel like you always have to use the rule of thirds when taking a photo.  Sometimes having your subject right in the middle of the frame can create a compelling photo as well (like in the last 2 photos from today’s post).
    • Be Aware of your Background – This means look out for trashcans, cars, signs, etc.  For example in the photos above, the ground to the left of the path I was on was all dirt and was not cute, so we made sure to angle our photos more to the right to capture the lampposts, benches, and green foliage.  (PS – can anyone recognize where these photos were taken?! 🙂 )
    • Try Framing Your Photos in New, Different Ways – This has been kind of a fun experiment that we have recently been trying out, but I think it has made so many of our pictures look much more interesting and compelling!  What I mean by “frame your photos” is to think about the space around your subject.  Lately I have been telling Drew & my Mom “can you get more space above my head?”, which adds more visual interest to the photo and really makes the background more of a key component of the photo (see the bottom photo in today’s post).  You can also try it the other way, and shoot closer in detail shots from different angles to mix things up (ie: my accessories being shot from a higher angle rather than straight on).
  3. Equipment Isn’t Everything, But It Does Help – You don’t need a $10,000 camera to take a good photo – you can take amazing photos on your iPhone.  I will say, though, having a camera that gives you more options when you are taking photos (ie: being able to adjust the aperture, etc.) can give you a better quality photo and help you to achieve the type of photo you want.  BUT… a camera is only as good as its operator.  If you are thinking of investing in a DSLR, you have to take the time to learn and understand how to use it before it’ll be any good to you.  Keep in mind I am still a photography newbie, but this is what we use:
    •  Camera Body: Canon Rebel – This was the camera that my parents got for me when I was in college and took that photography class, and 6 years later it is still amazing!  This is a great camera for beginners because this kit comes with a lens so you can learn all about how to use it & what your needs are, then upgrade to a different lens once you’re ready.  There’s also a lot of debate between Canon vs. Nikon, but I’ve only ever used Canon so I can’t really weigh in much there.  I think there are pros and cons to each, which you can read more in articles like this one.
    •  Lens: Canon 50 mm F/1.4 Fixed Lens – I upgraded to this lens about a year and a half ago, and it has made all of the difference!  I really wanted to be able to take photos with more of a bokeh effect (when the subject is in focus & the background is blurry), so I looked for a lens that had the ability to take the aperature to a super low F-stop so that we could achieve this.  I think the 50 mm is perfect for taking blog photos (since we are always outside/I am never too close to the camera), but it is too “zoomed in” if you are trying to take a photo of something where your subject is very close to you (ie: a flat lay, or if you’re inside someone’s house for a family gathering or something).
  4. Learn Basic Photo Editing – Again, this is not something that you need to spend a lot of money on!  But editing your photos does make all of the difference.  I edit every single one of my photos – for the blog photos (ie: the photos taken with my DSLR), I use the basic Microsoft photo editing software that came on my Sony laptop (I think it’s called Photo Gallery), and on my phone I just use the Instagram editing features (not the preset filters, though!).  You could of course teach yourself Photoshop or Lightroom like the professionals use, but that is not necessary in my opinion.  Editing is not hard – it just takes a little practice to get used to.  I edit all of my photos almost the exact same way every time:
    • Brightness – I always start out by increasing the brightness, then increasing the shadows.  I love increasing the shadows – it really makes the photo pop!  Sometimes I’ll also increase the highlights, just depends on the photo.  Next I’ll adjust the Contrast as well.
    • Coloring – Because we always shoot in the shade, the photos can come out with a blue tint sometimes.  To counteract this, I’ll adjust the Temperature of the photo to make it more warm.  Next I’ll increase the Saturation just slightly – be careful with this one or you can end up making yourself look orange!
    • Sharpness – Last but not least, I’ll increase the sharpness to make everything nice and crisp.
    • I know editing photos can seem like a pain, but once you get the hang of it it will take you less than 1 minute per photo!  And you can see below what a difference it makes:

PHEW!  Okay that is all I have for now – although I am learning more each and every day and to be honest this just kind of scratches the surface!  I hope this was helpful – let me know if you have any questions at all, or if you have additional tips in the comments below!

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