Daily Archives: 12:27 pm

Photography Tips I Learned the Hard Way

You’re not a photographer.  You don’t even want to be a photographer, but you want good pictures of your kids or your dog or the flowers in your garden.  You don’t have to have a fancy-pants camera or expensive lenses to take good pictures.   Heck, some of my favorite photos are ones I took with my phone.  So how can you – with your point-and-shoot or camera phone – get the pictures you want?

Here are some tips that I learned the hard way.  Now these aren’t hard and fast rules.  They’re just a collection of things that have worked for me.  None of these photos have been post-processed in any kind of photo editing software.  This is just like what you’d see out of your own camera (theoretically).

(Also, I am certain I have many, many options of ‘what not to do’ pictures in my archives, but it was easier to take new ones so I could show you what I didn’t like about a certain picture and how I fixed that problem.  My kids were happy to help for approximately 7 minutes.  It took more than 7 minutes.  That’s when Marshall got roped into helping me.  Bless his heart.)

1. Do what feels right.  If it feels weird, it’s probably going to look weird.

I asked Lydia to start sliding down and she stopped here.
Awkward positioning = awkward looking picture

2. It’s all about the light.  If you can’t find good light (or shade), don’t take pictures.  Have your subject facing the light, but not directly in the light.

These two pictures were taken in the exact same spot.  She didn’t move her feet at all.  In this first picture, she’s looking at me but the sun is killing her.  (She may be exaggerating the situation slightly.  I have no idea where this melodrama comes from.)  But for the second one, I placed my body between Lydia and the sun.  You may not always be able to use your body, but you can usually find or generate some kind of shade.


3. Look behind you.  Both ways.
Don’t have a gigantic ugly truck or, in this case, the edge of a picnic table in the background of an otherwise decent picture.

All I did was move myself a little to the side.  She stayed in the same exact spot.


Also look behind you before you step backwards.  I’ve hit the dirt a few times because I was so focused on the image.

4. Search for unique perspectives and even unusual angles, but also be sure to take some straight on shots as well.

These shots are cute enough, but I wouldn’t want every one of  my pictures to be this way.
(Actually, I’m not sure how I feel about the first one.  It looks like her legs are sprouting out of the corner, doesn’t it?)
Also? Some people really like pictures like this, so I guess it’s really a personal preference thing.


5. Watch out for shadows – especially your own.

I did several things wrong here.  I overexposed the image(which shouldn’t happen if you’re on automatic or using a point-and-shoot) and I didn’t position myself so that the cars were out of the shot.  But with a little cropping and photo editing, those things are workable.  But see his cool shadow on the ground?  Yeah.  That’s my head right beside it.  It’s technically photoshopable, but it would have been a lot easier if I’d just paid attention and fixed it in camera.

6. Don’t forget that you can hold your camera the other direction.  Fairly often I see a picture that has the subject doing something and a lot of distracting dead space around them.  Hold your camera vertically and fill the frame with the subject.  (Of course you don’t want to take all vertical shots either!)

I like the first shot.  It’s pleasant and shows off the playground.

But look what happens when I rotate my camera.  Lydia becomes the centerpiece.

Horizontal shots aren’t bad!  It just depends on the feel you want.
Mostly, I think people are just in the habit of taking horizontal shots and forget that vertical is an option.

7.  When taking pictures of adults or even groups, shoot from above.
This is another tip, not a rule.  Sometimes you can take a picture from straight in front of someone and it looks great, but if you shoot them from above, it gives the neck and opportunity to stretch out a little and get rid of that pesky double chin (you know, if you had one).


(Also?  Marshall’s such a good sport, isn’t he?  “Hey can I post an unflattering picture of you on the internet?” “Sure.  Why not?”  The man deserves some kind of medal, I assure you.)

8.  When taking pictures of kids, get down where they are (or lower).

Another tip and not a rule.  There are times when you want to get the whole scene and so you stretch up high and take a bird’s eye view shot.  And other times when you want to be looking down on them.  But look at how much more engaging the second picture is.


9. Anticipate the moment.  I have been known to sit with my finger on the shutter release button for quite a while.  I knew the shot would come, I just had to wait for it.  Learn how long it takes for your camera to actually take the picture after you push the button.  I’ve missed many a picture (especially with my phone camera) because I was waiting and waiting and waiting and then didn’t snap fast enough when the moment actually happened.

In these pictures, I knew that if I waited long enough, he’d look up at me and smile.  And that it would be an authentic smile because he was showing off his creation (i.e. hole that he was digging and making into a city).


10. Learn your camera.  Know what all those little pictures on the dial mean.  If you don’t have time to sit and read the manual, there is usually a quick guide that explains the basics.  Don’t just skim over it.  Look at the different modes and try them.  That way when you need them, you’ll know which one to use and how it works.

Bonus Tip: This may seem obvious, but the biggest thing you need to take good pictures is a camera – one that’s always with you.  The best moments are rarely the ‘Hey, y’all!  Let’s take a picture!” moments.  It’s the oh-my-goodness-that-is-just-picture-perfect-isn’t-it moments that you want to capture.  So when you are lying in bed with your sweet little one, put that sucker on silent and snap away.   Those are the memories that will just make your heart pound when you look at them again.  Like this one:

I am so very excited about being a Community Leader at BlissDom this year!  The photography track that the BlissDom ladies have put together is phenomenal!   The conference is sold out, but you can still have access to this great content with BlissDom at Home, which will be available for purchase after the conference is over.