Baby Steps: Capturing Better Quality Photos

Call me old school, but there is just something special about a printed photo.


Growing up I was always picking up a disposable camera, snapping photos of my life and asking to print off my film at the local Wal-mart or Walgreens. I have tons and tons of photos from my childhood that I often find stashed away in drawers and photo albums. I love going back from time to time to reflect on who I was as a person and what was inspiring me at the time.

As I’ve shared before, my passion for photography carried over into the Art classes I focused on in high school. I was fortunate to have my study hall hour in Ms. Larson’s room, which happened to be the photography studio. I would spend those days that were more freed up playing in the darkroom or using the old school Photoshop she had on her iMac.

Life caught up, which meant less and less time spent with an actual camera and more and more snaps grabbed on my iPhone. While the quality is “okay,” I found myself yearning for more quality photos. While I LOVE our family photographer for professionally shot family photos, sometimes you just need to be able to grab your camera and shoot spur of the moment.

My Mom and Dad, realizing how obsessed I was over borrowing their own high-quality camera, were SO good to me this Christmas and I was gifted a Canon Rebel. Now, my Dad is amazing and sourced a used but in excellent condition camera that was just a few years old––research is his forte.

Taking photographs is easy, but truly capturing an emotion, feeling and energy is entirely not an easy feat. Since Christmas, I’ve had to do more refresher readings on how to best photograph a subject. I’d love to share with you several tips that have been working for my family subjects as of late so you, too, can capture images that you’ll want to keep for years to come.



Do you ever look back at your photos and notice how everyone is usually centered right in the middle of the shot? Do you ever look at professional photos and notice how usually they aren’t? Yeah… let’s talk about the rule of thirds.

When looking through your viewfinder, imagine that your frame is divided into nine sections with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines that intersect.

According to the rule of thirds, you should try to place your subject, or important elements that you wish to highlight, around these intersections to draw the viewer into your composition in a natural way and make it a much more visually dynamic and engaging photo.  

Hey, Happy Girl!

Essentially, your eyes will naturally look at the “hotspots,” or the intersection points of the lines, when they first look at something. By aligning your subject(s) at these hotspots, you immediately capture the focal point of your photo.


I think this is the hardest part of taking a photo. When taking a photo, people naturally want to avoid making any crops. Think about your iPhone photos: do you try to get every part of a person in your shot (head to toe)?

You absolutely DO NOT have to show an entire individual to get a great shot! Of course, there are limits to cropping. Check out the photo below––I cropped the top of C.D.’s head off (sorry babe) because I wanted to get a tighter shot of the babies, while still capturing the emotion and laughter on C.D. and Sarah’s faces.  I think it turned out pretty good!



Most cameras come with a built-in flash, which is great for use in rooms where lighting is uncontrollable. However, I prefer NOT to use my flash. When reviewing after, you’ll find that your subjects, while more brightly lit, look washed out and clash more with your background. It also does not differentiate much between the subject and background, which means less focus and more detail on everything in the frame.


My favorite setting (because I’m still not quite to the manual setting level of experience) is Landscape setting. This setting enables you to focus on your subjects and highlight them as the “hero” of the shot. While the lighting could be dark due to no use of flash, I’m better able to control the lighting after the fact through the use of Adobe Lightroom.

Which leads to…


This application from Adobe has been a godsend. Your editing, such as adjusting coloration, tones, grain levels, clarity, etc. can be fine tuned down to the minute detail.



Maybe I should have had LESS detail on this shot. Man that’s some serious dust! Hardwood floors are such a beast with two kids and a dog. 😉


For novice photographers who don’t want to spend a fortune on a photographer for each and every event, this application pays for itself. For a personal license, you can spend $120/year, or $10/month, for great editing tools. Even better? Free “Lightroom Presets,” or filters, are available to give you more of an artistic feel to your photographs.

As I continue learning and improving, I’d be so happy to share with you my progress and tips! If you have any of your own to share, please, do open up in the comments.



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