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“You don't take a photograph, you make it”—5 Photography Tips for Beginners

Despite our digitized age of Snapchatting, terrible photo filters, and readily available smart phones to take pictures of our cats, snoring friends or delicious dinners, there is something fulfilling about picking up a real camera (be it a point-and-shoot or a legit SLR) and capturing a beautiful moment.

Now, regardless of how easy our smart phones make it to take an obscene amount of pictures, there’s a certain level of skill required to have a successful photography excursion.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Be selective. Before taking a shot, really examine your basic composition. Asking, is “X” really essential in order for the photograph to make sense? Does “X” add or detract from the photo? Avoid things that distract—telephone wires, your finger, street signs, etc. And be sure that whatever you choose to photograph intrigues you, the photographer.

2. Find a perspective. Move in close, back way up, or move around to a unique side angle to ensure an interesting visual piece. A good rule of thumb if you’re struggling to figure out what to do? Move in closer. The more your subject fills the frame, the easier for viewers to understand your intent—and details have a natural tendency to be more interesting than zoomed out overviews.

3. Mind the light. Is your subject squinting? Is there a large shadow covering up a large portion of your subject? Is the direct sunlight whiting out your photograph? Be aware of your light and move around if necessary.

4. Placement is key. Don’t accept your subject landing wherever it happens to fall—adjust and consciously place it where you think it looks best.

5. Go forth and find! Fall is a perfect opportunity to begin your photographic journey. Look for bright days where the sun illuminates leaves like stained glass, try photographing foliage reflections off water, actually photograph your delicious dinner (sans the fake filter) you cooked or ordered out, or host portrait session of a friend or family member interacting with fall scenery.

Facts are facts. You are likely going to struggle at first. Photography, like anything worth learning, takes time to master. Learn from your failures and enjoy the adventure and thrill of capturing that perfect shot.