The one simple thing that will improve your photos immediately

Adapted from Photography Essentials, taught by Brit Hammer.

The one simple thing that will improve your photos immediately

Creating a strong composition is that one simple thing.

Composition is a function of camera angle and framing.

Every time I photograph, these are the steps I follow to compose an image:

  1. Decide what the specific subject is
  2. Find a camera angle that shows off that specific subject
  3. Frame the image…so there are no distractions
  4. Focus

STEP 1: Decide what the specific subject is

Choose one specific thing. That means a key, not the key and the entire door. How the light shines through the pergola, not the entire sky. One specific thing.


STEP 2: Find a camera angle that shows off that one specific subject

As you learn to discern what specific part of a scene attracts your eye, begin to systematically explore the camera angles. By looking for your camera angle in a systematic way — rather than haphazardly — you’ll find that two things will improve: (1) the quality of your images and (2) your consistency getting good photos.

There are essentially three camera angles that I use because they work in most situations, from photographing people and animals to food and architecture. They are:

  1. Subject-level
  2. Top-down
  3. Bottom-up


Camera angle #1: Put your camera at subject level

The easiest thing you can do that will really improve your photography is to put your camera at the level of your subject. Remember, your eyes do not have to be at subject level — only your camera does!

These odd heights, such as floor level and table height, result in unexpected view points. They also feel very intimate. So put your camera where your subject is and capture that unexpected angle!



Camera angle #2: Top-down

When shooting top-down, you can simplify a scene and get rid of clutter. Sometimes this also creates a new way of looking at something. Either shoot straight down or at an obvious angle — between 45-90 degrees.

Shooting top-down is great for just about any subject, from people and animals to food, interiors, and still life. The top-down angle is especially useful for showing hands at work, so if you have young children, start photographing them top-down while they’re playing, coloring, or even washing their hands in the sink!

The secret to this angle is to be between 45-90 degrees above your subject.

Start shooting top-down and see what great shots you get!



Camera angle #3: Bottom-up

We’re used to looking straight out at eye level. Start looking upward — you might be surprised what you see! The secret is to make your camera angle obvious, between 45-90 degrees.

Shooting bottom-up works especially well for architecture and interiors but can also be used for photographing people, animals, decor, and food & drinks served in transparent dishes.

. . .

(This was a quick peek into the first two steps of Brit’s method to finding great images. Learn more when you sign up for Photography Essentials.)


Instructor: Brit Hammer

In Photography Essentials you’ll learn the techniques Brit uses so you can arrive at your own great images quickly and easily. With a bit of practice, they will become second nature to you!

Everything is explained simply and clearly.

We’ll work on one essential aspect at a time, broken down into parts like building blocks. By the end of the course the pieces will be put back together again so it all makes sense.

This course is for both beginners as well as experienced photographers desiring consistently great shots.


What students say about Brit’s teaching:

“I’ve taken many classes. With the way Brit taught and explained things, I finally said, ‘I get it’. She made me enjoy taking photographs.”

“I have taken quite a few courses offered by BPSOP and learned so much from each one of them. All of your teachers are stellar. Brit Hammer’s class and method of critiquing took me to another level, and I am so appreciative. The video format and her commitment and energy she puts into her students’ work is inspiring and makes you want to work that much harder to utilize her suggestions for improving your photographs.” – Patricia Tedeschi – Galarneau (Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images)

Traveling with Adobe Lightroom

Have you ever wondered how to continue editing and cataloging your images with Adobe Lightroom when you are away from home?

There is so much to think about when preparing for a photography expedition and having a secure place to upload and edit your images is as important as your shooting locations and what cameras and lenses to bring.

What about traveling with a laptop? What about bringing external drives?

As a photographic workshop leader, I prefer to travel light. I have enough to bring with me without worrying about my laptop getting damaged in a wet, cold or damp environment.

 Traveling with a laptop

Here are a few ideas

You can use your media cards as an option for back up. Many cameras have 2 media card slots which will make duplicates of your images on a matching memory card.

You will be secure in the knowledge that your media cards are backed up, but it doesn’t allow you to edit or view your pictures at a reasonable size while you traveling. Many cameras now have wi-fi capabilities. You would then have the ability to upload your photos to your phone or pad, but it may not allow transfer of RAW or high resolution images to use while editing. Double check your camera’s instruction manual for more information on wi-fi.

It’s important to keep your Lightroom organization simple and that is why in my Lightroom classes I tell my students to only have one Lightroom catalog. The only exception to this rule would be if you were traveling with Lightroom classic and a laptop. Then you would create a separate catalog for your trip and then merge that catalog with the original upon return. But, as I mentioned, this method requires you to travel with a laptop. I believe I have discovered an easier way.

using Lightroom when Traveling

Adobe’s Photographers Plan

The method of storing your photos that I am going to explain requires a subscription with the Adobe Photographers Plan. If you already have a subscription, they will allow you to upgrade your storage to 1tb for an additional $5 per month. This will allow you plenty of storage in the cloud to use while  you are traveling. With this plan, you get both Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC, and Photoshop as well as the Lightroom mobile.

The upgrade to the photographers plan is hidden on the Adobe site. Adobe doesn’t make this offer very obvious, and you need to dig a little after clicking on “manage your plan”. Scroll all the way through all of Adobe’s offerings and you will find it.

With Lightroom Mobil on your pad or phone, you can upload your pictures directly to Lightroom and do some basic editing. The editing in Lightroom CC (or Lightroom Mobil) is not as comprehensive as Lightroom Classic, but it’s enough to get you through while you are traveling.

Once you upload your images to your pad of phone in Lightroom mobil, your full resolution images will then get synced to the cloud as long as you have a strong internet connection. The only caveat here is that you need to be sure you have enough storage with Adobe. The regular photographer’s plan with Adobe only comes with 20GB of storage, so if you have a 32GB media card, you would need to upgrade your storage to the plan mentioned above.

How to Upload Your Images

It’s a simple process to upload your digital media to your pad or your phone. I use a dongle that connects to my iPad and iPhone. Once you are connected, the photos app will show an import tab that you tap on to import your pictures to your pad. (Be sure to have enough space on your pad to upload these files.) You can then select the images you would like to import into your camera roll. Once they are on your camera roll, you can import into Lightroom directly.

Once the images have been uploaded to Lightroom, you can choose to either erase the images on your pad or phone, or use that as an additional backup for your images.

If you are connected to wi-fi, Lightroom will send the full resolution images to the Cloud, safely storing your images for you until you return home.

This process will allow me to preview my images, do some minor editing and use the high quality digital images from my DSLR to use for social media.

Once you open Lightroom Classic upon your return, those images will be automatically imported to your hard drive and Lightroom Classic. Pretty cool, right!

You will need to tell Lightroom Classic in the preferences where to store the uploaded images. It’s a great way to not only back up images while traveling, but allows you to edit and organize on the road. Make sure to reorganize the location of the images when you return.

If this sounds like something you would like to try and need some assistance, please feel free to reach out with questions. I believe it will be a game changer for you as well.

In my Lightroom Quick Start class, I cover the basic tools so that you can use Lightroom as your go-to editing and organizational tool. This 4-week class covers the basics that will get you up and running quickly in an efficient way. Try our next Lightroom class and learn to use the essential program for editing and organization.

If you are interested in learning more about iPhone photography and Adobe Lightroom take one of my classes on these subjects right here at BPSOP!

BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo

Reach Holly by email at [email protected] and read her blog at:

Holly Teaches:

Lightroom Quickstart


Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.

iPhone Photography
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way. You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.

Just One Helpful Critique

If I had to limit my comments to just one helpful critique to amateur photographers world-wide, it would be this; “Quit focusing on the ‘story’, and instead focus on the exclamation point!”

Too often, the compositions of amateur photographers include far far too much stuff, and in the process, that ONE THING that was the cause of their visual excitement to begin with, gets reduced to a whisper, having to now share the compositional stage with many other voices competing for the viewer’s attention.
When we make a concerted effort to compose ONLY that one thing, it’s as if we are placing an emphasis only on the exclamation point, sentence be damned.
And you know what? That’s a great habit to get into!!!

Both of these images (2nd image below) are all about a hand-picked bouquet of yellow flowers, yet only the vertical composition clearly conveys that bouquet in the loudest voice. Move closer and/or change lenses, but start getting into the habit of exclaiming your excitement by composing ONLY the exclamation point!

You Keep Shooting,

-BPSOP Founder – Bryan F Peterson

Bryan Teaches:

Understanding Exposure & Your DSLR

Understanding Color, Seeing Color & Composing Color

Understanding Close-Up Photography

Mastering Nikon Flash Photography

The Art of Seeing

Understanding Composition

Quick Photo Tip: Photographing Kids and Dogs Together

I don’t know about you, but the two hardest things I’ve ever had to photograph are kids and dogs, and photographing both together can be problematic.

It’s stressful enough when you’re shooting for a client whose paying you a lot of money to deliver the goods, but when you’re shooting just for the family album, the level of anxiety goes way over the top!!! Self-medicating is one way to overcome the angst, and especially any misgivings as to why you accepted the challenge in the first place; even a self imposed challenge can occasionally strain the nervous system.

Sure, any fast acting Benzodiazepines such as: Valium, Xanax, Klonopin or Ativan would probably do the trick, but for those photographers that would rather take a healthier more organic approach, I’ve got just the thing for you. It’s very simple and over the counter.

First, I figure out where I want to shoot. Not just the location, but where I want to stand in relation to the sun to get the right light; whether it’s side or back light . Then I shoot several frames without anyone in it to get the proper exposure. The odds are that I probably won’t get more than one shot, or be able to bracket before whatever it is that happens doesn’t ever happen again.

Once I’m satisfied with the exposure, I place the kids and dogs exactly where I took the readings, and let them do whatever it is that kids and dogs do without direction from me. I’ve found that over the years, trying to give any direction is very close to being a pure waste of time. The best I would be able to do is have their attention for a couple of minutes before they’re done with me.

What I’m basically doing is to set it up as best I can and then shoot more of a reportage style and creating the illusion that I just got lucky.

In my online class with the BPSOP, I always get at least one photo of a grandkid and or their dog…or both. Two things I suggest to them for submitting a photo filled with frustration: One, to pay the kid something. After all you are taking up his time so why not offer to give him/her something. The pay scale will obviously depend on their age, for example a young grandchild that now understands what money is and can do, a quarter or two might work; maybe even a dollar. As they get older the pay increases porportionally. Try offering a middle school or a teenager a quarter and see what happens!!!

Two, the dog is somewhat easier, a treat will usually do the trick…at any age.

In my next post I’ll talk about my fellow photographers that sign up for one of my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops, and how to photographic kids and dogs while traveling.

-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II

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