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How to Make Your Photographs Look More Professional

Panorama stitching

A picture, they say, can tell a thousand words — and photography is a great way to tell your story, or the stories of the people and places around you. If you’re an amateur photographer looking to take your compositions to the next level, here are some tips and advice culled from professional photo editing services and photographers the world over.

  • Find the “magic hour.” Even beginner photographers understand that lighting is crucially important to taking good photos, but not everyone understands exactly how to get the best natural lighting. Many people think that a bright, mid-day sun will have the best light conditions, but in fact, that can cast harsh shadows on your subjects. The best time of day to find photo-friendly light is actually in the early morning and late evenings, the “magic hours” just before and after sunrise or sunset. Think of it this way: The f-number of the human eye ranges from around f/8.3 in bright light to f/2.1 in dark settings, and your camera works very much the same.
  • Try a new angle. The photograph itself is all about perspective. It can be rewarding to test out different angles or viewpoints of a single subject to experiment with the different kinds of stories that result. Think of a single tree in an open field, for example: shot from far away, it might look lonely. From the base of the tree looking up, it could appear intimidating. What if you shot from inside the branches of the tree itself, or from a helicopter overhead? Keep in mind the “mood” you want to convey as you line up your shots.
  • Don’t be afraid to edit. Some amateur photographers shy away from professional photo editing services like Photoshop or Lightroom because they think of it as “cheating.” But all of the pros now routinely use programs like these for photography post production. In the digital age, it’s the modern equivalent of the dark room — another tool and process in the art of photography itself. You can take your photographs to new extremes with photo editing software that you wouldn’t be able to with just a camera and lens alone, no matter how good you are.

Photography is an addictive creative outlet. There’s always more to learn, and new subjects to shoot. Keep practicing to improve your skills and your “amateur” shots may be indistinguishable from the professionals!