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5 Beginner-Friendly Tips for Taking Better Photos, According to Professionals

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Ever wondered how the best photographers find the perfect lighting for the perfect picture? Or how some families just look heavenly in their photos, while yours always ends up looking just OK? We have some good news. You don't have to be Cindy Sherman to capture unforgettable images. Snap better family portraits (and, yes, selfies) with these five beginner photography and photo-storing tips from the pros.

Keep the filters to a minimum.

"Less is more when it comes to photo editing. In the age of social media, people strive for perfection, then end up in the unreal. You never want to edit so much that you look like a cartoon. Instead of going for hyperfiltered reality, try capturing the mood. The best photos aren't perfectly lit or framed. Instead, they bring you back to a cherished place or feeling."

—Stacey Leasca is a journalist and adjunct instructor of photography at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Look for the light.

"Lighting really is everything in photography. The 'perfect' photo is incredibly subjective, but you'll always capture a strong photograph if you find natural light. Put your hand in front of you and turn around in a circle to see how the light looks on it. This helps you get a sense of how the creases of your hand appear, or how the color of your skin changes as you move. It's the best way to measure and see your light in motion."

—Rob Kern is a lighting expert and chat agent at B&H Photo in New York City.

Perfect your pose.

"The next time you have someone snap a photo of you, ask them to hold the camera below their shoulders. (You can flip a smartphone upside down before taking a vertical photo to get the lens even lower.) The higher the lens, the bigger your head looks. Stick your chin either forward or down, put one hand in your pocket, and either place one leg in front of the other or cross your ankles to create the illusion of a long, straight line."

—Emilia Schobeiri is a Chicago-based professional wedding photographer.

Go for a pro.

"Hiring a photographer used to feel like an exercise in vanity. Now people are often getting professional photos taken to commemorate life stages. Look for a pro who's compatible with your personality and aesthetic. And do what you need to put yourself in the best state of mind before your session. That may mean leaving early, getting your hair done, or carrying a cold drink or blotting papers. If it helps you feel present, calm, and shine-free, then do it."

—Jennifer Tsay is the cofounder and CEO of Shoott, a photography service.

Take time to curate.

"When I tell people to delete photos, they're a bit shocked. But when your photos get out of control, they're no longer a resource. It's easy to take digital storage for granted, and people aren't disciplined about weeding through their personal photo archives. Take my grandparents, for example: I have a few boxes of their family photos, but it's easy to look through their archive in an afternoon. Can I say that about my own digital photos? It's our responsibility to curate our camera roll. Print your favorites before your catalog becomes an overwhelming legacy."

—Marguerite Roby is a photograph archivist at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives.

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