1. Plan, plan, plan

There are of course those magical moments of happy accidents, though they are more the exception than the rule. Focus on putting yourself in environments or positions that could lend to a good image. You can accomplish this through location scouting, experimenting with taking a photo from various angles, or shooting at a specific time of day. How you style yourself can also make a huge difference. For instance, I am very intentional about what clothing, accessories, or props I have with me when traveling to destinations. The biggest way I personally do this is through my use of colors; so I always think about that ahead of time.

Image credit: Leo Velasquez

2. You need good lighting

You’ve more than likely heard this one before, but lighting is THE key to creating a beautiful image. I love shooting at sunrise and sunset as the light is soft, there are no harsh shadows and there’s often magical golden light or colors in the sky. This is a perfect recipe for dreamy photos. If you can’t avoid shooting around midday when the sun is high and there’s a lot of harsh light and shadows, I also love shooting in the shade, as the light is even and crisp as it bounces off your surroundings. Exposure is also something to consider when lighting an image. It’s much easier to edit photos that are underexposed vs. overexposed, so I recommend lowering the exposure slightly to give more flexibility when editing photos later.

Image credit: Leo Velasquez

3. Rule of thirds

The goal with the classic photography rule of thirds is to set up a composition in such a way that the subject(s) of your images is positioned within grid lines or positioned along their intersections. Most phone cameras have a grid feature built-in, you just need to turn it on in your app settings. Also be careful to avoid random objects or poles from sticking out in awkward places around you. Don’t be scared to get low or move your position around to avoid things from poking from behind your face. I personally love using nature, textures, interiors, and other elements when composing my images to keep them interesting, but you’ll have to play around to explore and develop what your personal style is. Just keep an eye out for what inspires you: colors, neutrals, monotone, textures, etc.

Image credit: Leo Velasquez

4. Take a ton of photos

While I would like to pretend that I always get the “money shot” in the first few frames, that’s just not reality. Getting an amazing picture typically doesn’t happen in just one shot. It takes time, patience, and experimenting with loads of different angles, poses, and compositions. This is where you should focus on just being creative and moving around until you find the angle that looks the most dynamic. Once you find it, keep shooting from that perspective until you get the shot that really captures the essence of what you’re trying to communicate. A breeze, a slight change of angle or posture can make a huge difference.

Image credit: Leo Velasquez

5. Switch up your poses

Everyone photographs differently – so experiment with a number of different poses to find your best angles. Extend your body, sit down, cross your legs, show your profile, shoot from above…The goal here is to keep trying different styles and experiment until you find which angles will work best for you. Focus on putting your “you-ness” into the pose instead of trying to replicate what you’ve seen work for someone else. It will help you stand out and create images that are a true reflection of who you are. And people will take notice.