With cell phones and easy to use point and shoots, almost anyone can take a photo. Social Media is chocked full of digital snapshots of peoples lives. We see decent images everywhere but what makes a good photo great? Believe it or not, photography is a honed in skill that most of us studied.

Think of your favorite photograph. Have you ever thought why it was your favorite. Maybe it’s just “pretty.” Well let’s think about why it was your favorite. What was the lighting like? Did it invoke an emotion? What about the colors?


A great photo goes beyond ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I am only focusing on a few skills that make a great photograph so if you want to read more on how to take a better photograph, read Peta Pixel’s 40 Tips to Take Better Photos.

For me, photography goes beyond the actual image. I use it as a message. I put a lot of thought into my photoshoots long before I pick up the camera. Here are some of my favorites tips on what goes into making a good image great.

Lighting and Shadows

We all know that a decent photograph involves lighting. For portraits, we like to make sure there is even lighting on the face. In landscapes, we look at the lighting in the over all frame. But did you know that shadows are just as important?

I will always be a fan of flat soft light. This lighting is pretty, easy to use and all around flattering. But what if I told you that shadows are just as strong? In fashion, there is a need to carve out the bone structures of models faces. In landscapes, we create dimension with dappled lighting. Shadows help an image pop. Sometimes this makes the image feel alive. I have a favorite local photographer who is a master at this. I adore his work because I feel an energy from his images. As I have studied them, I realize that he is a genius in lighting and shadows.

I vow this year to play with shadows more. I want more dynamic images for 2017.


The subject of expression is quite new to me. I was taught to make a client smile. After all, that’s what portraits are for, right? Not always. Who here knows of the Mona Lisa? This is one of the most famous “portraits” out there and guess what? She isn’t smiling.

I am actually playing with this idea a bit more as I work towards more editorials. I had a super awesome editorial the other day and to be honest, I struggled a bit. I am so used to making jokes and being silly because I love smiles. Maybe it’s because I don’t smile enough. Maybe it’s because there is a real beauty in a smile. Regardless, smiling makes me happy. So going back to the other day, we were doing this high fashion editorial. I had to think hard about all the editorials I’ve seen. The subjects don’t smile often. The poses are stick and the faces are stern. Most editorials are to sell a product. The editorial I was working on was just a personal project but I wanted it to feel like a Vogue catalog.

Now let’s look at portraits. Sometimes the most powerful images are ones with no smiles. It’s in the eyes. I am always impressed with photographers that can capture a person’s true essence. Next time, take a look at that photograph you love. What is the subject emoting?


Believe it or not, color is highly important to an image. In my photography, I prefer bright colors because I want to express a feeling of happiness. Other photographers like to do dark and moody colors to express an artistic feeling or maybe sadness. Some of my first favorite photographs were those found in National Geographic or Times. I’d thumb through the pages and look at the colorful life of the culture in India or I’d see the sadness in the faces of the children in war torn countries. Those photographs were sometimes edited in black and white to express a harsh feeling. Even lack of color can invoke a strong emotion.

Color also goes beyond editing and shooting style. Color can be in the lighting you choose, the wardrobe, or a location. In the images below, the green grass added an element of new life to my session. How can you not think of fresh spring grass when you look at these images? And doesn’t that make you happy?

So as you can see, photography isn’t just above the point and shoot. There is so much more involved. Don’t worry if you are just starting out and don’t have a handle on all this yet. It takes a long time to gain these skills. As a fellow photographer, I tell you not to give up!


Charlotte NC lifestyle photographer Charlotte senior photographer shooting in grass field crown-braid-in-black-and-white Senior picture in Charlotte young-woman-with-crown-braid Portraits in Charlotte NC

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