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Picture This:
7 Tips for Perfect Pics

Whether you're taking pictures for photo Christmas cards or everyday photo cards, we know that you want to make your pictures - the star of your card - look great. Believe it or not, when it comes to photography, knowing some simple tricks will make all the difference. And if you take better pictures, you're going to be happier with your cards!

You've already got the tough part down... you have the special people and amazing places whose pictures can make any card perfect. As far as how to take the best photos of them, Cardstore talked to professional photographers and asked for advice - here's what they said.

Change your perspective

Most "amateur" photographs are taken from the photographer's-eye level, usually standing up. Stand out and shoot like it's your job by exploring alternative camera angles... crouch down, get up above the subject or even lay flat on the ground. Doing something as simple as changing your angle can take an average image and make it dynamic and interesting.

If you're taking pictures of kids or pets, for instance, crouch down low and experiment with taking pictures from an eye-to-eye point of view. (For more tips on taking pictures of kids, take a look at this article on our blog.)

On the other hand, if you want to be the most popular photographer at the high school reunion just hold your camera about a foot over your head as you snap every picture. The simple trick of having everyone in the photo look upwards a little bit makes the extra years - and the extra chins - magically disappear!

When it comes to changing angles, there's no right or wrong. Experiment, have fun, and see what works for you.

Go steady

Who says pro tips have to be hard? You can instantly improve the quality of your pics by attaching your camera to a tripod. Or, if you don't have a tripod, use your imagination: lean on a tree, rock, table, a building - or even on someone's shoulder. In a pinch, you can pull your elbows tight into your sides to create stability. This is much easier than holding a camera up by your face and trying to hold it steady.

Having a steady shot will give you the clearest photos.

Get up close & personal

When taking portraits, it's important that the people are the focus of the picture. Make sure your subject fills the majority of the frame, and don't feel the need to include their whole body in a shot; a picture from the waist up usually works well. You don't need to center subjects in a picture, either. Get creative by posing your subject off to one side to a get a more styled look.

If you're using a camera phone, our best advice is zoom with your feet - in other words, walk closer to your subject rather than use the "digital close up" zooming feature. We all love our camera phones, and you'll be amazed at the difference that one simple trick will make in your photos.

To increase the brightness in a room, hold white pieces of poster board around your lamps to "bounce" some light back into the scene.

Turn off the flash

Take advantage of natural light as much as possible to create more interesting shots, even playing with taking pictures at different times of the day - you'd be surprised by how much more warm and flattering an early morning or evening sun can be compared to the bright shine of midday. Experiment throughout the day to find your own "magic" sunshine level; it tends to be unique for everyone.

For outdoor scenes, you can also play around with a technique called "backlighting" by shooting with the sun behind your subject. Backlighting can create a warm halo effect around a person, and sometimes add a soft sun flare.

For indoor scenes, you've got plenty of options. To increase the brightness in a room, hold white pieces of poster board around your lamps to "bounce" some light back into the scene. Or to create a softer feel in a shot, take your picture in a room with lots of windows and open your shades up all the way. Then drape a white sheet over them to diffuse the light. This diffused light technique is a great trick if you're taking pictures of a baby - just take the pics next to the window, and drape another white sheet over whatever table or chair the baby is resting on.

Come up with a game plan

When it comes to photography, a little planning can go a long way. Before you start snapping shots, spend a few minutes considering the background and color story for your photos. A busy background will compete with the person (the star of the show!) you're photographing. Stay away from bold patterns, as well as other visual distractions like light poles, trees, and people passing by in the background. Choose colors that "work" with your composition. You want to create a scene that complements your subject, not clashes with it.

This also applies to wardrobe - busy patterns and bright colors distract from people's faces. Instead, have your subject wear muted or basic colors, or subtle patterns. It never hurts to avoid baggy clothing, and aim to wear something that enhances your shape. Try layering techniques, and use jackets and blazers to subdue patterned shirts or dresses.

And as long as we're talking about what to wear... if you're posing a group shot, make sure it looks like everyone's heading to the same place! We're not talking about matching t-shirts or cheesy his-'n-her outfits, but having a woman in a cocktail dress standing next to guy in shorts and a polo shirt just doesn't work.

Limited depth-of-field can render less important parts of a picture soft and dream-like, while keeping the important parts of the picture – your main subjects – in sharp focus.

And, really, we don't mean to sound like your mother - but use that iron! Nothing will make you cringe like seeing wrinkled clothes in your family portrait.

Google your camera

If you're anything like us, you probably have no idea where your original camera manual is right now. And that's okay, because if you're reading this it means you have the power of the Internet on your side. Go ahead and search your camera model, along with the word "settings" or "icons." That will give you a great overview of what all those weird symbols mean.

Want more information on your camera's mysterious icons? Here's a link to a helpful article, which provides a quick overview of the symbols found on most digital cameras.

Once you've got the tech basics down, you can begin to play around with some of the advanced settings on your camera, especially in "Manual" mode.

For example, you can try a technique called "limited depth-of-field." Limited depth-of-field can render less important parts of a picture soft and dream-like, while keeping the important parts of the picture - your main subjects - in sharp focus. You can do this by opening your f/stop to the largest opening (which is the smallest "f/" number). Most consumer lenses have maximum f openings of f/2.8, but fixed (prime) lenses, such as some 50mm types, will open to f/1.4.

Manual mode will also let you adjust things like the shutter speed, which comes in handy if you're taking pictures of pets or other moving objects. Using the fastest shutter speed setting on your camera will help you avoid blurry shots.

Shoot, shoot, shoot!

Pro tip number seven is actually the easiest and most fun: Take as many pictures as you can! Instead of taking just one or two pictures of the scene you've set up, why not take 30 or 40? This isn't 1995, when you would have had to pay for the development and printing of 40 shots (not to mention film!). The joys of being digital is that the more pictures you take, the better your odds will be of finding that perfect shot in the batch. And taking the perfect picture for your card is what it's all about, right?

And there you have it... seven simple tricks from the pros that are guaranteed to improve your photos! And once you're ready to showcase your pics to the world, here are some awesome Cardstore photo cards:

Blank Photo Cards

Add a photo and personalize your card with an instant memory.
Shop blank photo cards >

Photo Cards

It's not just a card; it's a conversation piece. Make your favorite photo the main attraction. Shop all photo cards >

Word Bubble Cards

Create your own comic clouds. A personalized funny page for any photo. Shop word bubble cards >