photo tips

18 Simple Photography Tips for Beginners: What NOT To Do

women with camera on yellow background

Photography can be overwhelming and frustrating when you are first starting to take it seriously.

So many rules, so many things to think about and so many mistakes to make.

You wouldn’t believe some of the terrible pictures I took at the beginning (I hope they aren’t out there somewhere)!

A couple of weeks ago, I shared 14 Simple Photography Tips for Beginners.

I hope that post has helped you know what things you can do to improve your photography.

But today, I want to go the opposite track — what not to do!

Kinda like the old show What Not To Wear. Do you remember that show?

If I can help you avoid some of the common mistakes in photography, hopefully it will get you to where you want to be faster.

So let’s get started.

18 Simple Photography Tips for Beginners: What NOT To Do

1. Don’t spray and pray.

Spray and pray is a photography technique where you take a ton of pictures of a situation and hope that one or two come out good.

This has grown popular since the digital age allows us to take almost an unlimited amount of photos at a time.

But this type of unintentional photography doesn’t have a story or vision. That is not where you want to be.

2. Don’t wear red in a photo shoot.

I made this mistake in a photo shoot for back to school pictures.

I wore a bright red shirt and didn’t notice until I got home and started editing. It wreaked havoc on my pictures.

Problem #1: red leaves a color cast on your subject.

Problem #2: a red shirt makes the subject look like they have red eyes without any flash.

Just don’t do it!

3. Don’t only shoot from the side of the road.

When shooting landscape photos, it is tempting to hop out of the car and shoot your photos from the side of the road.

And while you may get some good shots that way (especially in National Parks), in my experience the shots are much better just a little off the beaten path.

This doesn’t mean you have to go on a 10 mile hike (even though I know the photos would be beautiful there too). I just means that you step out of the car, off the road and get a better view before you take a shot.

4. Don’t use just any available light.

Light is key in photography. And not all light is created equal.

So when you are thinking about taking a picture, think about the quality of the light (not just the quantity).

This may mean moving your subject into better light, or coming back to the scene at a different time of day.

Getting better light will make all the difference in the quality of your photos and the story they tell.

5. Don’t put your subject in the center of the photo.

When you first start taking photos, it is tempting to put your subject in the middle of the photo.

But this is probably the least effective place to put them.

Instead, put them to the left or right (following the rule of thirds). Or look at them from a different perspective to make the photo more interesting.

I discuss this more in the photo tips blog post linked at the top of this post.

6. Don’t say “cheese”.

What do your kids do when you say “cheese!”?

Mine give me the cheesiest (pun intended) smile or face you can imagine.

Definitely not an authentic expression.

Instead of cheese, see if you can tell a joke to make them laugh. Or have them look at each other and make a genuine smile.

Almost anything is better than a photo shoot full of cheesy grins!

7. Don’t shoot at high noon.

The hardest time to shoot outdoors is in the middle of the day. Especially if the sky is clear.

It can be done, but it isn’t something you want to do at first, if at all possible.

With the sun directly above your subjects, there are harsh shadows that can wreak havoc on even the most gorgeous person.

If you have to shoot in the middle of a clear day, try to find open shade to give your photos more even color, less shadows and a more flattering look.

8. Don’t spend too much money on photography equipment.

Repeat after me — Equipment doesn’t make the photographer.

It is tempting to buy high end equipment (if you can afford it), when you first start out.

After all, better cameras take better pictures, right?

No. Today’s digital cameras can make incredible photos, even at the entry level price.

Buy a low level DSLR and learn how to use it.

Then only upgrade once you hit the limits of that camera. Not before.

9. Don’t go to a photo shoot without a plan.

No matter if you are getting paid or just doing it for fun, showing up without a plan is not okay.

Do some research. Find out when the best light is available. What are the best places to shoot?

Have some props or backgrounds in mind.

Going to a shoot and winging it (especially in the beginning) is the best way to get flustered, frustrated and not get your best images.

10. Don’t over edit your photos.

Photoshop and Lightroom are powerful tools that can do amazing things to your photos.

But overuse of editing can ruin your photos and make you look like an amateur.

So keep it simple. Stay true to the original vision of the photo.

Small tweaks can go a long way to increase the quality of your photography.

11. Don’t shoot at extremes.

By extremes, I mean when things are too dark or too bright. This will cause you to either lose texture in the shadows or blow out the highlights.

While some people use these things as part of their style, when you are first starting out you should look for more even light. This helps bring out the colors and makes the photo more appealing.

12. Don’t shoot crooked horizons.

As a landscape photographer, crooked horizons make me crazy.

A crooked selfie is acceptable, but if you are trying to take a meaningful photo it should be straight.

Crooked horizons or walls leaning on people are distracting to the overall photo. Don’t do it!

13. Don’t shoot everything wide open.

It is tempting when you are first learning aperture to want to shoot everything wide open (with a low number aperture).

After all, isn’t that blurry background what everyone wants? Yes and no.

Blurry backgrounds are great on portraits. But they don’t work for everything.

If you are taking a sweeping landscape photo, you want everything in focus to see as much as possible.

So don’t just shoot wide open because you think everyone else is doing it. Think about your vision of the photo and set your settings accordingly.

14. Don’t forget to pick your subject to focus on.

A good photo has a clear subject. If you are just taking pictures without a subject to focus on, they will fall flat.

You can focus on your subject with settings, composition and light.

Your subject can be big or small, but it needs to be clear and in focus.

15. Don’t have trees growing out of people’s heads.

Distractions in the background of a photo can ruin an otherwise good shot.

So before you click the shutter button, look around the back of your photo and see if there is anything that needs to be removed.

Whether it is a tree (then you will need to move your subject), or dirty laundry, it doesn’t matter. By moving your subject or the distractions, you are saving time in post processing later by fixing it in camera.

16. Don’t try to shoot at low shutter speed without a tripod.

Shaky hands make for blurry photos.

You need to know how low you can go before you introduce blur, even on a still object.

Then once you find that number, don’t go below it without a tripod.

Don’t have a tripod? Use any steady surface to lean against or put your camera on to reduce shake.

This is such an easy fix, so don’t be stubborn about it.

17. Don’t give away (or sell) unedited photos.

Photography is art, so don’t give away the rough draft.

If you are taking photos that you are hoping are more than snapshots or selfies, then you need to make them the best they can be.

It doesn’t matter if they are iPhone photos or taken with a DSLR. Edit them first before you send them out into the world. Always put your best foot forward.

18. Don’t use the on camera flash.

Learning how to use flash correctly is a skill that can be learned.

But if you just turn on the flash and use it in auto mode, you photos are most likely going to turn out terrible.

Instead of using the on camera flash, adjust your settings or lighting to get the same result without the harshness of flash.

By avoiding these mistakes many new photographers make, you will be one step ahead of the competition. You will also be able to move along easier in your photography journey.

Actions Steps:

  1. Read thru these tips and choose a few to implement into your photography workflow.
  2. Be aware of what you are shooting in camera so you don’t have to overly edit your photos.
  3. Keep trying, shooting and critiquing your photos so you can continue to get better.

It takes years and lots of practice to become a good photographer. Trial and error with many mistakes is just part of the journey.

Hopefully, I can help you avoid some of the mistakes with this post. So get out and practice for improved photography now.

photography tips pin

What other photography tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

14 Simple Photography Tips for Beginners

looking up in the forest

I have always been interested in photography.

I liked to take pictures of my friends in school (we are talking film, baby!) and places I would visit.

My photos were just kinda ok, but I still loved them and I didn’t know any better.

Then I got married and started a family.

I wanted to document everything that was happening and I wanted these pictures to be better than just snapshots.

So I dug into photography with everything I had, determined that my kids were going to have awesome pictures of their childhood to share with their posterity.

It took me awhile to learn how to take good photos, and I loved every step of the way.

But I wish I had known these simple photography tips earlier in my journey.

Maybe those pre-marriage photos would have been a lot better.

So whether you are looking to become a professional photographer or you just want to have good pictures of your kids, these tips will help you move forward in your photography journey.

photographer holding a camera

14 Simple Photography Tips for Beginners

1. Stay steady

A steady hand leads to better photos. If that means you need to lean against something or use a tripod, do it. You won’t get clear, crisp photos if you have camera shake.

I discuss holding a camera and keeping yourself steady in this post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Holding Your Camera

I can’t tell you how many photos I see on Facebook where I think, “if they had just slowed down and held the phone steady, that photo would be so much better.” This is a super easy fix and will make a big difference in your photos.

2. Get the eyes in focus

“The eyes are the gateway to the soul.” How many times have we heard that statement?

When taking a picture of someone’s face, it is very important to get their eyes in focus.

Even if the composition and the lighting are great, if the eyes aren’t in sharp focus, the photo will seem off.

If you are using a DSLR, put your focus point on the eyes and shoot straight on so that both eyes are in focus.

little boy with big blue eyes

3. Clear distractions

Sometimes we are so busy thinking about camera settings, composure, etc that we forget to check for distractions in our photos.

Look, I get it. When you are first starting out, there are many different things you have to think about to make a good photo.

But clearing distractions while you are taking the photo is so much easier than trying to edit things out later.

So before you push the shutter button, look around the background of your photo first. Do you have a tree sticking out of someone’s head or dirty clothes laying on the floor?

If you do, move your subject or move the items that are distracting from your vision of the photo. This one step will save you time and heartache later, I promise.

4. Get in closer

I love a good close up shot, whether it is of my child lost in thought over something or a pet or any other subject.

By getting in closer, you increase focus on what you are really trying to portray in the photo.

Some of my favorite photos of my children are when I got in close to capture their little hands or them holding their favorite toy. These photos capture emotion and tell the story more often than a wide, sweeping shot with lots of things to look at.

So get in close and make the focal point crystal clear in your pictures.

5. Find the best light available

Not all light is equal and the brightest light isn’t always the best.

If you are outdoors, try to find some open shade or shoot on a cloudy day. This will help your light be more even and help you avoid dark shadows on your subject.

If you are indoors, try different rooms and windows in your house to see which ones have the best light. Also know that this will change throughout the day. So the morning light might be better in the kitchen, but the afternoon light might be better through your living room sliding glass door.

Photography is all about light, so the better quality light you have the better chance you have of getting a beautiful picture.

For instructions on how to do this, read this blog post —> Finding the Light in Your House for the Best Indoor Photos.

6. Rule of thirds

When people start taking photos, they have a tendency to want to put their subject right smack in the middle of the picture. This is normal, but isn’t very appealing to the eye.

There are many ways to add interest to your photos through composition, and the rule of thirds is the most popular.

The rule of thirds helps you break up your photo into nine equal squares. You want to put your subject in the intersection of these lines to make it off center.

This composition trick makes the photo more interesting and helps your eye flow through the photo.

To see some other tips for composition, check out this post —> 13 Composition Rules to Improve Your Photography

looking up in the forest

7. Get a different perspective

When we first start taking pictures, we are very inclined to take photos from a standing, head on position. This works for some photos just fine, but this viewpoint can get old after awhile.

To switch up your photos, think about taking them from a different perspective.

Some popular perspectives to use:

  • From above
  • From below
  • Thru another object
  • Wide angle
  • Super close up (macro)

Try out a new perspective and you will be surprised how quickly it can bring your photos to life!

8. Practice background blur

Many people want to learn how to get background blur in their portrait shots, like the professionals do.

This blur is called bokeh and it is achieved by using a small aperture in manual mode.

My Apple iPhone also has a portrait setting that will give this effect, although not as authentic as in your DSLR.

In order to achieve this effect, you can shoot in manual or aperture priority mode on your DSLR and set it to a smaller number (anywhere under 6 should do the trick).

Also, the farther away your subject (person) is away from the background, the more bokeh (background blur) you will get.

So instead of having them stand right up against a wall, have them step away from it for a more blurry background.

chipmunk in motion

9. Don’t cut off body parts

This (and the next point) is one of my pet peeves. If you are taking a photo of a whole person or animal, don’t cut off fingers or toes (or other parts) when taking the photo.

Of course, you can crop in close and just get the head or upper torso. But it is very distracting to have a photo of a person where you can see everything but one foot or an elbow or something.

If you are trying to shoot a whole person (or animal), step back far enough to get the whole thing without chopping off bits and pieces.

cadillac ranch, Amarillo, TX

10. Keep things level

My other pet peeve (see above) is when a photo isn’t level. I know that it can be a trend to take crooked photos.

If you are taking a selfie, that’s one thing. No one expects a selfie to be professional. The crookedness is part of the charm.

But if you are taking a photo where you can see the horizon line, please make it straight.

If you are taking a photo of someone against a wall, please make the wall straight. It looks really strange when the wall looks like it is leaning on the person instead of the other way around.

11. Golden hour

Light can be a tricky thing, especially when you are first starting out.

If you are wanting to shoot photos outside, the most “magical” time of day is golden hour.

Golden hour usually refers to the time just before the sun goes down in the evening.

At this time, the light is soft and often has a golden appearance to it.

This makes you photos look amazing and many professional photographers use this time to do family photo shoots.

rustic cabin at dusk

12. Open shade

I discussed this some in #5, but I wanted to discuss it more.

Open shade is when you have something covering your subject’s head (like a large tree or porch) but you still get lots of light from the sides.

You want to find open shade when the sun is really bright outside and making hard shadows on your subject.

Just make sure that if you are under a tree, you are getting even shade, not speckled shade. It will be very hard to edit later if you have bright spots on your subject from light peeking in through the leaves. This is especially bad on a subject’s face.

By finding the open shade, you can soften the light and make the photo more evenly lit.

13. Catch the laugh after the pose

Posing people can be difficult and often people look too rehearsed or forced when posing.

Some of the best pictures you can get are the ones you take right after they break the pose.

So no matter what pose or face they are trying to make for the picture, keep taking photos a few seconds after the initial photo is done.

This is where you get the real laugh or face you are looking for, when they think you are finished taking the pictures.

And these can be priceless.

14. Keep shooting

The best thing you can do for your photography is to keep shooting.

Practice makes perfect, so keep practicing wherever you are.

As you practice, you will start to get a rhythm to your photography. You will start to understand the settings on your camera more and they will start to become second nature.

As you shoot more, you will find your style and vision. So just keep shooting.

Actions Steps:

  1. Read thru these tips and choose a few to implement into your photography workflow.
  2. Be aware of what you are shooting in camera so you don’t have to overly edit your photos.
  3. Keep trying, shooting and critiquing your photos so you can continue to get better.

Photography is something that takes a long time to master. It truly is a journey and the more your practice, the more you will change and grow.

I hope these tips will help you move forward and improve your photography. You can do this!

photography tips pin

What tips would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

7 Simple Tips for Striking Summer Photography

mountains with cows and their reflection in the lake

I love summertime! I love the warm weather, more time spent outside and that everything is so green!

I love taking photos during the summer of vacations, weekend getaways and family fun.

If you want to take better, more appealing summer photography, I’ve got some tips for you!

7 Simple Tips for Stunning Summer Photography

jack rabbit on the grass

1. Embrace the warmth.

I love the long days of summer and the warmth of evening. Capture that warmth of summer in your photos to keep that feeling long after the season is over. In the photo above, a caught a photo of a jack rabbit that likes to visit our yard when he thinks no one is watching. The warmth of the photo reminds me of this summer tradition.

boy holding a firework at night

2. Get the details.

There are so many details of summer you can catch in your photos. In the photo above, I caught my kids lighting their sparklers for the Fourth of July. I also took photos of the fireworks in the boxes and them wearing their flag shirts as details of the holiday as well.

mountains with cows and their reflection in the lake

3. Utilize the elements.

What elements do you have that can help enhance the scene in front of you? In the photo above, I used the lake to make a reflection of the cows and mountains in sky to increase the interest in the landscape scene. Water, fire and sun flares can be used as elements to add interest to your summer photos.

carnival ferris wheel

4. Bright colors make your photos pop.

I love bright colors in photos and the summer is no exception. Whether it is bright colored bathing suits and towels to flowers and beach toys, color can make your photos pop. In the photo above, I used the bright colors of the ferris wheel against the bright blue sky at the carnival to make the photo pop.

Mesa Verde National Park cliff dwellings

5. Get the big picture.

While I love the details, it is also good to step back and get the big picture. If you are on vacation, take a big, wide landscape picture to show the context of your detail shots. In the photo above, I took a photo of the whole of the cliff dwelling from across the canyon after we had already gone and hiked the cliff dwelling for close up pictures earlier in the day at Mesa Verde National Park.

silhouette of a man on a bike

6. Silhouettes bring your imagination to life.

I love this stock photo of a man with his bike. I like the warmth of the moment and it reminds me of long summer evenings. Summer is a great time for silhouettes. Wait til evening, expose for the brightness of the background and everything in the foreground will go black. Simple subjects against a clear sky make the best silhouettes.


7. Shoot the stars or fireworks.

The night sky is fun to take photos of and summer is the best time to do this because it isn’t as cold after dark. In fact, if you live in a hot climate, you will really enjoy night photography in the summer. Whether it is fireworks for the Fourth of July or star trails, the night sky can be really fun to shoot.

Action Steps:

  1. Get out and shoot-Try to get out as much as possible and just shoot photos of whatever you are doing, wherever you are. Whether it is a family vacation, fun at home or stock photos for your blog, summer is a great time to shoot photography!
  2. Try something new-Have you shot silhouettes or star trails before? Get out there and try something different. Who knows, you just might love it!
  3. Light is everything-The most important thing in photography is good light. Keep an eye out for good light around your house and then place your subject in the light for amazing photos. Manipulating light is key for great photography.

So now that you have these tips in mind, get out and shoot this summer. The photos you shoot now can be used on your blog all year long!

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What do you love to photograph in the summer? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

6 Spring Photography Tips for Stunning Images

a pink hibiscus flower with green leaves

Spring will be here in a couple of weeks. Depending on where you live, it may have already arrived.

I love the feel of spring: warmer weather, a new start and time to get my garden going.

I also love to take pictures in spring: budding trees, baby animals and flowers are just a few of my favorite things to photograph.

Today I want to share my best tips for taking photos in the spring.

6 Spring Photography Tips:

  1. a small white flowerGet the details- Spring is all about the details, so don’t forget to get in close. Whether it is a budding flower, a baby chick or an Easter basket, the details matter. In the photo above, I picked out this little flower on the forest floor to photograph because it was a sign of spring at the moment.a lightening storm over a big city
  2. Use the weather- Spring weather can be beautiful, but it can also be rainy and even stormy. Don’t just shoot on pretty days. The rain and the clouds can add dimension and context to a photo. This stock photo captures a hard to get moment during a lightening storm and makes it into a powerful picture.a calf in the field
  3. Capture nature- I love spring because nature really sings. There are new farm animals being born, trees and flowers blooming and everything is turning green. Don’t forget to capture nature coming alive after a long winter. I took this picture on a friends farm of the new calfs playing in the field.a pink hibiscus flower with green leaves
  4. Make the colors pop- The colors of spring are a breath of fresh air after the winter. Colorful flowers, bright colored rain boots or green grass make for a beautiful photo. In the photo above, I took this beautiful photo of a pink hibiscus flower in Hawaii. I love how the colors pop!a budding tree
  5. Freeze time- Freezing action is a great way to make a photo more interesting. You can capture: a kid sliding into home base, jumping in a rain puddle or swinging high on the playground. Freezing time can make these activities come alive! Like in this stock photo, you have to be at just the right place at the right time to freeze this tree budding in spring.painted Easter eggs
  6. Find the food- Spring has a great type of food all it’s own. Easter candy, pastries, salads and citrus are common spring foods. The most iconic food of spring is the Easter egg. In this stock photo you can tell that someone painted these by hand, which makes it even more special.

Each season has it’s own feel and precious moments, so get out there and capture them. What do you think of when you think spring? That is what you want to take home with you in your photos.

Action Steps:

  1. Keep your eyes open to the world waking up in spring.
  2. Photograph things that remind you of spring.
  3. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Spring is a gift for a photographer. There are so many beautiful things to capture. So now that the weather is warmer, venture out into nature or just down the street and see what you can find. You won’t regret it.

What are you favorite things to photograph in the spring? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!



10+ Ideas to Make Your Holiday Photos Rock This Year!

Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

It’s Christmas time! Time for family, food and fun. You don’t want to miss a minute of capturing all of the festivities.

Taking pictures of your holiday activities is important this time of year.

Blow up your social media (especially Instagram) with fun, festive pictures.

Today, I wanted to give you some ideas of how you can boost your holiday photos and make them shine. These will be pictures you will cherish for years to come.

10+ Holiday Photo Ideas:


Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

Bokeh is the blurred out parts of a picture, usually shaped in small circles. With the holidays, colorful bokeh is easy to come by with Christmas lights. By getting lights out of focus in the background of your picture, it makes the photo dreamy and fun.

Get the details

Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

I love the details of the holiday season. The food, decorations, clothing, presents, etc. make the holiday so fun and gives you lots of opportunity for great photos.

Good lighting

Lighting in photography is very important. So many times people suggest you take a picture in awful light, and then wonder why it doesn’t look awesome! If you are taking the picture, then you need to find the light that is the best in the situation. You won’t be upset you made the change.

Capture Traditions

Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

Do you have certain traditions your family does every year? Decorating the tree, Christmas pajamas, or Christmas morning cinnamon rolls; whatever it is, capture it!

Use a Tripod 

Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

If you are in a low light situation, use a tripod for better results. Don’t have a tripod? Steady your camera on a table or steady yourself against a wall for better stability. You don’t want to end the season with blurry photos because your settings were off.

Get the big picture 

Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

I know I said above to get the details, but you also want to get the wide shot. Years later when you are looking back at these pictures, it will be fun to see people’s clothing and how your living room was laid out. Those will be pictures to cherish.

Get the kids and pets involved

Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

 I love to get pictures of the kids and the animals under the tree. You can give them a Santa hat or other prop if necessary. Your kids will get older and your pets won’t be around forever. Record what they looked like each Christmas for the future. I cherish this photo I took about 5 years ago of my youngest playing with a train under the tree. I love how little his hands are here.

Shoot daily

A great activity for December is to do a December Daily Project where you record each day the things you are doing for the holidays. Your family will love looking back on these things!

Leave negative space

You never know what your photos may be used for in the future. So allow for negative space to give room for copy or other things later.

Get behind the scenes 

Do your Christmas photos usually turn out flat? Click here to see 10+ ideas that will help you make your Christmas photos rock this year! #Christmas #holidayphotos #phototips

Outtake pictures are sometimes better than the posed shots. Get behind the scenes of your Christmas and see if you can get some once in a lifetime shots when people are least expecting it. This photo shows that we were listening to Christmas music while decorating the tree. Something you wouldn’t have known just by looking at the other pictures.

Bonus!!! Get in the picture 

I threw this one in extra because it needs to be said. All the beautiful pictures in the world won’t be good enough if you aren’t in any of them. Get in front of the camera and be in the action too!

Action Steps:

  1. Pay attention to the holiday festivities around you.
  2. Take your camera with you everywhere so you will be ready to capture all the fun.
  3. Share your photos on your favorite social media channels.

The holidays are a magical time of year for photography. The lights, the happy faces and all of the decorations make for wonderful pictures. I hope you use these tips to make your holiday photos special your family.

I’ll be adding holiday photos on my Instagram daily all holiday season long, so don’t forget to follow us on Instagram to see them all!

What do you love about photographing the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks!




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