10 Steps to Better Photos

10 Steps to Better Photos (and more effective sales materials)

While I consider myself a writer rather than a photographer, shooting photos for clients has been part of my newspaper, newsletter, and online work for 15 years. Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned from practical experience:

1. Don’t skimp. Take lots of photos. Digital makes it easy (and inexpensive) to experiment and practice.

2. Move in. Think you’re close enough? Take another step or two closer to your subject, and you’ll create a better photo.

3. Make the most of natural light. Use the “golden hours” of the early morning (sunrise to 9 a.m.) and evening (5 p.m. to sunset) to get exceptional lighting. Avoid the harsh mid-day sun.

4. Tell a story. If you’re taking photos of people, create “environmental shots.” If you’re photographing a farmer, for example, include his or her tractor as a backdrop.

5. Avoid “fig leaf” poses. Instead of forcing your subject to stand, which can make them uncomfortable and often encourages them to clasp their hands in front of them, have subject sit on the edge of a desk or table, etc. to get a more natural look.

6. Adjust your perspective. Change your shooting angle (get up on a step stool or ladder, or squat down) to create more interesting images.

7. Follow the rule of thirds. Imaginary lines are drawn to divide the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. You place important elements of your composition where these imaginary lines intersect. Use this technique to add visual appeal to your images.

8. Don’t stop at one photo with groups (including your family). There is often a great deal of pressure when photographing groups. You need to work quickly to get the job done within their limits of patience. You also need to keep the experience as fun and friendly as possible, so they remember it in a positive light. Since there is always someone blinking or looking off to the side or facing another member of the group, shooting a lot of photos will improve your chances of catching everyone looking their best..

9. Notice the details. Watch the background (avoid distractions) and pay attention to the foreground. If you’re photographing a person outside, for example, make sure your subject doesn’t have a telephone pole “growing” out of his or her head. Also, look for creative ways to frame your subject.

10. Don’t force one photo to do too much. Find the most interesting element in the scene and key in on it.

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