Photo Tip – Composing Your Photos

Rule of Thirds – The easiest compostional form to use!

I’ve loved teaching photography over the years and through different venues like Wake Tech, NC State’s Technology Training Solutions division, and my own business. We like sharing some nuggets on the blog occasionally and all of these tips come from the boat loads of course content that we’ve developed over the years and that we will eventually incorporate into online courses! For more info, check out our photography training page here and enjoy the tip!

The rule of thirds is the easiest compositional form / rule to use because you can almost always use it regardless of the image you’re photographing!

First, let’s back up and define composition. Composition is simply the arrangement of elements in an image to make it more pleasing.

You almost always have a primary subject in an image. This is the main focal point or dominant subject in the composition. Most people naturally put this primary subject in the dead center of the image frame. While this can work some of the time, it usually doesn’t create very much impact and makes the image somewhat static. Try placing your primary subject off center and on one of the 4 power points in the frame (see diagram below). These 4 power points are areas in the frame where subjects will have the most impact from a compositional standpoint. Also (big tip here) when you have a horizon line in an image, put the horizon on one of the two horizontal third lines. If you want to emphasize the the sky, put it on the bottom third line, and if your image has more to emphasize in the foreground, put the horizon line on the top third line. Notice how in the lighthouse image below the horizon line is on the bottom third line and the lighthouse is on the left vertical third line. When you put your horizon line in the middle, it cuts the frame in half and divides the image. Give this a try and see how much it helps improve your images and happy shooting!


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Giving Back

Up at 5:00am on a frigid February morning, packing photography gear to drive an hour away, to photograph outside for 10 hours, and all for free.

Why would we do that? I’m glad you asked. We do that because it’s an honor and the least we can do to give back a little and be able to serve the veterans who serve and sacrifice so much for us.

We had an absolute blast photographing with a team of amature & professional photographers, for our 3rd year in a row photographing for Enduring Gratitude. You can learn more about them & what they do by clicking on the link, but I do want to share a few take aways from my perspective. My dad served full time and reserves in some capacity for 42 years so I’ve always had an appreciation for military service, but it’s so great to be able to give back to the vets a little and be able to do something for them. Two common themes I noticed throughout the day were humility and sevice. The combat wounded Green Beret key note speaker, who’s rousing speach was about how we should never stop serving, whether you are military or not, retired or not, was worth the price of admission alone.

We enjoy being able to give back, especially to those who have given so much for us.

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The volunteer dog handlers for the pheasant hunt.

The volunteer dog handlers for the pheasant hunt.


Time to eat!

Time to eat!


Mr. Louis, A WW2 Vet still knocking down clays at 92.

Mr. Louis, A WW2 Vet still knocking down clays at 92.

Mr. Louis, A 92 yr old WW2 vet that comes out every year. Such a treasure and I count myself lucky to have gotten the chance to chat with him, this year and last.

Mr. Louis, A 92 yr old WW2 vet that comes out every year. Such a treasure and I count myself lucky to have gotten the chance to chat with him, this year and last.

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Something a Little Different

We had a unique request from a past family portrait client to photograph some images of their twin daughters recently. The girls are both top notch gymnast and they needed some high quality images for their gymnastics websites for college recruiters to see. We secured the gym for early one morning, planned the shoot with the clients, discussing all the different shots they would need, and then we brought all the right lighting equipment we needed, and then had a blast photographing two great gymnast!

It’s always fun to get outside of your “box” and do something different and creative that stretches and challenges you! The clients loved the images and so did the girls. Oh and so did we! We certainly don’t specialize in sports photography, but love photographing creative projects like this for clients, so let us know what we can photograph for you!

Also, big thanks to the Raleigh School of Gymnastics for letting us use the gym!

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Business Portraits for Real Estate Team

I recently had the pleasure of photographing these professional images for this new husband and wife real estate team. Christine needed a head shot for her new business cards and they needed some images together for marketing pieces they’re working on. I love being able to create high quality professional images that help our clients grow their business! Win-win! You can check them out or connect with them over at InTrust Realty.

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Recent Senior Portrait Session

We’re going with “rustically casual” to describe this look. Not sure if that’s a real term, but I like it and the client loved the images, so that’s all that counts, right?

This was a fun but bitter sweet shoot for us, because this was the last of the Morgan children. We’ve had the honor and pleasure of photographing senior portraits for 3 out of 4 (missed the oldest) of the family’s children in their senior year of high school, and it’s been so much fun seeing them all grow through the years and move on to the next stages in life.

This senior portrait session was photographed in December, believe it or not. We have a great little rustic fence that used to be part of a horse pasture, and the quality and direction of the late afternoon sunlight, along with the evergreen pines, make it perfect for outdoor portraits year round.

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Check out our senior portait page here for more examples and info and contact us here for more information.


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Head Shot for College Portfolio?

We recently had a unique head shot request from a high school senior that was applying to college. She needed a professional portfolio head shot for her application to the theatrical program at Elon. We’ve done lots of acting portfolio head shots as well as professional head shots for grad students applying to med school etc, but haven’t been asked to create a professional head shot for undergrad application before, but it makes sense given the program she is applying for. Just goes to show that professional head shot images are more important than ever now a days. Contact us here if we can help you with yours.

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Home For The Holidays Family Portraits

We just recently booked a couple of family portrait sessions that we’ll be photographing over the holidays this year, while our clients have family in town. This got me thinking about some of my favorite memories of family and the holidays. Growing up, one of my favorite holiday traditions was “Thanksgiving at aunt Joanne’s”. Lots of fun stories and memories of hunting, the best home cooked country food ever, and a bunch of crazy fun relatives cutting up down in the country. Even then I always tried to wrangle everyone together for a rough group photo out on the front porch before everyone left. Check out “aunt Joanne’s” crowd below, circa 1995.

Joannes 1995

I also realize lots of people may not think of Thanksgiving or Christmas in terms of a great time to have a family portrait created, but for many families, it’s the only time of year when the extended family is all together at one time and place. We have been fortunate over the years to have the opportunity to photograph for lots of families over the holidays and capture beautiful family portraits that mom and dad get enjoy on their wall all year long! Sometimes the older children may be the ones contacting us and they want to surprise the parents with a nice wall portrait of the whole family, or sometimes it’s the parents calling. Either way, our holiday family portraits are usually some of the most fun and memorable sessions we photograph for families.

Even if you don’t have us create a nice family portrait for your family this year, at least be that annoying person (like I was) that makes everyone pose for the group snap shot. Those images will only grow more valuable over time as you lose family members and your kids get older…



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Commercial Photo Featured On Magazine Cover

One of our commerical photography images was recently selected for the very first cover of Aspired Home magazine. We were of course flattered and even more excited to learn that the image came in third in their international competition.

Aspired Home is an international real estate staging, home decor lifestyle magazine with Bobbie McGrath, of Successful Staging, a local staging expert, on staff as the technical staging editor. We work closely with Bobbie photographing many of the premier homes in the area that she stages for one of the areas top residential real estate firms – InTrust Realty. We always love working with Bobbie because she works closely with the homeowners to successfully stage their homes to sell! The homes she’s staged always look fantastic and magazine ready when we come in to photograph. Bobbie always tells us that our high quality professional images really make her work shine, so it’s a great partnership that helps Lee Goldstein and his team at InTrust Realty get their clients’ homes sold fast!

Raleigh Commercial Photography Magazine Cover

Celebrating a new pastor!

We recently had the privilege of meeting and photographing a new pastor and his wife. They came to our studio for a custom couple and pastoral portrait session. Their excitement and enthusiasm for their new journey was contagious. They will be celebrating his Installation as Senior Pastor with a church wide celebration. Congratulations to Pastor Brinkley and his wife as they begin serving at the Now Faith Community Baptist Church in Knightdale, NC!
This is one of the many reasons we love the photography business, getting to meet new people and celebrating the exciting events of their lives. Thanks for allowing us to be a part of your celebration!
Update: Since initially writing this, Mrs. Brinkley came by to pick up the 30″ custom framed wall portrait of her husband and when we showed her the portrait she started crying immediately. She was so proud of him and excited about his installation as the new pastor, and loved the portrait so much that she said she couldn’t help it. 🙂 We don’t intentionally try to make clients cry, but take it as a huge compliment when they show that much emotion when they see the finished portrait. Good stuff!
If you want to find out more about our portrait sessions, feel free to contact us here, or simply call us at 919 850-0492.
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3 Tips for Better Group & Family Photos This Summer

Family Portraits Raleigh







I love summer time because there are just more opportunities to get toether and do things with the people we love! And we all love taking group photos when we’re together with family & friends, whether it’s with our phone cameras and other type cameras. Well, here’s a few tips on how to get the most out of those group and family snap shot photos you take this summer.

  1. Lighting. Yes, in photography it’s all about lighting, in case you haven’t heard. This comes before backgrounds or anything else.
    • For outdoor photos, the absolute best natural lighting will come from indirect sunlight, or open sky. This creates the best large natural light source and beautiful catchlights in the eyes. It really opens up the iris for better color in the eyes also without having to squint like you do from direct sun.
    • If you can position the subjects so that the indirect light is coming from above at roughly 45 degrees and in front of the subject, it will look the best. You can do this by having buildings, trees or something blocking the open sky on all but the front side of the subject. A great example of this is using a building overhang and put your subjects just a few feet behind the edge of the roof line. This will force the light from the sky to be more directional and hit the subjects at an angle vs straight down from overhead.
    • In general the larger the light source, the better the quality of light will be.
    • Inside, you can use a large window with indirect light coming through it for your light source.
    • Also, as a general place to start, if your light source is 45 degrees above and to the side of the subject, you will get nice directional lighting that will create some shadows for depth & dimension. Of course there’s a lot more to good lighting, but these are a few tips that should get you on the path to a well lit photo.
  2. Background. Most phone cameras have a fixed wide angle lens and because of the camera design and sensor proximity to the lens, you can’t get blurry or out of focus backgrounds like you can with DSLR cameras. This makes it even more critical to find a pleasing background since it will be in focus and any distracting elements will show up.
    • Finding solid color backgrounds or with as little pattern as possible will help minimize background distraction
    • Background lighting – If you can find a background that has less light on it than your foreground subjects, this will also help minimize background distraction. This is tricky though, because you don’t want the background more than 1-2 stops (times) darker than the subjects.
    • If you want to take it even one step further, find a background with a color or tone that works with the subjects’ clothing tones or is at least complimentary (remember the color wheel?
  3. Posing. Yep, this is the tricky part. Group posing is the hardest because the goal is to get every individual posed so that they can stand alone and still look good without the group.
    • Body types – The subjects closer to the camera will appear larger, so have larger people in the back and smaller thinner people in the front. This will minimize apparent body size.
    • Geometry – In groups, it’s all about head positioning. In general you don’t want all the heads on the same horizontal plane. Try to create diamonds or triangles with head positions. If you have a really large group, you should have multiple geometric patterns within the larger group.
    • Females – Have females stand with their weight on their back foot and front leg bent slightly. This creates nice subtle curves in the posing lines. Also, have females turn at an angle to the camera to appear thinner.
    • Males – For males, posing should incorporate strong geometric shapes with right angles, hard lines etc. You typically want males straight on to the camera as well, so they look more broad shouldered (in most cases).
    • I guess we can consider expressions part of posing. Have an idea of what expressions should be so that they’re all consistent at the very least. There’s a lot to expressions as well, but this is where you can get creative and have some fun too.

Alright, so now your equipped with a little more info for creating some great group and family portraits this summer. Have fun, get creative and create some great images to preserve those important moments, but most importantly make sure you enjoy the time with your friends or family this summer!

For more info on family portraits check out our family portrait page here or contact us here. 

Family Portraits Raleigh








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