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3 Easy Tips To A Pic 3x Better

The Photo Fix For Teens is now OPEN for Spring Enrollment!
Enrollment ends 1/29/21!

What you’ll learn:

  • Definition of the term “composition” in photography
  • To create a baseline photo to track their progress in this course.
  • Three tips to improve their composition.
  • Practice two tips from the lesson.

Where do you start when your mission is to teens how to create amazing images? With camera stuff? With lighting? With photoshop or some other software? With basic photography concepts like understanding exposure? There’s so much to cover…

My theory: Start with a few elementary concepts that can benefit someone shooting with a 5k camera OR with their iPhone camera (and everyone in between).

That said, here’s 3 very easy tips re: composition for shooting that’ll make your next pic 3x better.


What do I mean by that word? Simply: it’s how we frame our shot.

There have always been a handful of rules to composition that…well…help in creating a better image. We’ll cover a handful in the Composition Module. Of course, rules are made to be broken, especially in photography.

But, I’ve always found that photogs who know and understand the rules break them much more effectively. Understanding the rules actually helps you break them.

So, without further jabber, here’s the video:

And now for the text portion of our lesson:

Establish Your Baseline:

Okay, please find that camera of yours. Then try and find a subject.

Find your dog, your cat, your brother, or some other substitute. Next, take a pic. Why? I simply want you to establish a baseline.

“Remember how you feel.

When we did this in my local SPS class, the students were always nervous at this point. They’d start asking all kinds of questions. Which mode should I shoot in? Which lens? Where should I take the photo? On and on…

My point, right now you might only know how to turn on the camera and make it go click. After this course, you’ll be completely confident.

And…you’ll have a single pic…the one you’re about to take, that will be a signpost of where you started. So go snap a pic. JUST ONE. (One of my students took their first pic and it was completely black. Completely. She improved a lot.)

The average baseline:

On average, I see pics something like this:

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The biggest error I see is that Payson occupies about 7% of the frame. Meanwhile there’s all this margin around him that’s not really contributing to this particular image. It’s just full of busyness that’s detracting from the subject.

Sure, there are times when you’d include a lot of the ‘story’ or ‘scenery’ in a pic. There are other times where you might include negative space in a creative way that simply works wonders. But for now, Tip #1 will help 9 times out of 10:

Tip #1: Fill the Frame.

Simple. Either zoom in to your subject more, or use your feet and walk closer. Whatever the case, try to fill the frame with your subject. Way too many casual snappers simply leave far too much margin around their subject.

So go ahead. Take another pic, and fill the frame!

After giving this tip, on average, I see images that then come out of members’ cameras that look a bit more like this:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is VE0A6813-1002-683x1024.jpg

Look like a pro | Tip within the tip:

If you really want to look like a pro, fill the frame so much that you actually ‘cut off’ your subject’s head, ears, etc. Go ahead…go for it! Pro photogs do it ALL THE TIME.

For example, your fav image of this whole batch from this shoot may likely be the below image, which, yep, has Payson’s head “cut off.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is VE0A6828-1008-1024x683.jpg

But you know what it does. It helps you “get to the eyes,” as I’ve often said. And the eyes are where the magic is.

Tip #2: Change Your Perspective.

I see it all the time. People taking pics of others, simply standing up. It’s like it might not occur that they can get a little lower, perhaps even higher.

When you change your perspective, you change the picture dramatically. Take the example of taking pics of your younger brother or sister. Take the pic standing, and your background is always carpet, concrete, grass, etc (the ground). Get down closer to the ground, and now your background is the horizon, clouds, fields, etc. The image is completely changed.

Look like a pro | Tip within the tip:

A foolproof method for gaining a great perspective: make it eye level. Simple.

When you create a portrait at the eye level perspective, the image becomes much more intimate and personal. Plus the background usually includes more depth.

Especially when taking pics of little kids: eye level perspectives transform the image. Here’s the result (fill the frame, and shoot eye level):

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is VE0A6815-1003-1024x683.jpg

Tip #3: Use the rule of thirds, even in portraits!

Suffice to say that many have heard of the rule of thirds. It’s a simple concept, but it’s best known for landscape pics and helps place horizon lines, etc.

The Rule goes like this: Draw a tic-tac-toe board on your frame, all spacing equal. The Rule of Thirds states that when you place your subject at/near one of the 4 intersections, or along one of the lines, you can get a much better balanced image.

Now, the Rule of Thirds is one of the best known ‘rules’ in photography. For that reason,we go into it more in a dedicated lesson.

But for now, the pro tip is all you need to start getting better results:

Look like a pro | Tip within the tip:

In portraiture, the main point of interest is very often the subject’s eyes. Thus, I often try to place one of the eyes in or near the intersection.

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And in doing so, I often rotate the camera.

Many ‘pros’ out there rotate their cameras too, but often with no rhyme or reason. Perhaps they just think it’s cool.

To me, I’ve always been a “rotater” for one reason: It helps me achieve the “portrait rule of thirds” all while filling the frame (#1 tip).

Note that Payson’s left eye (camera right) is right on the intersection. I would NOT want to put his right eye on the right interection, because I’d then be cutting off the face, which is much different than just cutting off the “head.”

Keep it balanced. Not lop-sided. The rule of thirds will guide you.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is VE0A6830-1009-1024x683.jpg

So there ya have it! The final image above fills the frame, chooses an eye level perspective, and uses the rule of thirds with a slight camera rotation for a little extra sauce and frame balance.

EASY. Soon enough, these three tips will be habit, and you’ll have much stronger images because of it.

Time to Shoot

Let’s put your learning into practice. For this lesson:

  • Take a photo applying the rule of thirds to your image. Using the same subject, take three different shots to test out how the rule of thirds works.
  • Shot 1: Place your subject at an intersection of the rule of thirds.
  • Shot 2: Place your subject smack dab in the middle of the frame (the center square on your tic-tac-toe board).
  • Shot 3: Place your subject along one of the lines of the rule of thirds as Kyle describes in his video. Compare which image looks better to your eye. For fun, ask your family/friends and see which they prefer.