I've had a lot of requests to share to some picture-taking tips with everyone, and while I'm no professional, I'd be happy to share some of my "techniques" with you!
As much as I would love to take my camera out and leisurely shoot just the right pictures for my "photo sessions", life just doesn't allow me that time, so I usually only have about a 5-10 minutes to get the pictures I want. Especially since my subject is often a little antsy :o) But there are a couple of tricks that I use that make sure I get the photos I want within that tiny time frame!
1: Always take photos in outdoor lighting! A cloudy day is best, to avoid shadows. If it's sunny outside, try to take your photo in the shade somewhere.
2: Use a good background! I use a large white mat board for most of my projects. I haul it around everywhere, and I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm insane :o) You could also try a white sheet, pretty papers, nature, use your imagination! Just make sure that you can see your subject clearly.
3: Get creative with your photo. You don't want your subject to always be centered! Play around with different angles, fun backgrounds, or out of the ordinary staging! I love to see a model with a fancy, frilly dresses in an alley, or kids doing funny poses. Try to find the most interesting area around you to take your photo in.
4: (my favorite) Photo-editing programs. So important. As you can see in this first daylight photo further down, sometimes having outdoor lighting isn't enough! I use iPhoto and Photoshop quite a lot for cropping, adjusting the exposure, and color temperature, but if you don't have access to those, I've heard great things about Picnik, which is a free online photo-editing site!
"Look what I made..."
"Look what I made!!!!" :o)
And lastly, when you're photographing the little punkins, it's best to have some chocolate chips on hand for bribery :o)
If you're participating in the contest, remember: presentation is everything!! So get the best photos you can!