It’s Okay to Cut off Heads and other Photography Tips

Local photographer Casey Bender Butler and I spent a pleasant afternoon sipping beverages at the Dells’ Bella Goose and talking about how best to capture the precious and powerful moments in our life. She’s happy to share some of her secrets.

  • It’s okay to cut off heads to try attention to what’s important. Experiment with focusing in on the subject’s bare feet, for example. I saw an example of a photo Casey had taken of the lower half of a young girl sitting on a pier. Her reflection in the water revealed more of the story. Casey also has a powerful photo of a child’s expressive mouth as she marvels at a resting dragonfly. 
  • Don’t be afraid to shoot the imperfect. Don’t clean a child’s face and risk losing the joy when she savors another bite of her first birthday cake. Casey tells the story of photographing her daughter blowing on a puffy dandelion. Her daughter radiated childhood joy and innocence, but after a few shots, Casey didn’t like her scraggly hair or outfit. So, she dressed her daughter in a pretty pink dress, curled her hair, and brought her back to that same spot. But the “cleaned up” image lacked the earlier sparkle. Imperfection can make a shot memorable. 
  • When taking selfies, Casey suggests positioning yourself so the light is on your face. Don’t forget the closest image to the camera will be the biggest, so if you want to capture Grandma on her birthday, have her in front.
  • Posing like a stiff board doesn’t make for flattering or interesting photos. Casey prefers candid shots, but during staged ones, she suggests “If it bends, bend it.” Get your subjects to relax, possibly place their hand on their hip, and soften their knees. Taking a step back (not forward) can make a person look thinner. Casey demonstrated, and I could see a difference.
  • One of my favorite “Casey photos” is of four subjects, some in the foreground, others in the background. Shooting in “layers” gives dimension. My eye delighted in circling from the first to the last, and I could form my own story of who these people were and what they were enjoying at that moment in time. 
  • Take note the next time you’re shooting outside. Bright sunlight during the middle of the day washes out color. Sunset with its soft golden light and long shadows not only helps create mood but avoids the harsh, contrasty light and shadows of shooting in full sun.

When the lighting, location, the way people are dressed, and genuine emotion come together, that’s magic. During a photo shoot, Casey often recognizes the shot that will stand out. Using her tips will help our pictures stand out as well. Her Facebook page shows her skill, including the photo of her and her family displayed in her banner. Casey is also a gifted writer. Her business card says, “I paint pictures with words and write stories with images. What’s Your Superpower?” Check out herFacebook page at

One Reply to “It’s Okay to Cut off Heads and other Photography Tips”

Gayle Rosengren

Interesting and informative, Amy. I’m going to be taking a step backward when being photographed from now on!

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