How To Take Better Photos

Learn these 3 key steps to be able to take better photos with your camera today!

Are you tired of dark, boring, blurry photos?  Perhaps you aren’t taking bad photos but you know that they could be better.  Whether you’re thinking about a career as a photographer or you want to take better photos for your blog or Instagram or just your family you know you need to learn a few things about your camera.  When you venture into the world of photography it can seem overwhelming and so specific that you fear it will take you a lifetime to learn how to shoot like a pro.  Well I’m here to teach you a few things to get you out of auto mode and into manual mode today so you can get the best picture in any lighting!

What is manual mode?

camera dial

Okay first things first… turn that dial out of auto mode!  Sure it’s easy and your camera takes great photos but you want to be in control of the photos you take (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post!) There are always other options on your camera no matter what brand you have.  There is a portrait option, an aperture priority option, a shutter priority option just to name a few.  Some of these words may seem foreign to you but you will understand what they mean in no time.  By the time you have finished this article if you still aren’t ready to take the plunge into the full depths of manual mode (which is where you control everything) then aperture or shutter priority would be your next best options to explore since they give you some control but the camera figures out the rest.  So my recommendation is that you take the plunge into the deep… no wading into a little bit at a time, it takes so long to warm up then.. just jump into the deep with me you will be glad you did!


  1. Let’s talk shutter

This is a pretty common word that I’m sure you’ve hear before.  It sounds very ‘camera-y’ but what is it?  The shutter is like the eye of the camera. It opens to take in the view of the photograph and closes to finish taking in the view.  It is just like your eye when you open you can see when you close it you cannot see.  The click you hear when you take a picture is the releasing (or opening and closing) of the shutter.  So what is important about the shutter that you need to know? Speed.  You have the ability to control the speed of your shutter.  When you want to take a picture of something that is moving fast but you don’t want the photo to be blurry you can increase the speed at which your shutter opens and closes to freeze that motion.  So a faster shutter (a higher number usually in the camera looks something like this 1/500) freezes motion. A slower shutter blurs motion i.e. 1/10.  You might be thinking why on earth would you want to blur motion? No one wants blurry photos we all want crisp sharp photos.  Well there are two reasons without getting into too much depth here as this is just to help teach you enough to get you out and shooting.  First those beautiful photos you see of a shooting star that has a tail or the water that looks like it’s just soft and flowing and images where you can paint with light like a sparkler  ( see images below) those types of photos are taken with a slow shutter speed.  It captures the flow of the movement by leaving the shutter open for longer.  However to avoid motion blur (from you holding the camera as you cannot stand perfectly still) these photos need to be taken with a tripod.  The second reason for using a slow shutter speed is not to blur the motion but rather to increase the amount of light that will come into your photo.  A photo needs light to be captured.  You’ve found this to be true when trying to take a picture in a dim room but you can’t see a thing on your phone screen or digital camera screen.  The reason is when the shutter opens and closes it lets the light in that is needed to capture the photo.  The quicker the shutter is released (a faster photo that stops motion) the less light is let in because the less time the shutter spends open.  Just like when you blink.  The longer the shutter is open (the slower the shutter speed) the more light you are able to let in.  This allows you the ability to decrease your shutter speed to allow more light in to get a brighter photo in low light conditions without a flash.  I have included a chart below for your reference.

florwater stopwater

Fast shutter = stop motion                          Slow shutter = smooth blur

motion blur


2. Speaking of light lets touch quickly on ISO

Your ISO is your cameras sensitivity to the light.  A low ISO is always best as it produces the least grain in your photos.  However you can increase your ISO if your available light is not good enough to get the photo you need after you have adjusted your aperture and shutter settings.  If you have the slowest shutter you can have while still getting the shot you want and the smallest aperture you can have for the photo you want (which we will cover next) and the photo is still too dark then you can increase your ISO but do so gently!  The higher the ISO the more grain there will be in the photo.  However there are many great editing programs out there in which you can remove a lot of the grain from your digital photos.  I use Lightroom for just about everything and find that it is able to meet my needs with grain removal.


3. Aperture or “F stop”

What on earth is that? Is this the first time you are hearing these words? Perhaps it isn’t but if you are new to photography you have no idea what the f stop is and how to adjust it.  F stop is another term for aperture.  The aperture is like the pupil of the camera.  The shutter is the eye opening and closing and the aperture is the pupil adjusting to the light.  There are two things you are affecting when you adjust the aperture. First, depth of field. When you have a smaller aperture you are able to focus on a narrower plain and get that nice blurry (or creamy as some like to call it) background.  In photography world this blurred background is called bokeh.  The higher the aperture number the more you will have in focus (think landscape and large group photography) in your camera it would look like this f11.  The second thing you will control with adjusting your aperture is….light! Everything has to do with lighting in order to get a good photograph! See the diagram below to help you understand this.. copy it and save it to your computer or take a screen shot until this is ingrained in your brain.  The lower the aperture number the more light you will let in i.e. f 2.8.   The higher the aperture the less light you will let in i.e. f11.  It’s just like your pupil adjusting when you go into a dark room and your pupil gets bigger it’s to allow more light in.  When you go out into the sun or the Dr. shines his light in your eye your pupil will get tiny (just like in the image below) to allow less light in.  So why does this all matter?  Most important because you need to be able to control the amount of light coming into your camera to get the best photo.  Also because you want to control how much of your photo is in sharp focus.  Do you want the viewers to look at the whole picture in awe or do you want to draw their attention to a specific subject in your photo while the rest is not in the same focal field?


So now we have covered the top three things to get you shooting on your own. 

  1. Shutter Speed
  2. ISO
  3. Aperture

manual mode

Get your camera out of auto and into manual and start shooting!  The only way to learn what settings you will need in different lighting situations is to practice.  One final suggestion I recommend is that you invest in some sort of editing program.  As I said before I use Lightroom almost exclusively.  Also to be able to manipulate your photos the most you will want to shoot in the RAW.  When you shoot in jpeg your camera decides how to compress that photo and you lose some of the original information in it.  Sure you have been shooting jpeg for your entire life and never felt like you were missing something.  Until you start shooting in the RAW and then you get a photo into your editing software and see how greatly you can manipulate it and still have a great photo! You can adjust the exposure and colors and contrast and everything without the photo looking overdone.  This cannot be done with jpegs as they have already been compressed by your camera.  Well it can be done but the result will not be pretty.  So if you plan to use something like Photoshop or Lightroom to take your photos to the next level then start shooting in the raw.  If you don’t plan to do any editing on them then shooting in jpeg is just fine for now.


Get out and get shooting today!  If you have more questions use the comment section.  Share this with post with someone else who would benefit from these quick camera teachings!

How to take better photos
Article Name
How to take better photos
3 Steps to learn to take better photos today! Intro to photography. Learn how to use your camera to get out of auto mode and into you being able to control how you want your photos to look!

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