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When people meet a talented photographer, you often hear them say, “He’s so gifted, he’s born with it.”

But I highly disagree. I firmly believe that we are all born with incredible creativity. And we all have the potential to create stunning images as photographers.

Photography, like any other skill, is something you learn, develop, and improve with practice. Here are 3 essential elements that will allow you to turn your images from boring snapshots to professional-looking photos:

1. Light

Without light, you have no photo.

Observing and understanding the qualities of light will help you immediately achieve better-looking photos. The direction, the intensity, and the color all play a big role in the way your images turn out.

For example, harsh midday sunlight will create strong shadows with a lot of contrast and faded colors, while early morning or late evening light (also known as the “Golden Hour”) will bathe the entire scene with a directional warm light.

These two scenes below are taken from the same spot at different times of day. Notice how much the dim warm light coming from the rising sun enhances the mood of the image.

3 tips to taking professional-looking photos

2. Composition

Composition has been used for centuries by painters and artists throughout history, and the same rules apply to photography.

Observe the scene and find your angle to really capture your subject without any distractions. Don’t be afraid to get close. And, if you think you’re close, get even closer.

I walked by these pretty flowers against a wall filled with graffiti. Just by getting very close, changing my angle, and filling the frame, I was able to create a much better image.

3 tips to taking professional-looking photos

There are also multiple compositional tools (such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, or framing, for example) that allow you to guide your viewer through your image and make them see what you want them to see.

In this example, I took a photo of the setting sun behind one of the domes of a mosque. But by walking around and finding an arch to frame the dome, I ended up with a nicer-looking image that feels more balanced.

3 tips to taking professional-looking photos

3. Processing

Photography is more than just capturing snippets of life. It’s a form of art and a way to express your creativity. We live in an era where we are flooded with images, and the only way to stand out from the crowd is to process your images and add your own personal touch.

Using Lightroom, you can enhance your images to bring out any lost details and faded colors. In this example, I shot a couple of adorable zebras at dawn, but the foreground turned out darker than what I would’ve liked.

With just a few adjustments in Lightroom, I easily created one of my best-selling photos on stock.

3 tips to taking professional-looking photos

You can even entirely alter the scene to create the image you envisioned. There are no rules and it’s definitely not cheating.

Photography doesn’t have to be difficult. By simply paying attention to the light, the composition, and adding your own touch through processing, you can create the stunning images that you’ve always envisioned.

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