Tips From a Pro for Better Snapshots

The holidays are the perfect time to capture those precious moments with family and friends in photos. But blurry photos, red eye, and poor lighting can put a damper on an otherwise beautiful photograph. Even spending a small fortune on a digital camera won’t guarantee a great shot. Follow these tips to take better photos this holiday season.

It’s Not the Camera.

You can take great pictures with even a simple camera by working within the limitations of the camera. Follow these simple tips to get better pictures with any camera or cell phone.

Move in Closer.

Most pictures can be drastically improved by simply using the “sneaker zoom” and moving in closer. Learn to look all around the frame and eliminate anything that is not important to the picture. Most snapshots are taken from too far away. Don’t depend on cropping your pictures later – because you are throwing away quality and all of those mega pixels you paid for. If you have a 12 mega pixel camera and you routinely crop out 2/3rds of the image….you really only have a 4 mega pixel camera.

Crop, Don’t Zoom.

Never depend on the zoom function in your cell phone as it require your camera to “make up” data on the fly. If you can’t get close enough, it is way better to crop the picture later than to zoom in when taking the photo. This only applies to cell phones with fixed lenses. If you have an actual camera with an optical zoom lens, then zoom away!

Watch the Background.

Distracting elements in the background can often be eliminated by simply moving a bit or changing the camera’s position.

Watch the Composition

Try to avoid always putting the subject dead center in the frame. Move the subject off center to add to the dynamic of the composition and make the image more interesting. Don’t forget that you can turn the camera vertically too, as well as tilt it for more interesting looks.

Vary the Angle

Most people just take pictures from eye level out of habit. Make a conscious effort to take pictures from higher or lower angles than normal just for a better perspective. With children especially, get down on their level and into their world.

Hold Steady and Squeeze

The vast majority of blurry pictures are caused by camera shake, not poor focus. This is especially true with modern cameras with auto focus and the ability to shoot in low light without flash. Shooting in low light requires the shutter on the camera to be open longer, referred to as a slow shutter speed, which allows more light to record on the film or sensor. This can lead to vibrations or camera shake being recorded. Brace your body or lean against something. Hold the camera steady and squeeze the shutter. Don’t jab it.

Look for the Light

When possible, turn the flash off for indoor shots to get a more natural, realistic light. Look for large, soft light sources from windows and doors. Avoid overhead lighting. Outdoors, look for shade. Turn on the flash when shooting with backlighting or in direct sunlight.

Shoot Lots

Especially with digital, shoot lots and lots and lots. It is easy to edit them later, especially when you don’t have to pay for film and developing. The more you shoot, the better you will become, and the more chance you have of capturing the right moment. Get comfortable with your camera and be ready to shoot at a moments notice.


Most of your family’s photographic history is going to be completely lost to future generations if you don’t have actual prints made to share and hand down to future generations. Even today, remember floppy disks and zip drives? They were the norm for storing photos just a few short years ago, and now data stored on them is about as accessible as your old betamax videos. CD’s and DVD’s are on their way out to, and many computers are no longer even being manufactured with them. Remember MySpace?  Facebook won’t be around forever either. Hard drives fail… and the only question is when, not if. Laptops and cell phones too. The printed photograph is still the easiest way to view and store photos, and they won’t be lost to history in the blink of an eye. Do a favor for future generations… print your family photos!

Use a Professional when Appropriate.

There are some occasions when snap shots just won’t do, and you want to work with a professional to capture and preserve those special moments. Choose one that has skill, artistic ability and a style that you like. And don’t let a “professional” convince you that you want a bunch of photos on a cd, because they will get put in a drawer and forgotten about. Insist on quality prints to display in your home, so that you can enjoy them and preserve your family’s legacy for your children and grandkids.



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