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So, You Want To Take Better Photos

So, you want to take better photos. Maybe you want to become a photographer or maybe you just want better shots for your Instagram (do it for the ‘gram). Either way, I’m here to help you learn what you need to do in order to create better photos. I’m giving you the inside scoop on 4 things that you can focus on to make your photos better, whether you’re using an old iPhone 4 camera or a brand new DSLR camera.

Shot Composition

Shot composition is the most important thing to learn in order to create better photos. If your photo is of a person and their head is cut off at the top of the frame, it’s not going to look good! I’m going to go over 3 shot composition “rules” that you should follow. I quote “rules” because they can be broken but you need to have a specific reason to break them.

Rule of Thirds

The basic idea of the rule of thirds is to imagine dividing your frame down into thirds both horizontally and vertically so that you have 9 parts. The rule of thirds identifies four important parts (hot spots) that you should consider placing points of interest while you frame your image.

The theory is that if you place important things in your frame on the hot spots or the vertical or horizontal lines, your photo becomes more balanced.

This also means, FIX YOUR DANG HORIZON LINES. One thing that I notice so often are crooked horizon lines in photos. It’s so easy to adjust this in post and it makes your photos look so much better.

Speaking of horizon lines, it’s best not to have them going through your subjects head. It throws off the balance that we talked about earlier, and just doesn’t look good.


Headroom is the space between the top of the subject’s head and the top of the frame. You can apply the Rule of Thirds to help figure out proper headroom. It is extremely important that we frame our subjects with purpose!

Cutting Limbs Off at the Joints

Be careful when cropping your photos. You don’t want to crop at the joints. Honestly, it just looks really awkward and doesn’t keep the photo balanced.

Again, these are “rules” but they can be broken if you have a REASON to break them.


Nailing your focus is SO important. It’s what can really distinguish a decent photo to an AMAZING photo. For portraits, the emotion is all in the eyes!

If you’re using an iPhone, you can hold you finger down on the spot that you want to focus on to lock the focus.

If you’re using a DSLR, this means, not always shooting at f/ 1.8 (such a shallow depth of field that is going to be extremely hard to hit focus). Try shooting at f/2.8 or f/4. You can still get a shallow depth of field but it’s much easier to stay in focus.


Lighting is a really good thing to learn when you’re starting out in photography. I’m going on the assumption that most people are going to be out and about when they want to snap a photo of themselves or someone else.

Quick iPhone tip: When you’re taking a photo, if you hold your finger down you can adjust the exposure by sliding it up or down. But, how can we make sure that our lighting is good?

First, look at the sun. Not directly into it! But see what direction the sun is coming from. If the sun is behind your subject, their face might not have much light and could end up looking like a silhouette. But if it’s directly in front, your subject will probably have squinty eyes. Try side lighting. If it’s midday, try to avoid direct sunlight as it can cause harsh shadows on your subject. Maybe opt for a shady area. Of course, all of this depends on the time of day and where the sun is in the sky.

Second, look at any other sources of light. Maybe you’re inside and you have a big window or a big lamp. Maybe you’re outside on the street and there’s a street lamp or a glowing neon sign. There are so many options for adding additional light sources into your frame.

Third, SHOOT DURING GOLDEN HOUR! Golden Hour is the “hour” right after sunrise and the “hour” right before sunset. It’s not really a full hour but around those times. The lighting is so great at this time because of where the sun is in the sky. When you shoot midday the sun is very harsh because it’s right above, but if you shoot during the Golden Hour, the sun is lower and diffused.


Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t NEED to learn how to edit photos in order to take good photos. But it certainly can help. I use both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to edit my photos, but if you cannot afford the software, there’s a free Photoshop app for your phone. Editing techniques that will help your photos look better:


Using a Curves adjustment layer is a great way to transform your photos. With this, you can adjust the highlights (lightest parts), shadows (darkest parts), and midtones. This can add or decrease contrast and give a whole new look to your photo.


HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. With hue, you can change the color, with saturation you can bump the color up, and with luminance you can brighten the color. These are great ways to add a pop of color or decrease a color that you don’t particularly like.

I hope these 4 tips on how to take better photos help you out!

Did you like this post? Please leave a comment with some feedback! I’d love to hear from people. Follow me on Instagram (@annajcuevas).

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