1. Explore the light. Learn to read where the light is coming from by looking at shadows – notice if the shadows are hard-edged or soft-edged. A general rule for beautiful images is to plan your photo shoot for early morning or late afternoon light because softer shadows equate to less contrast in your scene and more flattering light for your subject. If you must shoot images at high noon, move your subject under the shade of a tree or building.

2. Turn off your flash. It’s easier to capture subtle nuances of natural light in your scene if you turn off your on-camera flash.

3. Take beautiful pictures in the middle of a bright, sunny day by placing your subject in a shaded area near direct sunlight, for example, an open doorway or under the shade of a building or tree.

4. Use the rules of composition. The rule of thirds can help you create more compelling photographs. Envision a tic- tac-toe board on your viewfinder and place something of interest at one or more of these intersections.

5. Choose an interesting frame for your image, for example, an arched trellis, a unique doorway, or overhanging tree branch.

6. Think about using color to create a compelling image. From vibrant contrasts of primary colors to the Zenlike mood of harmonious blues and greens, color can determine the emotional content of a photograph.

7. Control the light. Create a more attractive image by bouncing or diffusing the available light. Bouncing light brightens up faces, gets rid of shadows and creates a catch-light in your subject’s eyes. Diffusing the light softens harsh light falling upon your subject. You can buy a reflector or diffuser at a camera store, but you can also use common household items. Aluminum foil wrapped around a baking sheet, a car dashboard reflector, or a white foam core board can be used to reflect light. Translucent fabric, sheer shower curtains, or plastic bags can be used to diffuse the light.

8. Mix it up! Tell a story with your images by varying the distance and angle from your subject. Consider a wide-angle shot of an area, a mid-range shot, and a detailed close-up to give your viewer an informed perspective.

9. Give yourself ROOM to ZOOM. To eliminate distracting elements and provide a flattering perspective – stand back and give yourself room to zoom into your subject and fill the frame.

10. Consider the direction of the light falling upon your subject. Front light can look flat but diminishes lumps, bumps, and wrinkles. Sidelight creates dimension and form. Backlight can create a silhouette or a rim of light around your subject. Top light isn’t flattering and should be avoided.

Prepared by Erin Manning. For more information, visit