From smart phones to high-end digital cameras, these days it seems that photography has turned into a click-n-go process.

But a great photograph, whether snapped on a Polaroid camera or a Nikon digital SLR, freezes a moment in time, brings it into focus and tells a story brimming with imagery and emotion. Capturing an image at the perfect moment with the right perspective, however, takes more than instinct and a fancy camera. The First Coast has no shortage of settings to take gorgeous photos. And with a little knowledge, snapshots become photographs, and photographs become art.

As a constantly evolving shutterbug myself, I recognize I can learn more about my device and the mechanics of deliberately capturing that perfect image versus snapping away with the hope that I catch the shot. With self-improvement in mind, I recently took a lesson with Ana Kamiar, a teacher at the Art Institute of Jacksonville and private instructor.

“I see people who want to take a great photo, but they don’t know what the constraints are,” says Kamiar. “Let’s step it up and learn what [photography] is.”

Kamiar and I met at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters in Riverside, where we sipped curry-infused lattes and talked about what inspires her as a photographer, and she gave me a guided tutorial in the tricks of the trade. After 90 minutes of chatting, shooting with my digital camera in the café’s garden and learning photo-processing tricks on the computer, I saw how I could make small changes to what I was already doing behind the lens and on the laptop to improve my techniques with family portraits, photojournalism and even posting on Instagram.

Here are some tips that any home photographer can use to build her skill set and help transform memorable moments into pictures worth 1,000 words.

Take photographs not pictures

Slow down. Take time to organize the chaos of a scene and be deliberate in what you capture.

Consider the entire photographic frame

Don’t simply center your object and shoot away. Look at what’s on either side, in the foreground and background of your subject. And when photographing a landscape, like distant mountains, try putting something in the foreground to add interest and scale. Photographers often ignore the space around the subject, but that space helps create tension.

Consider shadows and reflections

Be aware of the light source in the scene and where it’s coming from. Think about how reflections and shadows interact with the subject. Sometimes a shadow can appear heavier in a photo than in real life.

Try different angles

Play with vantage points, positioning the camera high and low. Especially when photographing children or animals, sit on the ground or kneel to get on their level.

Editing photos 

Photo editing can turn a bad image into a wonderful photograph. Use editing software, like Photoshop, to create drama with cropping, color enhancing and changing exposure. For smart phones, download a photo-processing app or filters.

Break the rules

Don’t get overwhelmed by following too many rules. Have fun.

For more information about private lessons with Ana Kamiar visit Project LightWorks on Facebook