How to Take Aesthetic Photos

Hey Everyone! I currently have a new mission of trying to put up the best Instagram photos possible. I have been doing a ton of research and playing around with lots of pics and would like to share my findings with you so you can take better photos too! 

Photography is very much a personal thing so if you don’t like any of my tips, not to worry, keep doing your thing. I only hope to inspire. There are many simple ways to enhance a photograph if you are just aware of a few photo concepts. And since we are all using our smartphones these days, I will share some tips that I have learned for taking photos with phones.

First and Foremost: Lighting

Lighting is super important for any photo and natural lighting usually produces the best results. Using a flash can desaturate your colors or flatten the photo so I always try to avoid using the flash. The best way to ensure you have good lighting is to pick the best time of day to shoot your pics. Dawn and dusk are the golden hours for those easy breezy shots that just look natural and amazing with no editing.

Aesthetic beach photo with soft lighting

Another really good time for natural lighting is on a cloudy day. It sounds odd, but when the clouds are out the light is all around and even. If you do edit your photos after, it is easy to make the colors you want to pop, pop! 

Clouds make the photos a bit more balanced instead of being overexposed by the sun. Photos actually tend to come out a little better when underexposed since it’s easy to brighten them up with some editing.

Next: Composition

An easy way to get good composition is abiding by the Rule of Thirds. Have you guys heard of this one? The rule of thirds is a timeless rule in photography. I remember learning this one in my middle school photography class from Miss Wynn. Yep, that one is drilled into my head. 

For those of you that aren’t aware, basically, you divide your shot into a 3 x 3 grid. (Pro tip: your phone will actually put this grid on your photo screen for you if you turn the setting on. Super helpful). 

Now that you have your grid, you put your subject in one of the boxes (or one of the sections of three boxes) and this will help to create a flow for the eye to follow. I was taught to pick a corner box for the best effect, but have since seen pictures with the subject directly in the center that came out beautifully. This will help engage the viewer. Check it out!

Aesthetic tree photo using rule of thirds

Also, Consider Perspective.

Try to think outside of the box when picking an angle to shoot your photo from. Anyone can take a photo from eye-level. You want your photos to stand out, so make the viewer have to take a second look to think about where you took the shot from. 

Play around with some different angles: various angles of a static subject or peculiar viewpoints of different subjects. Even if you don’t get any winning photos from trying this, trust me, you will have had fun trying!

Here are some easy methods to try: shoot from a high vantage point looking down, try a picture lying on the ground shooting forward, shoot a photo looking directly up, or try some macro (close-up) shots. You can also try shooting a subject with diverse backgrounds. You will get more creative with your perspective when you start experimenting. 

aesthetic photo of the beach

Explore with Depth and Leading Lines

Depth is having something in the foreground (right in the front of the photo) in focus, something in the midground, and then another element out on the horizon (possibly out of focus). This will give the viewer a lot to look at and give their eye a path to follow through the photo. 

Leading lines are another great element to help the viewer follow the photo to a focal point. It can be executed by using natural elements in the photo, like trees or lines on a road, to lead the viewer’s eyes to the main subject. Leading lines can also add motion to your photo and make the viewer feel like they are there in some cases. 

photo of tree and truck

Also, Consider Some Don’ts

When using your iPhone or smartphone camera, it is important to not use the digital zoom on the phone, as it can lead to a grainy photo. It can also crop out some necessary elements that you may have found helpful to draw the viewer’s eye in and around the photo. You can always crop after. 

I have said this already, but avoid using a flash as it typically washes out your background and there is nothing you can do in editing to get it back. 

Also, avoid snapping fifty photos without looking at any of them. I have learned to review every couple of photos or so, which will save time in the long run. By viewing during my photoshoot I can see if there is an element that is not pleasing to the eye or perhaps there is some element in the shot that I need to incorporate more fully. In our smartphone world, we often take rapid-fire pictures and don’t check to see if we “got the shot”. Slow down and take your time.

Don’t get stuck trying to be too trendy on Instagram that you forget to keep your creativity and style. If you succumb to posting photos like everyone else’s Instagram, why would people want to look at yours?

Another Element: Editing. 

Editing is a very personal thing. Some people like to take an ordinary photo and put ten filters on it, add contrast, and decrease saturation. That’s great, there is an emotion there. That’s your style. Others seek out photos with natural lighting and no filters. Again, another style. 

I want to help you take aesthetic photos, how you want to edit them, to me, is very personal. I like to seek out a more natural look for my photos, with natural lighting, minimal filters, and minimal cropping. This takes a bit longer to get a good shot, but I feel as though I am more accurately capturing “the vibe.” 

I am not perfect and have absolutely taken a picture on my iPhone that is 99% perfect, but I need to touch up one part before sending it out into the world wide web. If you do want to use some editing platforms, I have explored some of the options for such occasions. 

Firstly, the editing in the Instagram app has actually gotten much better, so if you’re not looking for much, it’s an easy win. Lightroom is one that is easy to use and has basic editing tools. VSCO is one that is used by professionals and can be used to edit photos from your actual camera. TouchRetouch is a good one for editing out blemishes and touching up certain parts of a photo. I won’t bombard you with photo editing apps as there are about one million, but another one that is easy and versatile is Afterlight. This one has 59 filters, 66 textures, and an extensive cropping tool.

Get Out There, Get Creative!

I could really go on for days about how to take aesthetic pictures, but what you really need to do is get out there and practice yourself. Play around with your camera settings, your editing, and your perspective. You will have so much fun and get more creative when you start playing around! I have had the best time since I have started exploring the skills to make me a better photographer. And honestly, you can do all of this from your smartphone so there is no excuse not to get out there!

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