10 Tips for a Great Photo


Updated: 2019

Taking a great photo starts with YOU.

One of my biggest make-or-break's is my mood. When I'm shooting for fun or for a job, I try to make sure that I am in a creative mood or have my photo "eye." Sometimes it just doesn’t come naturally. Having a basic understand of what makes a great photo is key to nailing your images in the beginning. Soon this will become second nature and you wont even have to think about it!  A great photo also depends on how much you are willing to put into it. How much time? Effort? Pre-planning? These all make a difference in your final product!

Here are 10 tips for a great photo!


Composition is the arrangement of elements within a photo that convey an idea, mood, feeling or overall look. This is how we guide the viewer's eye through our work in a specific order. Composition can completely make or break an image.

Within composition we have:

Rule of Thirds – Place objects on red lines or blue dots

Rule of Thirds – Place objects on red lines or blue dots

Rule of Thirds - an imaginary grid on the frame (some cameras have the option to show rule of thirds on the screen) Place important subjects on these lines for a more captivating composition


Lines - look for leading lines that direct the viewer's eyes throughout the frame. This can range from, railroad tracks, edges of buildings, horizon lines, table line, eye lines, etc.

Visual weight - Examine the distance or size of objects relative to each other within the frame. The viewer's eyes will naturally go to the largest object first and work down from there.

Symmetry - visually splits the image down the center with two equal properties on either side.

Symmetry and anti-rule-of-thirds (placing something smack in the center) are very popular on Instagram. The center of the frame used to be seen as a big no-no in earlier years of photography but now is one of the most popular themes on Instagram.


It's important to use natural light whenever it's available for a classic. However, if you are shooting indoors, shooting fashion, food, or studio work, it's also important to understand how to use proper lighting techniques.

Use of lines and Visual weight

Use of lines and Visual weight

Simple Two Light Setup

Simple Two Light Setup

Natural Light used for drama - James Bonanno Photography

Natural Light used for drama - James Bonanno Photography



Check out new angles and don't always shoot at normal height or tripod height.  Try getting above or below your subject. Try shooting from the ground. It instantly makes the photo more engaging.


Write down all of your ideas for shoots! This way, you are always prepared.  I get some of my best ideas when I'm driving or about to fall asleep


One way to kill a photo really fast is to have a cluttered background.  A lot of this can be cleaned up in post-production but it's a hell of a lot easier if you are mindful of your background when shooting! If you can move some things out of the way ahead of time, then do so!



Framing your subject or a landscape gives an interesting and mysterious look to photographs.  It's almost as if you a peeking into someone's life.  It also gives your subject a sense of grounding and stability. Windows, doorways, foliage, and an overhang are great examples of easy to use framing methods.

Trick: use a tissue around your lens to get a "behind the curtain" look


Props are an awesome way to add something to a photo. Literally, anything can be a prop. Look around your house and get creative!


Again, adds interest to the photo! play around with your subject looking in the direction of the camera, off to the side, at an object and back to camera

Example of the “tissue trick” and framing

Example of the “tissue trick” and framing

Example  of props – one of my favorites (though getting very overdone lately) is a mason jar! simple yet effective

Example of props – one of my favorites (though getting very overdone lately) is a mason jar! simple yet effective



Experiment with editing! (we will get deeper into this in tutorials and other posts)

What can you add to the photo to give it some life? some of my favorite things to add are birds, bokeh, and things that completely don't belong.  

(Check out my Instagram to see what I mean)


I can't stress that enough! Just get out and shoot! Don't be afraid to mess up! Play around with different techniques and see what works and doesn't work. 

You'll notice how much your photography improves in a short amount of time.  I love looking back on my older work and seeing how far I've come.  Even just in the first 6 months that I started posting my work on Instagram, I noticed a major change in my skill set and style and continue to notice a change every few months!

A lot of times when I go out to take photos or when I’m editing, for the first half hour or so, my work completely sucks! I'm rusty and not warmed up. By the middle/end things are starting to look much more like the way I envisioned them!

And some days, you just have to accept that it isn't your day and it's just not going to happen.  Trust me, we all have days like that!


These are the rules that are meant to be broken. Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO make up the ground work that is crucial for every photo but these tips for a great photo are meant to be played with!

What do you think makes a great photo? Do you have any tips that you would like to share with everyone?  Comment below! :)