5 Simple Tips for Amazing Photos (You Don’t Need to Be a Professional Photographer)

Take a moment and consider this. It’s projected over 1.4 trillion photos will be taken in 2020. To put it in perspective, that’s over 1,400,000,000,000 photos! With the rapid growth of social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, this number will only grow larger.

The first thought that comes to most people’s minds when they take an amazing picture is probably, “This is a great photo to post on social media.”

But there is more to it than that. In my article published in the Chicago Tribune, I mentioned how scientific studies have shown that photographs can boost our well-being and happiness. But only if we take time to pause and look at the photos we have taken in the past (especially our favorite ones).

Sadly, most of us rarely do this because it can be stressful to find, organize, and figure out where and in which format to print them. This is why I am always so excited when my clients ask me to create family yearbooks for them. No one should miss out on the experience of reliving your family’s best memories.


Whatever your motivation is, whether it’s to take Instagram worthy images, capture moments, or tell a story, I want to help you take better pictures. In this article, I will share 5 simple tips for amazing photos that anyone can use. Let’s get started.

You don’t need to be a professional photographer

When I say ” professional” I mean people who take photos for a living. Think cool expensive gear and skills honed over centuries of photography experience. ?

You get what I mean. This is not a must. Most people, probably you too, just want to take photos of their loved ones, good selfies during vacations, or photos of their pets in all their adorableness.

No matter what category you’re in, a few basic photography skills are all you need to take amazing photos.

How to take better photos with your smartphone immediately

Clean any smudges off your camera lens first.

No amount of editing can fix hazy images caused by dirty lenses. Be careful not to damage your camera lens. Use soft material like a microfiber cloth instead of wiping it with whatever you have on hand (guilty ?‍♀️)? 

Wondering why your selfies appear blurry so often?

Guess what? Unsteady hands in low light situations are most often to blame. Even when you think you are as still as possible, there are still micro-vibrations. This is why many photographers use a tripod. You can even buy a pocket tripod that can be used with almost any smartphone.

They will also allow you to take hands-free shots and work really well for full-length selfies or vacation photos when you want everyone (and the background) in the shot.

Resist the urge to zoom in.

It doesn’t work the same way as a stand-alone digital camera. You may just end up with grainy or blurry images with poor resolution. First, get as close as you can…zoom with your feet…and then if you need to, crop out later without compromising on the quality.

Use natural light.

The bright light coming from your smartphone’s camera flash will more often than not give your images a harsh, overexposed look for the subject and leave the background in the shadows.

If it’s daytime, try and maximize available sunlight even when you’re inside. Open doors and use window light to let as much natural light in as possible. 

Embrace the negative space.

It’s okay to have a lot of empty space in a photo. It puts the attention fully on the subject while preventing the image from feeling too cluttered. You can also experiment with not centering your subject even when you have this extra space for added interest.


Spice up your photos with creative props

Props are widely used by professional and hobbyist photographers alike to add variety. This is because they are very useful in many ways:

  • Add humor or ambiance 
  • Relax the person in the shot by giving them something to do
  • Add context to the photo and highlight the story in the photo
  • Enhance the shot by adding color. Depending on what you want to achieve, you can use props with contrasting colors or those that blend naturally with the background color.

Almost anything can be used as a prop. From everyday things like a book or handbag to homemade DIY props or even something from a yard sale or thrift shop. Use your imagination and experiment! You can also check online to see how other photographers use props for ideas and then put your own creative spin on it. 

How to capture exceptional moments with your vacation photos

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the world, people have had to put on hold many of their vacation plans. It’s a tough time, but we are all hopeful. Humanity is resilient and we will overcome COVID-19.

When the time comes and you can finally take that family vacation, here are two hacks to help you take better photos.

  • If you come across a great stop or monument, don’t be in a hurry to take the photos.

The places with a crowd of tourists taking photos rarely result in great images. Walk around, explore, and enjoy the new spot first. As you do that, you are bound to find unique angles or perspectives that will give you the best images. Don’t be afraid to get low or stand on something (safely!) to try for a new view.

  • Resist the urge to line the family up and demand everyone say cheese all the time. 

Such photos are too common and can feel too “set up.” You want to capture your family members in a natural state enjoying themselves. That’s why it’s always good to have more than one person taking photos. They might capture you capturing the moment.

Understand the Exposure Triangle

Though the sales of digital cameras in the US have been declining steadily with the improved capabilities of smartphone cameras, at least 5 million units are still sold every year (Statista). If you have a digital camera with manual controls and want to learn how to best capture your subject, this is for you!

Now to a few quick definitions:

  • Exposure-amount of light which reaches your camera sensor or film. It determines how light or dark the captured image will be.
  • Exposure triangle-the three settings that control exposure (Aperture, Shutter & ISO speed)
  • Aperture controls the area over which light can enter your camera
  • Shutter speed controls the duration of the exposure
  • ISO speed controls the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to a given amount of light

Depending on what type of photo you are taking, the settings will be different, more so if you are using the manual mode. For example, if you are taking a landscape photo where you want everything to be in focus, a narrow aperture is ideal while for portraits photographs use a wide aperture.

There is much more to it, but the goal is to show you that you have nothing to be afraid of. Don’t let the terms scare you off. A bit of learning and practice, and you will be off taking amazing photos. If you want to learn more, there are a lot of great online photography courses you can take. Check out CreativeLive’s free photography classes. 

To Conclude

Taking photographs is not only a great way to express ourselves, but it can be a great way to connect during this time of social distancing. 

And it should be fun! I hope the 5 simple tips I have shared today on how to take amazing photos will get you excited to take out your camera or smartphone and click away.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t miss out on those special moments. When you’re thinking about enjoying these images beyond that first click, I think having them both digitally and printed is the way to go. It gives you all the flexibility while also protecting your photos long-term. Social media platforms change and also disappear. You don’t want them to take your image organization with them. 

You’ll want to find a system for organizing, designing, and printing your photos. If that’s overwhelming, you can outsource it! With the Family Yearbook membership, you can submit monthly images that will be professionally designed and printed in a custom album with gorgeous pages that you and your family will treasure for years to come. Interested? Learn more here.


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