How to Start Taking Better Photos Today – By Jason Shriner


Have you ever scrolled through your Facebook or Instagram feed and wondered how some people can take such beautiful pictures so effortlessly? You may shrug it off thinking that technology plays a large part in that, and while that’s true to a certain extent, the photographer is largely responsible for taking that perfect shot. You can buy the best set of paintbrushes and paint money can buy, but unless you have the fundamentals down, improved equipment and materials won’t make much of difference.

Here are a few quick tips you can use immediately regardless of what kind of camera you have.

Consider your lighting

Even soft natural light can add a lot of depth and meaning to your photo

Lighting is so important to photography. In fact, it really should be your first consideration when it comes to planning a picture. First, unless you have a reason for it, you don’t want to have the light source behind your subject. If a person is standing in front of the sun, their face will be completely dark and the area behind them will be blindingly bright. A good starting point is positioning your subject’s front at a 45-degree angle of the light source. By positioning a person at that angle, they aren’t being blinded by the light while you’re trying to take the picture.

Rotate your camera

How much meaning would’ve been lost had this photo been taken in portrait orientation?

This is especially important to your Facebook pictures. Landscape photos look way better on Facebook (they also look better on blogs). Instagram helps avoid this by making all photos square, but don’t forget, you can take photos with your phone upside down. This is great for when you’re taking a picture of something on a table and you just can’t get the angle the way you want.

Stage your photo

It’s easy to miss objects that can be distracting to a picture. The ice cream container (even though it’s used to hold materials for the class) feels out of place.

Before you take a picture, look all around your subject. Does the background look nice? Is there any clutter between you and your subject? The scenery around your subject helps tell the story of your photo. If it’s distracting, it will take away from your picture. This is especially important for food photography. If your table at the restaurant is cluttered and full of dirty dishes, it doesn’t matter how delicious your dessert was – it won’t make an appetizing picture.

Move away from the center

It’s very tempting to want to take pictures of the whole subject, but the most interesting pictures often don’t show the entire subject. Whenever I have to take a picture of something round, like a pie for example, I love having it in the corner of the picture rather than dead center.

You can also follow something called “the rule of thirds” where you imagine a 3×3 grid and you position your subject and scenery where the gridlines intersect. Pictures are more pleasing and more interesting when following the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds encourages balance and prevents your subject or scenery from dividing your picture in half.

Now that you’re armed with the fundamentals, go out there and take some great pictures! If you happen to take any in our Community Center or parks be sure to tag us so we can see them too!

Jason Shriner is the Marketing Manager for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at

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