7 Rules of Thumb for Taking Compelling Photos


Photos serve as the backbone for compelling blog posts. For fashion blogs, they can make or break a site's popularity and community. Some of the most well-known names in the fashion bloggersphere work with professional or hobby photographers to produce the editorial-quality photos that have launched careers for them. But what about those of us who don't have consistent access to professional photographers?

Sure, there are a wide range of DSLRs, point & shoots, smartphones with great camera quality in addition to photo apps, accessories and filters. Just because there's a lot to work with doesn't necessarily mean it's that much easier to capture the shots that get noticed. Patience, practice and a basic understanding of photo composition/design rules of thumb will help your photos pop that much more. Whether they're being posted on your blog or on your social media feed, keep these in mind next time you're shooting for standout photos.

Rule of thirds

You know that grid that you can add to your screen when taking a photo on your camera and/or phone? Put them to good use! The grid makes it much easier to stick to the ‘rule of thirds' – with your image lined up along the grid's horizontal and vertical lines, and focal points lined up at the intersections of the grid lines.


This could probably be an article on its own! Paying attention to lighting is so important in taking great photos. Sometimes it's as simple as facing a certain way, or as complex as using shadows, light rays and reflections to add drama to a photo. If there is one pro to living in the Pacific Northwest, it's that the constant clouds actually make for awesome lighting – not too harsh like sun rays tend to do, and not too dull or dark. In any case, when you're taking photos, make sure to use lighting to your advantage, and adjust your position accordingly.


Everyone's got their ‘good side' or ‘signature pose', right? Similar to lighting, knowing which angles play up your best features is key to taking great photos. I'm 5'1″, so any help I can get to look a bit taller is something I'm interested in. I feel like I'm always thinking through the different parts of my body as I'm getting photos taken. Making sure my shoulders aren't slouching, that they're not hunched up around my ears, that my posture's good, that my neck is elongated, the way I'm standing, how I'm smiling – I can go on forever! This is forever a work in progress, and something to constantly be experimenting with. No one wants to see the same pose in the same stance for 10 photos, in every blog post!


Paying attention to photo ‘composition' means giving thought to every part of the image, not just what you're wearing or the products featured in it. What does the background look like, and is it something that's both interesting but not distracting from the focal point? It amazes me how many well-intentioned outfit selfies reveal a messy bedroom or a toilet in the background. Pay some mind to finding a decent background to shoot in front of. Need some ideas? Check out these 10!

Focal point

I've mentioned this a couple of times, but every photo should absolutely have a focal point for viewers to center on. It's not always going to ‘be' in the center of the photo – and that's what makes it all the more interesting. Refer to your rule of thirds and angles to feature the focal point in the best way possible. Sometimes that means the photo will have one interesting angle up close versus getting a shot of an entire outfit.


It's so alluring to apply all the filters just because there's so many fun ones to choose from. The best photos have very little filtering, if any at all. Instead, take advantage of photo editing tools to enhance the unfiltered image. Up the exposure level to make lighting in the photo a bit brighter. Use the tint and temperature tools to create a mood in your photo with color. Crop the photo so your focal point is aligned in your rule of thirds. Filter and edit very discriminatively!

Have (take lots of) options

This almost goes without saying, but to find the right/best possible photos, you have to have a lot to choose from. So get snap happy! Try all of your different angles, lighting options, backgrounds and use your rule of thirds to highlight interesting focal points. Thanks to the digital age, we can keep what we want and delete all the rest.

Any other tips for creating really great photos?

[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]

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11 Responses

  1. Josie

    I could use some tips! I’m 4’8″ so my legs always look so stubby and short in photos, when I’m actually really skinny in person. I also have a square face, so my face always looks huge, when it’s really not! Agh! What should I do???

  2. SavageGazelle

    Such a timely post. I have recently been experimenting with more “selfies” in direct competition with my youngest sister who continuously takes fabulous ones. lol Great tips and I totally agree on taking LOTS of pictures. Its like being on set, the camera is snapping away and you’ll know after several “frames” if you have SOMETHING to work with.

  3. Munachi

    Thanks for this post. As a new blogger photography is one of my biggest struggles. Do you have any tips for interesting and compelling photos that are not of yourself? Most of content is text based and even though I want my blogs focus to be on what I’m writing I’d like to have attractive images to go along with each post rather than the simple/dull photos I use now.

  4. Munachi

    Thanks for this post. As a new blogger,
    photography is one of my biggest struggles. Do you have any tips for interesting and compelling photos that are not of yourself? Most of my content is text based and even though I want my blog’s focus to be on what I’m writing about, I’d like to have attractive images to go along with each post rather than the simple/dull photos I use now.

  5. Julie

    Amazing tips!
    I love the look of filtered photos but I am guilty of filter overload! I’m trying to cut back and just edit to enhance. I’ve lessened my filter use by about 50%.


  6. Blonde Bias

    I think doing a lighting article could be really helpful. I studied film and while there are some differences, it is always good to have a three-point lighting option that you can access. You will want a “key” light, which is what you are looking into straight on; a “fill” light, which is to the side of the subject (this will also create some shadows, adding dimension); and then a back light, which can be tricky to hide the source of but will keep you from blending into your background and when done very well, can give you that professional halo look.

    Perhaps I will write a post about lighting myself and show examples!

  7. Royal Bazzar

    Jess Estrada, I think you are really expert in your field. I really appreciate your article which elaborate some basic and fundamental area of interest. Anyways you can also check my latest design in pakistan in Royal Bazzar

  8. XO Style Stalker

    It takes me at least 30 minutes to take outfit photos. But I just love the look of a perfectly focused hand with rings, and natural light looks beautiful. Plus I just invested in a tripod, which is probably necessary, so my photos have been looking amazing.

  9. Marbles

    Thanks for the great post! I’m very shy in front of the camera and also don’t have someone whom I can really on to regularly take photos of me. So I’ve combined both of these problems and found the solution: taking the pics of myself using a timer on my camera.

    As something to try, I set up some seamless paper in my room so I wouldn’t have to worry about backdrop or about public photos where I would feel really awkward.

    I’m worried that the photos are coming out cheesy and forced. It seems like the fact that they aren’t professional is highlighted by the fact that I have a professional looking background and in the end my photos kind of look like they were taken at one of those mall places.

    I’d love to get your feedback and thoughts!

    Thanks in advance for your help!