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 1. Au Natural - Photography literally means “drawing with light” and everything looks better in natural light.  Indoor turn off your flash where possible and look for natural sunlight, like window light. Natural light provides a more flattering diffused tone and quality to the photograph whereas on-camera flashes can create harsh shadows on you subject or even worse red eye.  Try opening the blinds and letting sunlight in.   

 2. Go Outdoors - Surprisingly, a cloudy, overcast day provides the best outdoor portrait lighting. Bright sun makes people squint and creates harsh shadows on their faces whereas on an overcast day, the soft light flatters faces. If you are in open sun and cannot find shade you can always place your subject in front of the sun and use your on-camera flash as a fill.

3. Simplify Things -  Great pictures are often ruined by a distracting or cluttered background. Look for things like poles or tree branches behind people that might seem like they are coming out from their head. A plain background shows off your subject whereas a bright or busy pattern will take the focus away from your subject. Place your subject against a plain, non-distracting background. Alternatively, sometimes just shifting yourself in one way or the other can eliminate distractions from view. 

4. Close Encounters -  Moving in close to your subject keeps the interesting part in the foreground of the shot and eliminates the wasted space around your subject. Fill the viewfinder with your subject to create pictures with greater impact.  

 5. Creative Cropping - A picture can have a very different look with just a different crop. Get creative by using different angles. Get down on the ground or up on a chair and look at your subject from a different perspective. Remember to experiment with landscape and vertical shots for variety.

 6. Rule of Thirds - When framing your shot, stop and think about how it will look printed. Generally, photographers follow the “rule of thirds” where you keep your subject in one or the other of the outer thirds. Avoid centering your subjects directly in the middle and instead opt for off-center positioning to make a more interesting and dynamic picture.  Be careful not to leave too much space on one end, above or below as the space should still balance the subject. 


7.  It’s in the Eyes – Getting down to a child’s level will give you a more natural look with the best possible eye contact because it create a personal and inviting feeling that pulls the viewer into the picture. Get down on the floor with a baby or sit eye level with a child on a chair. A favorite trick with pro photographers is to prop a baby up onto someone's shoulder so that they are eye level with the camera.

 8. Think Outside the Box -  Just because most people take pictures of happy smiling posed people doesn’t mean you have to.  Some of the top photographers have become successful just for doing something completely different than traditional portraiture. Whether it’s photographing children on the beach, in an alley or putting babies inside huge flowers, experiment.  Look for unique angles, a creative pose or an extreme close up, like hands or feet. Capture a moment, a detail of an event. 

9. Tell a Story - Photography freezes time, allowing us to reminisce about what we looked like, acted like and did at a specific moment in time.  Recall a special tradition you have with your family or friends that you want to always remember and take a series of pictures throughout the day. Focus on the little details, the emotions, the candid moments and don’t get caught up in trying to create a forced smiled moment. The key is to not just get the beginning and end, but every little moment along the way. Let your subjects relaxed and be natural, allowing for pictures with their true personality shining through.


10. Practice Makes Perfect - The best way to get better at taking pictures is practice!  Through trial and error you will learn the most useful lessons.  Experiment with lighting, posing, zooms, crops, and everything else you can think of and examine your results. 

Tara Hingco is the award-winning owner of Tara Sinclair Art & Design, which provides fine art photography for maternity, babies, children, pets and families. Please visit for samples of her work.