Simple Tips for Taking Better Pictures of your Family (or Anything!)

by Dariela Cruz on February 9, 2011 · 17 comments

in guest-posts

Photography by Dariela Cruz

I’m currently on maternity leave: The following is a guest post by Dariela Cruz.

Do you feel that you have a great camera, but your pictures don’t come out as well as you want? If you feel that your pictures are not showing well what you remember in real life or if you would simply like to improve your skills in taking pictures, then these tips are for you! I have compiled eight tips to help you preserve those memories.

8 Simple Tips for Taking Better Pictures

1. Any Camera Will Do

Now that DSLR cameras (Digital Single Lens Reflex) are more affordable for non-professionals, I have noticed there is a lot of want for that type of camera. People might think, “If I have that camera, I will have better pictures.” And the answer is NO. A great part of the result of a photo lies in the photographer and not only on the camera. Sure the camera helps, but there are plenty of great point-and-shoot cameras with lots of functions that can help you take a great picture too.

2. Always, Always, Always Bring the Camera Wherever you Go!

You never know when you will have a great photo opportunity. Sometimes I have told myself: “I don’t need to bring my camera. I don’t think I will have time to take any pictures or it will be a horrible place.” Well, I was wrong! And I have regretted it very much because there I was with a great photo opportunity and no camera.

3. Avoid Using the Flash

Using Natural Light

Flash makes pictures look less natural. It adds deep shadows and highly contrasted areas so, as an example, faces look very harsh. Always, always turn off the flash, even if you are using the camera on automatic. Keep in mind that if you are in a place where there is less light and do not use the flash, once you press the shutter button, the camera may take longer to take the picture and the picture will look blurry if you move the camera just a bit.  What you can try to do is support yourself in a way that you move the minimum while taking the picture, or if you have a table or a counter where you can place the camera, that will help as well. Of course, if you own a tripod, use it!

4. Read your Camera’s User Manual

Believe it or not, your camera’s user manual is where you can learn the most of how to use your camera, as well as basic principles of photography. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but most of us don’t like to read manuals and go straight to use the product, since most products are built very user-friendly these days. But take this tip seriously. Always experiment with the camera modes, the exposure, and the zoom until you feel comfortable with your own equipment and, most importantly, until you feel you know your camera.

5. Use the Camera Controls, Especially the ISO Setting

Learn about ALL the controls your camera has. If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, try to use the functions for sports, macro, and so on. All cameras have an ISO setting; this controls the camera’s sensitivity for light. If you are out on a very sunny day, use a lower ISO (100 for example). If you are taking a picture of a still object, a low ISO will also work. If you are taking pictures of moving objects or people – like kids, a lower ISO (400 or 800) will be much better. This will allow the shutter to go quicker and the objects won’t appear blurry.

6. Pay Attention to the Background

Many times we look at our subject while taking a picture and forget about the background. Later we realize that there was a horrible trash can or lots of people in the background, making the picture busy and unpleasant. So, be aware that the background plays a huge role in your photo and remember to look at everything in the frame you are photographing. This also applies when you are taking pictures of people. If you are including their complete bodies, don’t cut off the feet or a hand on the side; include ALL of it, sometimes a cut-off foot just doesn’t look right.

7. Take a Picture from a Different Angle

Try Getting Close for Your Picture

After you took the picture that you were taking, stop and redo it! Just for fun, get close to the subject, get further away, place the camera on the ground or stand on something high and look down! These are just a few examples. The point is to experiment taking the picture from a different point of view. The good thing about digital cameras is that you can take lots of pictures and discard the bad ones easily, so take risks when you take pictures – it will be worth it!

8. Edit your Pictures

Edit your Photos and Try to Play with Colors

You don’t need a professional photo editing software for this; you can use the software that sometimes come with cameras. iPhoto, Photoshop Elements, or Picasa are good too. But, it really helps when you put in that little extra time to edit your photos. Some simple edits you can always do are:

  • Adjust contrast: Try to make the picture brighter with deeper shadows. Using the auto adjust feature is always helpful too.
  • Crop: Sometimes a little cropping goes a long way.
  • Play with colors: Maybe turn the photo into a black and white photo or use sepia tones? Depending on the picture, this might look great!

Don’t worry if you can’t follow all of these tips. If you start at least with a couple, I guarantee you will notice a difference in your pictures really quickly. Have fun, and remember that the latest camera might have amazing features and controls, but a huge part of a nice picture is a skilled photographer!

Dariela is a graphic designer and a mom that has a strong passion for photography and enjoys living life. You can see more of her pictures on her blog,, as well as on her Flickr page.

All photos courtesy of Dariela Cruz.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Naturalmente Mamá February 9, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Great Tips!! The last one I’ve never tried!! I’m afraid to mess up! I have Photoshop Elements so let’s see what I can do..


modernmami February 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

The good thing is that you can keep your original and work from a copy to make edits, in case you mess up! 😉 Good luck.


Latinaish February 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Excellent tips, Dariela! I do all these things and last year when you suggested taking photos from the ground I got one of my favorite shots of my kids ever. Gracias!


Luis Tobon February 9, 2011 at 11:57 pm

For kids, it is better to get to their eye level or lower. I don’t like shooting down at kids, or anybody for that matter. It makes people look smaller and kind of odd.


modernmami February 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I’ve still got to try this, but I too enjoyed Dariela’s tips!


Run DMT February 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Really great tips here!


modernmami February 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Glad you enjoyed them!


Luis Tobon February 9, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I have one of those fancy DSLR cameras, well 2 actually, and these are great tips. It really doesn’t matter if you have the most expensive camera out there, it is wether or not you know how to take a picture. I love shooting from odd angles and sometimes get the best shots this way.

A note on number 5 though. When the ISO is set at 400 or 800, the shutter stays open longer. These settings are best for low light situations and may sometimes require a tripod or monopod. If the camera is moved ever so slightly, the picture may come out blurred. I am just now getting more comfortable while shooting at night but I just need to remember to set the camera on something to make sure it does not move.

For pictures of kids, you should be able to use most settings but there are exceptions. If the kids and people are running around, you can try using the “sports” setting and follow them through the viewfinder. Or it may be easier to just ask them to stop for a second for a picture.

Totally agree with number 3! I hate using flash. I love shooting outdoors and using natural light. When shooting indoors, I usually get this yellowish tint if there is not enough light.

I hope I don’t come off looking like a jerk with my comments. I am just sharing my experiences and hope it does some good for somebody.



modernmami February 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm

No worries Luis! Thank you for the additional input and tips. 🙂


Anonymous February 12, 2011 at 12:17 am

Not at all Luis. That note on #5 is a good one! We do have to be aware that the shutter will be slower once the ISO is higher (depending on light!). It might get complicated to understand with so many details but the important thing is to PLAY with this setting and the more you play with them the more you’ll learn! Thanks so much for your comment!!


Susan Payton February 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Great tips! I do have to disagree with you, Dariela. I used a simple digital camera for years, lusting after a better DSLR. I got my Nikon D5000 and the quality of the photos is amazing. Still, you can take great pics with a regular camera. Even my phone takes great shots sometimes!


modernmami February 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Congrats on the new camera! 🙂


Anonymous February 12, 2011 at 12:20 am

Yes, the quality is better on a DSLR but I you never know, you might have a great eye as a photographer! Many people have DSLRs and the photos don’t look like it! You got an excellent camera!


RachelFerrucci February 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Great tips! I’m guilty for not reading my manual and hitting the pavement running. I guess practice makes perfect with everything. Starting to pay more attention to detail will be my goal this week.


modernmami February 15, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I never read manuals either! *shame on me* 😉


Ouidad Blog March 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Great tips! I especially agree with your first tip. It’s not about the camera, but more about the photographer. A fancy camera doesn’t help if you don’t know how to take pictures. First practice photography before investing in an expensive camera.

Katie for Ouidad


modernmami March 2, 2011 at 2:14 am

Excellent advice!


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