A Lost Feather Photography: 10 Tips


So, lately I've been getting some really sweet comments on my photography style (thank you!) This means a lot to me as I studied fine art photo in college, but had some difficult times that lead me to put down my camera for a couple of years. These days I'm never without my camera and it feels right.

Since photography is such a huge part of the blogging world (and people have expressed interest in this..) I decided to dedicate a post to going over some of the things I keep in mind while I'm out shooting.. but first..

!! Important part:
All of my example photos in this post were taken with my point-and-shoot. A high-end camera does not make a good photographer. The camera is just the tool.. exactly the same way a paintbrush is a tool to a painter. It's how you use that tool! I say this because I want you to know that you can take good, quality photographs with your point-and-shoot, blackberry, iPhone, or whatever you're using!

...To be fair, yes- a better camera will allow us to attain better results, or why would we shell out the big bucks for our fancy cameras? But, that does not mean that you can't make beautiful art with your point-and-shoot, even if you think it's not a good one. 

Ok let's get started then.

10 Things I LOVE to see in a Photograph (followed by how to achieve them)
1. A subject anywhere but dead center
2. A horizon line that is anywhere but dead center
3. A perfectly straight horizon line (unless the horizon is not actually straight!)
4. An obviously, purposefully slanted horizon line
5. Long Shadows
6. A path (a visually suggested path, or an actual path)
7. A crop that makes sense
8. Interesting, but not distracting backgrounds
9. Bright light that is part of the composition
10. An unusual angle 

Explanations and How-Tos:

1. A subject anywhere but dead center:
To make a composition more visually appealing the first quick-fix you can try is putting your subject off to the side. This is especially useful if you're shooting in a scenic spot and want to show more of the background to give viewers a feel for where you are. Strategically placing your subject can transform your image from a snapshot into a thoughtful photograph.

Matt at Bonticou Crag, NY; 2010

2. A horizon line that is anywhere but dead center:
Imagine shooting a sunset over the ocean. (um, or a cloudy sky over an open road) The sky is going to be more interesting than the ocean at that point. Try shooting with the horizon line in the lower third of your shot. Since the sky is more interesting, you want to show more of it. On a hazy day with no action going on in the sky, try putting the horizon line in the top quarter of your shot.. whatever is going on, on the ground will surely be more interesting than a plain grey sky.

Open Road in Texas, 2008

3. A perfectly straight horizon line: (unless the horizon is not actually straight!)
So, you're back at the ocean again. The horizon line is perfectly straight (well with a bit of a curve since we know the earth is not flat, but anyway..) make sure it's straight in your photo. A viewer most likely won't think to themselves "look at that amazing straight horizon line," but they might be distracted by an ever so slightly slanted line. This get's more difficult when you're shooting a subject in front of the ocean because you'll be paying more attention to that object- Don't forget about what's going on in the background!

Self Portrait + Matt; Bayside, NY; 2011

4. An obviously, purposefully slanted horizon line:
Slightly crooked horizon lines can be distracting, but purposefully slanted lines can make for an interesting composition.

Self portrait (sort of) + Alexi; Breakneck Ridge, NY; 2009

5. Long Shadows: 
Long shadows can be achieved very easily! Shoot early in the morning or later in the afternoon. This time of day that produces long shadows and soft tones is lovingly referred to by many photographers as "the golden hour." Shooting at this time will give you some soft shadows and tones as opposed to shooting at noon which will give you a high contrast shot. Not to say you should never shoot at noon! (or that I don't) but try out the golden hour, I think you'll like it.

Long Beach, CA; 2008

6. A path: (a visually suggested path, or an actual path)
At the end of my high school career my fellow photo students and I sat around the classroom with our teacher and discussed each of our "trademark" styles.. what made it obvious to my peers that a photograph was taken by me? My "thing" (we determined) was paths. Almost all of my photos have some sort of path. Sometimes it's an actual walking path that meanders its way through the image and sometimes it's more of a suggested path. A subject's gaze looking towards a corner of the frame forms a path.. that's one example of what I mean by a "suggested" path. Paths add to the composition.. I especially love when they start and end off the frame.. leaves the viewer wondering where the path came from and where it will take you.

New Mexico, 2008

7. A crop that makes sense:
Say you're photographing your friend taking a walk with their dog. Cutting off certain body parts is distracting. For example: at the ankle, (where's that foot?) at the wrist, high on the neck. Just be conscious of where you are cropping.

Another way to apply this thought: If your subject is gazing off into the distance and their gaze is looking to the right, crop your image so that your subject is standing on the left side. This can help create the "path" I spoke about in #6. Give that subject some space to gaze at.

Boo Radley, 2008

8. Interesting, but not distracting backgrounds:
You're uploading your photos and you're so happy with everything about the photo you took of your sister and her boyfriend.. except it looks like a tree is growing out of your sister's head! Generally, we can't control what's going on in the background of our photos when we're out in nature, but you can control where you put your subject, or at least the angle you shoot it. Look through your viewfinder, does anything look awkward in the background? If so, then change your angle or move your subject.

Mel, Cruise Ship in the Atlantic; 2009

9. Bright light that is part of the composition:
On really sunny days you find yourself squinting because of the amount of light that's hitting you and maybe some glare off the water at the beach. I love to see that extreme light in a photograph. It's there right? So why try to get it out of the shot. Usually, we try to have the sun behind us as photographers, but try shooting into the sun for this effect. Now, how to get it to show up in your photo.. focus your camera low on the ground without any sky in the frame, but don't take the shot. Before you press down to take the shot, raise your camera to whatever it is you want to capture and then finish the shot. This might take some practice, but it's an easy way to trick your point-and-shoot into giving you a more washed out image (since a point-and-shoot will want to give you the "right" (most even) exposure, sometimes it needs to be tricked.)

Manhattan (Tea at the Plaza), 2011

10. An unusual angle
If your photographing your dog, crouch down on the ground to see the world from his level. Photographing a tree? Try standing right next to the trunk and look up. Try to think of a new way to photograph something you snap all the time. One Christmas I got a funny cheepy little "pet" cam. I put it on Boo's collar and got some hilarious shots of what he saw during the day. Hm. I need to find those!

Park in town, photographed from under the tree, 2011
I really enjoyed putting this together.. I hope it's helpful!

Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments! If there are enough questions I'll write an additional photography post, otherwise I'll respond individually later this week.

It's now 2:30am. I know I said I'd post this "tomorrow" as in May 9th, but I haven't gone to sleep yet, so although it is now May 10th, I didn't lie, right? Right. Good night!


  1. I would love to see what Boo saw!
    I've actually wanted to find a camera I could attach to Scooter. I'm curious about how he sees his world.

  2. WOW! This is an incredible post!
    Just a few tips and it will change how I take photos! Super interesting!

    THANK YOU! You're such an angel for sharing!

    Much love, Bailey from Vanilla Blonde

  3. Woow what an amazing pics! and great post!


  4. yes very helpful tips! :) and loove golden hour

  5. Great tips, thank you :)
    I also agree, a great camera does not make a great photographer.

  6. Wow, such great tips! I want to go practice them all. I have become very interested in photography and love helpful advice like this. And your pictures are always gorgeous.

  7. Oo this was a great read!!! All of your pictures here look awesome. I definitely need some tips haha. I've always been interested in photography but I don't really know anything, sadly. This was really helpful! I was also thinking of purchasing one of those "For Dummies" for my specific camera haha.

  8. This was awesome, enjoyed reading it. I've got a few ideas now for when my new camera comes in! :) :) :)

  9. you did an amazing job with this post sarah! your tips are really helpful and your photos are gorgeous <3 i'm excited to go out and shoot now!

  10. Really nice post about composition. Well explained and perfectly clear.

    To me photography is about 90% eye and 10% technique (and in that 10% I include gear, photography techniques and post-processing techniques). To me what matters is having the artistic eye to find that thing that might seem ordinary, capture it and make it look "wow".


  11. Such amazing tips! Thank you! After reading this post, photography doesn't seem too scary to me :) I enjoyed reading everything and looking at your awesome pictures!

  12. thanks for the great tips! i love all your pictures!

  13. LOVE this! SO SO much!!! :) Thank you for this AWESOME post! I'm having a giveaway over on my blog and would LOVE It if you entered!!!

  14. These are great tips!!! THanks soo much!!

    Recipes Fashion Marriage

  15. I will keep all your tips in mind when I go to Colorado next weekend. Hopefully I won't let you down! :)

  16. Thanks for your nice comments on my blog!

    And yes, I can appreciate very well from your pictures that you LOVE Hike as well :) it's so fun, specially if you go with a good company, don't you think? :)
    Besides I like SO MUCH your top10 things you like in a photo. Very useful.



  17. Love the tips!
    Your pictures are really beautiful


  18. This was a great post. Thanks so much for sharing.

  19. Gorgeous pictures and funny what your talking about!

  20. I love your tips!! :)
    I'm with you on tip #10. I love shooting from under a tree.

    I took my camera into the shop a week ago because I was getting little black dots in my photos. I was able to photoshop them but it was such a pain! Has this ever happened to you? The guy at the camera shop said this was a common problem and to change my lens in a place where there isn't so much dust. Now I know!

    Also, my bf and I decided to go to San Francisco in late August. We're about half way done saving up for it :) And we're going to Yosemite right after (since it's only a 3 hour drive from there.) I'm really excited!

  21. I do love your photography. The colors are kind of dreamy and film-like.

  22. thank you! I can't wait to start trying some of these tricks!

  23. Wow I so need those tips, I hate my photos... I got a professional camera and thought it would do it all for me, but no... I still have lots to learn! Thank you for sharing the tips, you are a great photographer!

    Hugs & kisses from Rio!

  24. I started reading your blog when you did a guest post for Sidney at The Daybook. I love your style, and these are some great tips!

  25. I love this post! Great tips. I'm still struggling to find the golden hour... is it just before sunset?

  26. excellent tips! I think my favs are your little dog friend and that last one. Nice post!


  27. Hahaha I love your disclaimer :P

    And thank you so much for the tips! I'm definitely keeping them in mind :)

  28. fantastic tips! i'll be sure to implement some of these in my next photoshoot! =)


  29. I love to shoot during the " golden hour" hehehe
    I seriously have learned so much by this simple blog post! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
    I will take note on all the tips =)

  30. goodness I wish i had a nice camera! I'm so jealous of how awesome you are.

  31. All of your pictures are just lovely! I have never taken a photography class and really just learn everything by trial and error. But these tips are definitely helpful. I am going to have to try and incorporate them the next time I shoot pictures. xx

  32. Great tips!

    You have a great blog and I wondering if you want to follow each other

    My Lyfe ; My Story

  33. Thanks so much for stopping by my page and commenting. I appreciate very much :-)

    P.S. Great tips for shooting! I'll have to try some of these.

    Hugs from NY!


  34. great post girl! love them all!


  35. Hi Sarah, sent you an email to alostfeather@gmail.com.. Have you received it? Not sure if it's current since I received an error message. If not, where can I send it to?

  36. HAHA I loled at your comment about the credit card being stuck in the wallet. That happens to me all the time! My nails are never long enough to get it out and it gets lost deep inside. Same thing happens with my license, so when I get carded at bars, they think I'm just stalling because I don't have ID.... even though I do haha.

    I'm going to invent a wallet with an eject button. So cards can just shoot out on demand.

  37. wow! really breath taking. Love the first one!!
    I'm your newest follower..

  38. do photographers consciously think about these things or do they come naturally for you?

  39. Great post, thank you for these tips!

  40. Great tips! I really need to work on my skills now and I'm really excited. Is Boo your dog? He is really cute too! Also, my favorite picture is all the boats sitting in the dock all calm.

  41. opps I meant to comment as the bronson's,not my hubby haha

  42. hey there! great post, really helpful! I found you via #FF from Lisa...glad I did, I am your latest follower...I feel like you have so much great stuff tucked away here I can't wait to keep exploring your blog! :)

  43. Great list! Thanks for sharing your tips.

  44. This is really good..but the creepy part is I have a picture exactly like the New Mexico one. And mine was taken in '08 too! Haha I just thought that was a creepy coincidence.