8 Tips for Taking Amazing Photos

Are you a good photographer? I’d love to be able to take truly beautiful shots of our family and everyday moments. Inspired to up our game, we set out to get some expert advice. Here, food and lifestyle photographer Marte Marie Forsberg, who teaches two amazing Skillshare classes, shares eight things to keep in mind behind the lens…

First, you should know: One really great way to study photography is through Skillshare, the online learning community of more than 3,000 classes on tons of creative topics, including food, design and writing. Photography is one of Skillshare’s biggest categories — they have nearly 800 classes — and you can take them whenever and wherever you want. The instructors are fantastic.

Here are Marte’s tips:

1. Get really close. One of the easiest ways to pump up the impact of your photos is by playing around with proximity, Marte says, especially when you’re shooting people or animals. “The closer you get, the more you’ll heighten the intimacy and emotional bond between your subject and the viewer. They’ll feel like they can’t look away.” A very close photo can even show more than real life. “All sorts of details come to the surface in close-ups that you’d totally miss with your ‘normal’ eye.”

2. Use Vermeer’s light. You can take a great photo in many kinds of light, but perfecting your technique in natural light is a great place to start, Marte says. When shooting indoors, Marte loves to use light streaming through a north-facing window, in particular, because it’s indirect and soft. (Vermeer famously painted his 17th-century masterpieces in a studio lit by a north-facing window.) “Northern light has a cool, blue tone, which is a beautiful natural color that sinks into every aspect of your photos,” she explained. “It’s also very easy to work with if you’re using an editing app later.”

3. Keep your eyes peeled. The best camera is the one you always have with you. Plus, “iPhone photos are making the cover of news magazines now; you could shoot an entire cookbook with one if you wanted to,” says Marte. She also recommends exploring without your camera in hand at first, which helps you see more creatively. “If I’m doing a travel story, I make sure to walk around a lot before I even take my camera out,” she says.

4. Get crazy with composition. It’s human instinct to put the subject in the middle of the frame, but it’s often more interesting not to. “Whatever you do, try to experiment beyond centering,” Marte advises. For a still life, she recommends placing low items in the foreground and taller items in the background, or making good use of negative space. “You don’t have to fill your whole frame with stuff,” she says. “You can insinuate a great story with just half a teacup.”

5. Go to a museum. “We’re bombarded by beautiful images online,” Marte says, “But sometimes you can just scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll…” She believes anyone who’s getting into photography should browse physical art books or visit galleries and museums, in addition to Instagram and Pinterest. “Getting back to basics and feeling the pages in your hand or seeing images in an art space slows you down and inspires new ideas.” And you don’t have to limit your art appreciation to photography. “Light, composition and all the essentials are captured in great paintings, too.”

6. Hit the floor. Don’t be afraid to stand on a table or climb a tree so you can shoot from above, or flop on the grass so you can get down on the level of your subject. “When you move your body, all of a sudden you see the scene through dramatically fresh eyes,” says Marte. Also, keep in mind: The best picture might be behind you. “If I see something beautiful, I always turn around,” she says. Imagine a gorgeous sunset, when you might see a pack of people lined up for the classic Instagram shot. “The next time that happens, turn around and look at what the sunset is shining on,” says Marte. “That’s the money shot.”

7. Edit, edit, edit. Marte believes 50% of a photo’s success is created before editing and 50% is created after. She recommends the VSCO app for making your photos even more beautiful. She always darkens and sharpens images to add contrast. “You don’t need to be afraid of tinkering in photography,” she says. “It isn’t a new thing. When the great Ansel Adams was developing his film by hand almost 100 years ago, he would enhance shadows and light.”

8. Print your photos. “Taking images from the digital world into the real world feels so good,” says Marte, “And the process of selecting the best ones for printing will help you shoot better photos later.” Some easy sources: Social Print Studio for quick, inexpensive Instagram prints; and Costco, for the best ratio of value to quality.

8 Tips for Taking Amazing Photos

8 Tips for Taking Amazing Photos


Thanks, Marte! Find her classes on Skillshare here. We also loved the documentary photography class taught by Ami Vitale, a shooter for National Geographic, and Dan Rubin’s class on editing with apps.

Bonus for all readers: Skillshare is offering Cup of Jo readers three months of unlimited classes for $0.99, if you sign up by May 31st. Go here to sign up. It always feels so good to learn something new. (Their cooking classes are great, too.)

Also, would you ever want to teach a class? Skillshare is always looking for new teachers. Learn more here. Thank you so much, Skillshare!

(Photos by Marte Marie Forsberg. This post is sponsored by Skillshare, an awesome online learning community. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)