Tricks for making your photos awesome

Whether you’re photographing or being photographed, whether you’re framing a casual iphone photo or coercing your friend into taking your picture for LinkedIn, there are lots of easy tricks to make your photos glow. Here are a couple suggestions that I use and love:


Almost everyone has nerves about getting their photo taken. Click here for an article about what to expect from a portrait session with me.

  1. Sit down 
    Looking up at the camera will hide double chins and highlight your beautiful eyes. The perspective created by sitting down (or shooting down at someone) is flattering and compelling.

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  1. Angle your body
    Facing the camera straight on is the widest that we can look. Angling your body away from the camera a little makes us look narrower and creates interesting lines. Try a 45% angle to camera, and think about making different angles with your shoulders, hips, and chin.
  2. If you’re worried about a double chin, tilt your head down and extend your neck and head toward the camera. You want your chin down, out, and over to one side. Think “down, out, over”. Practice in the mirror before hand to get a sense of what feels natural and what’s going too far.
  3. Experiment with poses
    Play around. Don’t get stuck in one pose, frozen in place. Try crossing your ankles for a cute and whimsical look. Try putting the hand closest to the camera on your hip. This brings your arm away from your body and makes sure it’s not squished into looking larger than it is.
    Stick one foot a little in front of the other and put your weight on your back foot. When standing, bend one knee. Try crossing the bent knee in front of the straight knee.
  4. It never hurts to look good
    If all your friends ask you to do their makeup before they go out then by all means, do your own makeup. If you don’t often wear makeup or aren’t comfortable putting it on with grace and elegance, consider getting someone else to do it for you. Find your favorite makeup brand at Nordstrom; they’ll do your makeup for you for free. Consider getting your hair washed and blown out–a blow out can cost as little as $25 and can give you a great hair day. Feeling gorgeous and well dressed will help you feel confident in front of the camera. Nordstom also has stylists who can help you pick out the perfect outfit if everything in your closet is from a bygone age.
  5. Don’t be afraid to play around

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A natural portrait is all about attitude. If you are sure you’re going to hate the image, your face is going to reflect that discomfort. Try to approach the photographer with a good attitude. Playing and being silly is much more attractive that being stiff and unwilling. Make faces, horse around, be willing to try to model a little. You’ll get much better photos with a willing attitude than if you freeze in discomfort. If you’re really nervous, have a glass of wine beforehand.


If we want to take interesting photos, we need to get as far away from the normal photos our crazy relative take with their point and shoots as possible. What do the crazy relatives’ photos look like? Usually they are horizontal photos, taken from chest high, with the subject right in the middle of the frame. Sound familiar?

  1. Vertical composition
    People are generally vertical. Pay attention to what you’re shooting and rotate your camera for a vertical shot if it seems more appropriate. This seems simple, but lots of us don’t think about rotating our camera before snapping our shot. Go wild, try holding your camera at crazy angles.
  2. Camera Height
    The unplanned photo is usually taken from chest or eye height. We’re used to this view of the world. To make our photo more interesting, try changing it up. Try crouching, standing on a chair (careful), holding the camera above your head, or at waist level for sneaky photos. Experiment–you’ll be pleased with the results.
  3. The Rule of Thirds
    It’s automatic to put the subject in the middle of the frame, but it’s much more interesting to depart from this. Most compositional instructions tell us to divide the image we’re seeing into thirds:

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Instead of putting our main subject right in the middle, put them at one of the intersection points where the subdivision lines would fall. This composition is more pleasing to our eye, and photos composed in this way often look like the photographer really knew what they were doing! Don’t put the horizon line right in the middle–put it a third of the way up or down. Don’t put your subject’s face right in the middle, put it on one of the intersection points. Experiment with pushing this even further and put your subject in a far corner, or the horizon right at the bottom or top. For more about the rule of thirds, check out this article.

Most importantly, pay attention and don’t be afraid to play around. Zoom in, Zoom out, walk around. Take a couple pictures of the same things from different angles. Engage your creative brain; don’t let the photo just be a snapshot.

 Taking Portraits:

  1. Try photographing your subject from above
    Stand on a chair (careful!) or stairs above them, or have them sit down. A down angle will hide double chins, big arms and middles, and will highlight their eyes. The perspective you get from shooting from above will be very flattering for all face shapes.
  2. Zoom In
    If you’re using a wide angle lens, you might notice distortion around the edges, and the fact that distances look large. If you’re photographing a person, you don’t want their nose distorted and the distance between the tip of their nose and their cheek to look enormous. Zooming in flattens distance, creates pleasing perspectives, and is flattering for most faces. *note for phone photographers: zoom on phones can cut down on image quality fast. Be careful! It might be better to walk toward your subject. When the image starts looking pixilated you’ve zoomed too far and your image quality suffers.
  3. Flash in Sunshine
    In sunny scenes, try forcing your flash to fire. All cameras and phones allow you to turn on your flash so that it fires every time you take a photo. Your camera will not flash automatically in the sunshine, but forcing the flash on sunny days will fill in ugly shadows under eyes and can help balance out background exposure. Experiment: play with your flash and find out what works for the scene you’re shooting.
  4. Respect the Light
    Shooting with good light can make almost anything look good. Try not to photograph anything at noon. Long slanting morning or evening light is beautiful. Most photo teachers tell you not to shoot into the light, but if you have a dark background behind your subject (trees or a hill) shooting into the light can produce beautiful highlights on hair and maybe even interesting lens flare affects. Shade is flattering for up close portraits, but try to choose a shaded location with an even darker background.
  5. Expression

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Be comfortable getting away from the posed smiling photo. No eye contact can make your subject feel more relaxed, and create a more interesting image. Serious photos are often gripping and emotive. Holding a smile can create a forced look. If your subject is nervous and posing too much, tell them to relax their face, not to smile, or to play around with different expressions like winking, looking up from under their eyelashes, or raising their eyebrows. Getting your subject to play around will often make them laugh–and that real laugh is much better than any posed smile.

Most of all:

Pay attention to your composition, take your time, and have fun! Taking pictures can easily become making art with a little bit of attention and practice. Feel like you want more? I love helping people with figure out their cameras, learn more about photography, or push their creative envelope. Contact me for tutoring, any time.