How To Make Photos Look Professional: 12 Tips & Hacks

How To Make Photos Look Professional: 12 Tips & Hacks

What Is One Tip Or Hack For Making Photos Look Professional? 

To help you make your photos look professional, we asked business leaders and photography enthusiasts this question for their best tips.

From increasing saturation to trying portrait mode on smartphones, there are several hacks that may help you give your photos a professional look.

Here Are 12 Tips For Making Photos Look Professional:

  • Increase Saturation
  • Choose a Suitable Lighting Style
  • Avoid Over-editing
  • Turn Off Autofocus
  • Increase ISO and Control Flash
  • Use Good Framing and Cropping
  • Edit With Free Or Inexpensive Photo Editors
  • Soften Harsh Sunlight With Diffuser
  • Pay Attention To Your Background
  • Manipulate Scenery Using Poster Board
  • Shoot During Golden Hours
  • Try Portrait Mode On Smartphones

Increase Saturation

In a world full of dimming filters, merely adding more color is a beautiful way to enhance photos. To increase the saturation, use your phone or desktop photo editor (such as Lightroom) and simply bump it up a few notches. Your image will come to life! Just be careful not to go too far, or it will go from vibrant to excessive.

Lisha Dunlap, Chandler Gilbert Community College

Choose A Suitable Lighting Style

Choose a lighting style that suits your subject and setting. For example, if you are shooting in a public place with fluorescent lighting, you can’t change the lights but you can change your camera’s white balance to reduce the amount of blue in the image.

To do this, you’ll need to do some research to find the right white balance values for your lighting setup. Another option is to shoot with artificial light and use light modifiers like umbrellas or softboxes to control the lighting. Light modifiers help to create a more even light in your photos, which makes them look more professional.

Farhan Advani, BHPH

Avoid Over-editing

We all know that to make our photos look more professional, we should edit them or at least do some touch-ups. Making our photos sharper, brighter, or giving them a pop of color can make quite the difference. The problem is when we don’t overdo it.
An over-edited photo does the exact opposite of making them look professional. It shows that we don’t know what we’re doing or that we’re trying too hard.


The goal is to make your photos look better but still realistic and natural.

Jessica Ulloa, MyPerfectResume

Turn Off Autofocus

Sometimes we want to draw the viewer’s attention to one aspect of a subject, yet, today’s camera presets can muddle a picture by taking in the entire composition, which makes it a good idea to turn off the autofocus feature to get the professional results you desire.

A modern camera’s autofocus can be an extremely useful tool, yet sometimes it hunts or has the inability to place one aspect of a subject into focus while sending other parts to the background.

By turning off the autofocus feature, you can experiment with different angles, lighting, and lens adjustments, to create professional looking effects that bring what you want to the forefront, while at the same time deemphasizing items that can distract the viewer’s eye.

In simply relying on the human element, rather than remaining dependent on automation, you can often find the pathway to a professional quality photo.

Omid Semino, Diamond Mansion

Increase ISO and Control Flash

The best tip for making photos look professional is to turn the flash off automatically. The camera manufacturers are eager to make the flash pop up even when it gets darker.

It’s a retention tool for them; if the flash pops, the picture won’t look as good, but people won’t be blurry as the flash freezes them in place. If new photographers see pixelated photos, they will assume something is off with the camera and take it back for a refund.

Instead, you need to increase the ISO and keep the flash closed. In every camera mode without the manual one and Shutter Priority, raising your ISO will cause it to enhance the shutter speed.

Caroline Lee, CocoSign

Use Good Framing and Cropping

Using good framing and cropping can help your photos look more professional without any kind of expensive equipment or software. When taking your photos, keep in mind the rule of thirds and if you aren’t able to get the framing exactly right when taking the photo, go back and crop it down when editing.

This includes keeping the area above the head to a minimum in portraits and keeping your primary subject matter in the center of the photo unless you are intentionally trying to skew the viewers’ attention to another part of the photo.

Maegan Griffin, Skin Pharm

Edit With Free Or Inexpensive Photo Editors

There are plenty of free or inexpensive programs you can use to help make your photos look crisper and more vibrant. Depending on how many features you want, you can find more robust programs or simpler ones that are easier to learn.

GIMP is a great program that is similar to Adobe Photoshop and it’s free. Adobe also has a free online photo editor that you can use to easily create graphics and edit photos. BeFunky is another free photo editor that you can use to apply effects, texts, and fun frames.

Rachel Roff, Urban Skin Rx

Soften Harsh Sunlight With Diffuser

When shooting outside on a cloudy day, the clouds act as a giant diffuser, filtering the sun’s harsh rays as they hit your subject.

However, on a hot, sunny day, the sun’s glare can cast harsh shadows on your photos, resulting in low-quality photos. A diffuser placed close to your subject will soften the light hitting it, resulting in quality and professional photos.

Some diffusers have handles, which are ideal for portrait photography. If money is an issue, you can make your own diffuser using translucent curtains or even shower curtains.

John Tian, Mobitrix

Pay Attention To Your Background

Light painted walls (white, grey, beige) or natural office settings. If you don’t have access to any of these, go to a local cafe or co-working space.

You can try to shoot outdoors with the city behind you serving as a background. No matter which location you choose, make sure the space is tidy.

There is nothing worse than papers scattered in the corner of the photograph or a dirty plate and chocolate wrapper.

Anna Starkey, Prodio

Manipulate Scenery Using Poster Board

The surrounding scenery is an important element of photography. Many amateur photographers make the mistake of failing to manipulate the environment to suit the shot. A lackluster or busy background can distract from the subject.

You do not need an expensive professional photo backdrop to take quality pictures.

I recommend using a simple white poster board to block out unsightly backgrounds and amplify good natural lighting.

Carly Hill, Virtual Holiday Party

Shoot During Golden Hours

As a photographer with 6 years of experience, choosing the time of day to shoot your outdoor photos makes a huge difference. If you shoot during midday, the sun is strong and creates harsh shadows, which can make your subject look uneven.

I recommend shooting during golden hour, or simply the hour before sunset. During this time, the sun is softer and casts a warm glow on your subject. 

One of the best ways to make your photos stand out is to create contrast with color. You can easily do that by using a complementary color palette such as teal and orange or red and green.

These two colors are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel and create incredible contrast when used in the same photo. 

Sean Lau, LivingOutLau

Try Portrait Mode On Smartphones

Check the camera options on your smartphone for ‘portrait mode’. This gives you the blurred background effect that makes your subject ‘pop’.

It’s worth trying this mode, even for product shots or other non-portraits. It produces some pretty cool results. I’m always surprised how many people don’t realize they have this feature.

Frank Prendergast, Frank and Marci


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