For a lot longer than a century, memorializing our lives through photography has been one of our favorite pastimes — first as albums filled with images of weddings and birthdays and holidays, nature and city life, and more recently on our phones and on social media like Instagram and Facebook.

For many of us during the pandemic, taking pictures on our phones also became a great escape, a way to chronicle our COVID walks and appreciate the beauty of everything and everyone around us.

“People are searching for things that are comforting because these are such uncertain times,” says Peter Sramek, chair and professor at OCAD University’s Photography undergraduate program in Toronto, Canada. “Photography at this time has the capacity to fulfill that function by bridging distances between people, even between cultures, as we are all staying home.”

If you’re part of the army of phone photographers out there, or you’re interested in joining, here are a few tips to take more beautiful and compelling pics:

  • Keep it simple: Too many details can make it harder to create a beautiful composition. And don’t worry about too much empty space — so-called negative space is a great way to make your photo’s subject stand out, especially if others will be viewing it later on their phones.
  • Shoot low: It’s natural to take pictures from the level of our eyes or chest but changing your camera’s angle and perspective, especially to a lower angle, can make for more compelling captures with big skies in the background or intriguing details in the foreground.
  • Get close: We tend to like photos that show wide and vast scapes but sometimes the most beautiful patterns, textures, and other details are revealed close up – think of the veins in a leaf or a baby’s big colorful irises or an elderly person’s expressive hands.
  • Capture silhouettes: You probably were taught to take photos with the sun behind you, after all, it’s an effective way to illuminate the subject of your photo. But shooting into the sun creates a silhouette effect, which can be simple and beautiful in its own right.
  • Look for symmetry: Humans are attracted to symmetry and the fact is symmetric or nearly symmetric objects — whether it’s architectural detail or reflections — make for stunning images.
  • Make it diagonal: We tend to take photos landscape (horizontally) or portrait (vertically) but a diagonal alignment is often a clever way to add balance to the object you’re capturing.

You can find more photo-taking tips here and here. And, as always, please share your own secrets and suggestions with the Shop Talk blog community — we always love hearing from you.

How to apply the rule of thirds when taking a photo

Did you know: The rule of thirds

One way to take a beautifully balanced photo is to follow the rule of thirds, where your image is broken up into thirds horizontally and vertically and subject elements are matched, more or less, to these quadrants — for instance, a sunset where the sky fills the top third and the water the two-thirds below it. (Source)

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