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I just want some beautiful photos without spending a fortune!

Is that what you think to yourself when you want family portraits, stock photos or just some Instagram-worthy images? I would cringe as I searched for local photographers whose packages started at $150 (a steal) and upwards; and when I looked into the cost of Photoshop, I realized I would be way underutilizing it (not to mention the steep learning curve)!

I’ve been learning photography since high school starting in the 11th grade when I learned how to use a 35mm film camera and even develop my own film, it was glorious.

Nowadays there are so many cool programs you can use with just your smartphone. All you need to know is how to use your camera and simple editing tools to your advantage!

You don’t need a fancy camera to take super fancy photos!

Try these tips and tools to make brilliant photos for your social media, site or wherever else!

I’m excited to share some little tidbits with you to help you create really pro-looking photos without spending a fortune, if anything! These short tips just brush the surface of what’s possible, but it’s a good starting point!

1. Set yourself up for success: Consider the scene’s foreground and background. Unlike painting a picture where you have to add to the canvas, photography is all about what you can exclude from your “canvas” in order to focus on the subject. Moving your camera’s view just a bit more to the left could completely change the dynamic of your photo.

2. Focus: Your subject doesn’t have to be right in the middle of the frame, but they should always be the focus. Some easy photography techniques to produce a unique photo that bring focus to your subject are:

Framing- Use things in the foreground to “frame” the subject. One of my favorite frames are always trees and other plant life!

Texture- Contrasting textures is a great way to make the subject “pop.” Imagine a woman in a flowy red dress in a dry, cracked desert.

Lines- Draw the eye of the viewer into your subject with natural lines. For example, roads/pathways, fences, moving water…

3. The platform: If you know where you’re going to be putting your photo, consider the dimensions that will look best while you’re taking the picture, and try to set the scene appropriately. For example, should it be square for Instagram, portrait length for Facebook or horizontal for Youtube thumbnails?

(Tip: You can search the perfect dimensions on Google, or use PicMonkey and choose a template in the perfect size for your platform!)

4. Lighting: The lighting of your photo will determine how it “feels,” so consider what you’re going for.

Natural overcast lighting is probably the best overall lighting situation, especially for large subject areas like in group photos.

An alternative for an outdoor shot is to find a spot of shade for your subject(s) to sit/stand in, with a beam of sunlight either in front of or behind them.

Beams of light create different moods, like light coming from below your face makes it seem scary, where light coming from above your head makes you appear angelic.

5. Editing: This is the last secret ingredient that can completely transform your pictures!

Although there are a billion and one editing techniques, here are the two things I tweak the most often to transform my phone photos: Exposure and color. The main changes I make in exposure are brightness and contrast- usually I will increase both, but sometimes you need to lower the brightness instead. For color I often lower the saturation- this makes things (especially people) look less orange as phones tend to do, and closer to the natural (or at least desired) original shade of color.

 There are many awesome smartphone apps you can use to edit your photos, but my favorite is PicsArt. With it, you can adjust exposure and colors, do a shape crop or free crop, which is great for removing backgrounds, along with a bunch of other amazing features like instantly fitting your image into a square for Instagram. 

My favorite desktop editing tool is PicMonkey. It is very user friendly, and super intuitive. Like, you can create an image and then edit a copy of it and tweak it to get two separate images (this makes Pinning so easy)! You can also keep all your images in the “Hub” and access them on any device! 

Like PicsArt you can make the basic adjustments to exposure and color. Then there are some totally unique features, like the texture feature. I absolutely using it to fill in text or graphics with instead of a plain color. Another one of my favorite Picmonkey features is being able to have a transparent background, rather than manually erasing the background.

I felt like a pro using Picmonkey right off the bat thanks to Suzi’s awesome PicMonkey mini-course! Suzi dives even deeper into Picmonkey’s abilities, and how you can use touch up features to transform your bland phone pictures into bright, beautiful images that POP!

To prove just how well these techniques work, check out these “stock photos” I took on my smartphone.


Just look at these before & after shots! With just a few clicks, they were transformed!


Would you believe I took them all while shopping at Dollarama? That’s right. And I didn’t spend a cent! Well, ok, I did end up buying an adorable cactus notebook that says “can’t touch this.” How could I resist? Read the rest of that fun story in this blog post!

I hope you found these little photography tips helpful! Do you have another suggestion of techniques or software you love? Or, have a question for me? Leave a comment below this post!

If this article & Suzi’s course helped you out, I’d love to see your beautiful photos. Share them with me on Facebook!

Thanks for reading!