5 Steps to Taking a Good Photo
Hello All! Tasha here. As you may have read in my bio, I have been a professional photographer for nearly two decades and so naturally I was the one at Brand Yourself who was asked to write this blog post. “How do I take a good photo?” is the question I aim to answer here for you. However, the photographer in me is struggling with how to simplify this into a blog post versus a 6-month mentoring session. I believe there are SO many things that you can do to create a stunning print and I also believe that we are all consistently building and growing our skills no matter where we are in our photography journey. But this blog post is about the basics. The building blocks, if you will, on what to consider when taking a photo so you can begin to elevate the images you want to capture. We encourage you to take these concepts and build upon these over time – play, practice, analyze, and repeat. Though our mothers may have always said, “Practice makes perfect,” perfect doesn’t have to be perfection. Perfection is something left to be interpreted. Let your “perfect” be simply an expression of how you viewed the moment happening in front of you and captured it in a still image to cherish for a lifetime.
No one else can ever take the exact same photo as you just did… and that, my friends, IS perfect.
Enough with the small talk, let’s get to it! In our 27 years of combined photography experience, Tami and I don’t necessarily believe that you must have high-end equipment to take great photos.
We believe that if you can find the best light and choose the best exposure, you can take beautiful photos no matter where you go, no matter what camera you are holding in your hand, no matter who is your subject.
Whether you are a business owner wanting to take better photos for social media or a mom who wants to capture better images of her children, these steps can be applied to any photography shoot. Let’s chat through these basic steps.
Step 1) Find the light.
The difference between a really beautiful photo and an okay photo is the light! Ask yourself, “where is the main light source?” and then watch how that light lands on your subject. Try putting the light behind the subject for a natural glow, or straight on the subject (I would consider having your subject look down or to the side so he/she is not squinting with the sun in their face). You’ll notice how the colors in your images change when the light is directly behind your subject versus when the light is directly on the front of your subject. The colors and the sky are more vibrant when the light is direct. The light behind a subject gives a diffused and softer feel to the image. Neither is right or wrong and both produce beautiful results! My simple advice is to FIRST find the best light for your subject and THEN find the background you want to photograph on within that light. Most people will find their background first and the light may be harsh or spotty in that location which then takes away from a great photo. Here are a few examples of some images that I recently captured with 3 different types of lighting: behind/diffused, direct/straight on, and side/directional lighting.
*Flower design in these first two photos are by the amazing Ashley Fox Designs.*
Step 2) Watch your background.
Like I said above, be sure to find your light first and then your background. Once you’ve found beautiful light (one simple tip: cloudy days or shady areas tend to be the easiest to photograph in because your light is nearly even on all sides of your subject), then you can position your subject for the photo. Here is where you want to watch for what photographers would call “mergers”. Mergers are items like telephone poles, red exit signs or other distracting elements that appear to be growing out of your subject’s head/body. You can move these mergers by moving yourself a little more to one side or by moving the camera a little up or down. Try it the next time you notice a distracting element in the background. And… you’re welcome… you won’t be able to look at your friends’ photos the same ever again, you’ll always be noticing mergers!
Step 3) Expose correctly.
When I mentored other photographers, I would find myself saying over and over, “pull back on your highlights.” This meant that when they were taking a picture, they were letting the highlights (the lightest parts) in the image lose all its detail. I would encourage them to take the picture a little darker next time so the details remain in the highlights. Here are two examples of images, one with overexposed highlights and another with correctly exposed highlights. Notice the difference? There is more depth and interest to a photo where the highlights are not all over exposed.
Step 4) Capture the fleeting moments!
You’ve learned a few technical tips, but don’t let this scare you from taking photos. They are little tips that you can start to train your eye to see. However, moments are fleeting and you can’t always stop the moment and reposition your subject. So, I would simply encourage you to just capture life when life is happening. The beautiful moments in life! When you have the time to look for the ideal light, watch for mergers, and adjust your exposure, then do so! But when you don’t, just simply capture the moment. You’ll be so happy you did!
Then after you have captured that beautiful moment, please don’t just keep it on your phone or computer, print that baby! The generations after you will thank you!
Step 5) Print. Print. Print.
Did I mention that you should probably print your photos? Well, let me repeat. Print your photos! I believe moments large and small should be printed – consider it just one back up of your photos (external hard drives are nice for another back up). Some of my favorite moments as a child and even now, as an adult, are browsing through old printed photos. We live in a technology-driven era and its wonderful! However, technology sometimes fails and then, sadly, it’s likely too late. Take it from the girl who lost the first 4 months of photos and videos from my son’s life that I had captured on my iPhone before it crashed and burned. Thankfully, I had a few professional photos taken and family members who shared what they had captured. But some of those sweet little moments that just he and I shared together are now only memories. I urge you to consider printing your photos so you, your children, and generations beyond will have them to look through! In our home, we have a few large canvases of different phases of our family life, we have smaller prints in frames and we love and use little printed books for all the images that we capture on our phones (even a photographer finds herself documenting her life on an iPhone). Whatever and however you choose to display your images, I hope you choose to print them!
If you are wanting or needing photos done for your family, we are more than happy to recommend some of our most favorite photographers in the area! Send us a message or give one of us a call. Whether it’s for photos or a business question, reach out to us, because more than anything, we love to support small local businesses and connect you with the businesses that will bring light and ease into your lives!