Sunday, February 25, 2018

9 Tips For Taking Amazing Photos (for any occasion!)

Growing up, I used to despise seeing photos of myself. 

Acne, resting b*tch face, and a double chin seemed to overrun the stacks of Walgreens-developed disposable camera photos that I accumulated as a teenager. My friends somehow came out looking gorgeous, their pencil-thin eyebrows and brightly colored tube tops glowing in the light of the Kodak camera flash. 

Even before Instagram, taking photos was COOL. 

It wasn't until college that I really felt like I could take a good picture. Seems silly, but with the growth of social media and online networking, a good picture can open doors. It's your first impression and how many employers determine if you're trustworthy or professional. 

Even the most modelesque men and women can take a poor photo. Photos in themselves are quite literally, just a snapshot. It's not the whole picture and far from reality.

It's one second, one angle, one setting BOOM--captured forever in time. 

Fast forward to 2018. My fiancé Chris and I booked our engagement photos with my favorite photographer.

Being a blogger, I have a knack for aesthetic. With that comes some pretty high expectations as far as photos go. Over the past few years I've developed some tips for taking amazing photos, whether it be for a blog post, engagement shoot, wedding, or just because!

1. Loosen up. 

YES, pictures can be terribly awkward and uncomfortable. But those feelings of discomfort don't have to translate on camera. Try to relax the tightness you might be feeling in your face, let your shoulders drop, and shake it out! 

Sometimes a glass of wine or a quick jog can help kill your nerves.

There's nothing more beautiful than a human being at ease.

2. Know your angles. 

This may sound ridiculous, but practicing a smiling face and non-smiling face in the mirror can help you in finding an angle that you're most comfortable with. You may feel like a goof at the time, but it can help once you get in front of the camera.

Remember, the camera will only be able to capture one point of view at a time. Take advantage and make it one you LOVE.

Models know just how to tilt their chin or turn their face to reach their ideal angle. It shouldn't be any different for us normal people! 

3. Storyboard it out.

Examine the purpose of the photos. What story are you trying to tell? Is there a certain plot line or a climax? Perhaps it's a love story between two people, or a group of friends enjoying a day out and about together. Does it start fun and end more serious? Or is it light the whole way through? 

Envisioning the flow of your photo shoot or even doodling certain shots will help you in fulfilling it.

4. Create a mood board.

Beyond storyboarding what you want from your photos, create a mood board to hone in on certain colors, vibes, and emotions you want to come through in your photos. You can easily create this through a Pinterest board and even invite your photographer or other collaboraters to view and pin as well!

Many fashion and brand related photo shoots use mood boards to help everyone involved be on the same page as far as the direction of the shoot (from hair and lighting to makeup and wardrobe).

5. Act natural.

Easier said than done. Nowadays more candid shots are in. This is great news if you have a significant other you're shooting with. Instead of posing rigidly alongside each other, try just interacting as you normally would! 

Talk, tell jokes, be affectionate, and you'll get some genuine smiles in your photos and maybe even a few laughs captured. The images are likely to be way more authentic and intimate feeling.

6.  Props!

I LOVE using props. Props can not only act as a way to incorporate objects of sentimental value into your photos, but also can give you something to do with your hands.

Hold your favorite coffee mug. Use a succulent to add color to your photo. Don a hat to give yourself endless posing options (try bringing your hand to the brim for a sultry smile or tossing it off your head for a euphoric laugh). Having something to do with your hands can be a life saver when you have an hour of photo taking to fulfill :)

7. Lighting is everyyythang.

The more time I spend around photographers, the more I've come to realize how essential lighting is.

Too harsh of light can cast shadows, wash people out, and leave them squinty eyed.

Not enough light and well, you just can't see anything in the picture.

Just before and after sunset tend to be the most ideal lighting times for photos.

Don't go about your photo shoot willy nilly (I think I just sounded 80 years old. Going with it), get strategic with your timing! You can always reference your photographer who should be well-versed in lighting times (after all, they're the ones dealing with too-dark of pictures days later in photoshop, haha).

I personally adored the ethereal halo of light we were able to capture in our engagement photos, just before sunset.

8. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Try as I might, all my effort into artfully applying makeup just wasn't showing up in photos! It was an odd phenomenon.

Things don't always appear the same in photos as they do in real life.

If I ever have pictures that I really care about, I almost always book professional makeup application. False lashes, contouring, give me the works! What can look like a dramatic amount of makeup in the mirror, can actually translate perfectly in pictures.

The same can be said for hair if it's not your forté. There's no shame in booking professional hair and makeup services for photos as timeless and important as your engagement photos.

Heck, I say book it for any sort of photos, even if they are just for fun! And there's always that one friend who is innately talented when it comes to hair and makeup. Leverage them for your special day, give proper credit, and save big time!

I hope these tips will come in handy next time you decide to get in front of the lens! Let me know if I missed any other secrets to taking amazing photos, post them in the comments below :)

Thanks so much for reading!



Dark colors are slimming, while bright colors and patterns help add volume.

Also, take pictures on your phone of your selected outfits before the shoot to ensure they photograph the way you had in mind.

Post Details:

Shop my engagement dress here. (It was under $30! You'll never guess where it's from.)

Photos by Danielle McBrayer, a local San Diego wedding and lifestyle photographer.

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