DIY Photoshoot Tips

How to achieve the perfect shot and create photos worth framing

With the amazing cameras we now carry around at all times, it's easier than ever to record almost every aspect of life.

But for certain occasions like weddings, graduations, engagements, family portraits, end of season team photos, birth announcements and other key milestones, snapping a basic shot with no thinking or planning just won't cut it. These moments may only come around once, so taking the best possible photo is crucial.

Hiring a professional photographer is a great way to capture these precious times in our lives. But budget constraints can mean that using a pro isn’t always possible, as rates generally average around $183 per hour and can go up above $300.

Below, we provide some background on hiring professional photographers based on their experience or the occasion. Following that, our experts reveal how you can pull off a DIY photoshoot on a budget, to achieve professional-looking (and frameworthy!) shots with just your smartphone.

How much do professional photographers charge?

Here's a breakdown of average hourly rates based on the experience of the photographer. These can vary by region, and some photographers may charge a minimum or bill for additional expenses.


Hourly Rate (USD)







Top Professional


Student photographers are the cheapest to hire, averaging around $75 an hour, while top professionals charge around $345 on average.

Top professional photographers have more experience and skills to take the perfect photograph and will typically have more advanced camera equipment compared to those starting out. This means they naturally have higher operating costs and can charge more for their services than students who often use the opportunity to build up their portfolios and gain experience.

But for those on a tight budget, even $75 an hour can quickly add up, especially for events that take longer to shoot.

How much to hire a photographer for key events?

Type of Photography or Event

Average Cost (USD)

Wedding Photographer


Maternity Photography


Event Photography


Birth, Baby and Newborn Photography


Engagement Photography


Family Photo Shoot


Pet Photography




Graduation Photoshoot


Prom Photography


At an average cost of $4,375, wedding photography is the most expensive photo shoot due to the work that goes into capturing the best photos for a couple’s big day.

Photographers have to meet with clients to discuss shot lists, scope out the venue beforehand, work a full day at the wedding, and then spend days editing their photos into the perfect album. This expense can be worth it, and when the results are good it usually results in couples framing their wedding photos.

The Pinnacle - Custom collage picture frame layout

Engagement photography lands in the middle of the list, at an average of $325 per event. While it might not seem as important as capturing candid moments on your big day, engagement photographers are typically experienced professionals who take time and effort to scout out the perfect romantic location, ensuring the photos align with their client’s wishes.

Graduation photography is near the bottom of the list, costing you $200 per event. Graduation shoots are cheaper as the sessions are generally shorter than other events, usually lasting around two hours. This means photographers can schedule several sessions in a day and charge less. Students also have lower budgets for graduation, or can rely on photographers hired by the school.

Your Guide to DIY Photo Shoots

The skills, knowledge and equipment of a professional photographer are extremely valuable in capturing your special moments and memories. However, when paired with the other costs associated with some of these once-in-a-lifetime events, it's not always an affordable option.

When you decide to go the DIY route or you are looking for photoshoot ideas at home, it doesn't mean you have to miss out on great photos. You may even be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars in the process.

Let's talk about on achieving the perfect DIY photoshoot with your smartphone.

With so many settings and adjustments to choose from, it can be difficult to figure out where to start - especially if you want to get your photos just right to commemorate a special occasion.

With this in mind, here are some tips to help you get the best out of your DIY or home photoshoot using just your phone’s camera:

Adjust your camera settings

Most smartphones will adjust their settings automatically, but to capture the perfect shot, you’ll need to get comfortable setting some key settings yourself.

Start by turning on the gridlines feature. This will help you create more balanced images according to the ‘rule of thirds’. This widely used photographic technique splits an image into a three-by-three grid. It’s then easier to create well-composed images by positioning the most important parts along the gridlines, drawing in the eye in and making the shot look more dynamic.

Adding gridlines to your iPhone camera in Settings

Manually adjusting your exposure settings can also achieve a more professional-looking shot.

Just tap on the menu arrow to show your exposure level, and adjust the brightness in order to avoid photos looking under or overexposed. It’s worth taking a few test shots to gauge the right level for your shoot location, bearing in mind that this might change if you move somewhere else.

With most smartphones, you can set the focus point by tapping your phone screen on the object within the viewfinder you want to focus on (e.g. someone's face), adjusting the blur level in the background in the process.

You can also experiment with your smartphone’s depth of field using features like portrait mode, which can make your subject stand out against a blurred background.

Pick the right backdrop

A good backdrop can make or break a photo and mean the difference between a standard camera roll photo and a more frame-worthy shot. The first step in picking a fitting backdrop for your home or DIY photoshoot is considering the theme and whether it best suits an outdoor or indoor shot.

If you stay indoors, you could use a blank wall to make your subject stand out or a charming piece of furniture to frame stationary shots. Having too much clutter in the background can be distracting and make the shot look messy.

If you’re heading outdoors, try to find a wall that has some character, or a scenic landscape like a park or field to act as your backdrop and make your shots more interesting. Experiment with creative angles like setting up above or below your subject.

You’ll want to avoid unsightly background elements, like trash cans, cars, and passersby, who could ruin the shot.

Although if a great shot was unexpectedly photo-bombed, or you notice something later that you want to remove, there are ways to edit things out. Android phones have had a 'Magic Eraser' feature for quite some time, and Apple announced the introduction of something similar for iPhones at WWDC24.

Find the light

Using natural light whenever possible is the best way to ensure the images from your DIY photoshoot look as good as possible.

Natural light is often the most flattering and offers plenty of versatility. Try scheduling your photoshoot just before sunset, as the sunlight is softest during the ‘golden hour’.

If you are doing a home photoshoot indoors, avoid shooting your subject under harsh artificial lighting and try not to position yourself so your smartphone camera is pointed directly at the light source. This will help prevent any unpleasant highlights or shadows distracting from your shot.

Remember to shoot from lots of different angles, experimenting with the light to find the most flattering camera position.

Pick your poses

Before starting, think about how your poses will affect the shot's composition.

Remember the rule of thirds and try to keep your shots symmetrical. You should also position your subjects away from the background to create depth, and can try shots with your subject in motion to produce candid moments. Just be careful to avoid moving too fast and blurring the photo.

Which poses you decide on will depend on the nature of the photoshoot, but a good rule of thumb for full body shots is for your subject to experiment with angles, such as tilting their head, bending their legs or holding an item in your hand. Try to create interest in the shot and avoid any stiff, awkward-looking stances.

Edit your photos

Once you’re happy with your DIY photoshoot, you can use your phone to make some basic adjustments you might have missed. Start by cropping your photos to improve the composition or remove unwanted elements.

You can then adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, and exposure to get the overall feel of your image just right. Smartphones have preset filters, which you can experiment with to get the right look quickly, but it’s best to adjust these settings individually to get the best results.

With these manual settings you can also sharpen or soften your image depending on the look you’re going for, or adjust the colors to make them pop. Remember to experiment with your edits and save your favorites to your camera roll.

For more advanced editing, many apps like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom have free trials to use to your advantage. You can use the tools these apps offer to get rid of any unwanted details like people in the background or stray hairs, which take the focus away.

The type of photo you want to achieve will also depend on the memory you’re trying to capture, so here are some tips and at home photoshoot ideas:


  • Take headshots against a plain background, like a painted wall. The solid color will help you stand out as the image's focal point.
  • Use bright lighting to avoid unsightly shadows. If you don’t have plenty of natural light, position some lights in front of you for a perfectly lit shot.
  • Set the correct distance. The perfect distance for a headshot is around two to three feet away, so position your camera close and avoid zooming in.

Family portraits

  • Plan your poses. Getting kids to sit still for a long time can be very difficult, so have an idea of the poses you’d like to try rather than figuring it out as you go.
  • Kids will inevitably move around when you’re trying to take a family portrait. If your camera can take bursts of photos, use this setting to capture candid, playful shots.
  • Consider investing in a tripod so you can step back from the camera and help your family adjust their poses, or use the timer to jump in the photo yourself.


  • Take a mix of active and static shots. While taking formal, highly-posed shots might be tempting, graduation is a celebration, so make sure you also take plenty of action shots to capture the mood.
  • Rather than shooting solely in front of a plain background, use important relevant places as backdrops - if the campus has a picturesque building or lush green space, you can use it to add character to your photos.
  • Get your friends and family involved. Graduation is a celebration for everyone, so take some family portraits and group shots with friends to capture the happiness of the occasion.

Capturing and editing the perfect photo can be a challenge, but when you get it right you can immortalize special memories.

You can keep the shots on your phone or share on social media, but the best way to preserve those precious moments is to print and frame them for longer-lasting enjoyment. And over time, you can build out a gallery wall of your best moments and milestones.

We hope these tips help you snap a truly frame-worthy photo that can take pride of place hanging in your home!