Amateur No More: Some Quick Wins for Photo Taking

Watch your horizon. I see a lot of photos where the horizon line is crooked, and I mean politician crooked. Hey, it happens. You are snapping away trying to get an awesome shot, and you may not be concerned with how straight things are looking. This can be fixed quickly in your stock iPhone photo editing feature or most other photo editing applications. You will even get handy grid lines to ensure the horizon is straight as an arrow.


Be sure to straighten your horizon, where the sky separates from land or water

Get new vantage points. Get up on something, get low, anything! New perspectives are fun and can get you thinking outside of the box when it comes to photo composition.

Use the light. This is your secret weapon and be sure to throw away any conventional preconceived notions of how a photographer ‘should’ use the light. For me, natural light is best. I rarely take photos indoors, and when I do, I immediately regret it. You may have also heard about “The Golden Hour” this is a time when the sun is sitting low in the sky nearest to sunset/sunrise. This light is warm, dewy and complete perfection.


Crop out any unwanted objects or people

Rid your scene of extraneous stuff. This is extremely important, a stray piece of trash can wreak total havoc on a photo. We have all seen that selfie with an unkempt room in the background, yikes. Ensure the area is clean and free of any debris or people. Sometimes pedestrians can create desired ‘noise’ in a photo, but mostly I prefer a clean secluded area which focuses just on the subject(s) or landscape. If something/someone does creep in by accident, you can always use a photo editing application to quickly crop them out.

Don’t shy away from lens flare. Lens flare happens when you shoot directly into the sun or near a bright source, read more about this concept in Photography Life. Simply put, when the light hits the lens element at a certain angle it creates a flared effect and/or speckles in your photo (these can range in size and intensity). You can actually buy hoods for your camera lens to avoid this type of flare but personally, I am a big fan – bring on that flare!


Lens flare at 30,000 feet

Throw out dated rules. The concept of always facing your subject into the sun gives me a good laugh, this is a prehistoric photo rule which no one follows. The best photos I have ever taken are with the subject’s back to the light – it creates a halo of warm sun around the person and couldn’t be more lovely.


The golden hour glow and a warm halo effect

Take a ton and then weed them out. Snap, snap, snap away! This goes without saying since most of us have our smart phones handy at all times. I usually snap between 300-500 photos and then end up liking maybe 20 or so. This gives you the freedom to decide on your favorites. Throw that caution to the wind, friends!

Get creative with editing. I am a big fan of the VSCOcam application for my iPhone photos, their presets are lovely and include a wide variety of tones. To smooth skin slightly, I also use the FaceTune application (please use this sparingly to avoid looking plastic). For my DSLR, I just started using Adobe Lightroom and so far I love it. I prefer warm tones and will play with different edits and colors, don’t hesitate to try something new, see what settings you like. Above all, have fun!

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