How do I take better photos? Part 1

People often ask me, "How can I take better photos?" I wish there was one simple answer, but there isn't. So, I plan to write a few blog posts with some tricks to help each of you become better photographers, whether you're looking to take better pictures of your kids in sports, on the stage, family photos or vacation images.


The first thing you MUST do to become a better photographer, is to get your camera out of AUTO. Surprised you, didn't I? I think most people think they need a $5,000 camera to get better photos. While good gear helps, there are plenty of great images taken with iPhones and point and shoot cameras. When I started getting into photography, I shot in AUTO. That meant the camera was choosing everything for me — aperture (aka F-Stop), ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and my focal points. Today's cameras are smart, but they can't read minds. So that meant I was leaving a lot up to chance, thus I'd have blurry photos or photos where the background was the proper exposure but the person I was photographing was just a silhouette or dark shadow. I never really understood why until I took a class from our local community college. The first thing we did was take the dial off of AUTO.

When I say AUTO, that includes the portions of the dial that have the little portrait picture, the mountain and the little running man. Try to ignore that whole half of the dial, and use the one marked M (Manual), AV (Aperture Priority), or TV (Shutter Control). These are Canon's markings and are found on all DSLR cameras. Nikon, Sony and other manufacturers will have different abbreviations, so just look in your manual or on the internet. Even some point and shoot cameras will allow you to get into manual mode by adjusting the aperture and shutter speeds.


Why is that so important?

Photography is all about light, thus its name. It is a light drawing. To make good photos we need to learn how to control our light. The best way to do that is by shooting in manual. but to shoot in manual, you need to have a good understanding of something called the Exposure Triangle. The Exposure Triangle consists of three important elements:

  • ISO - Light sensitivity
  • Aperture/F-Stop - Amount of light allowed in
  • Shutter Speed - Amount of time light is allowed in

This week's assignment is to just play with your camera in the two of the three non-AUTO settings - Aperture Priority and Shutter Control (or whatever your camera may call them). Take photos of moving subjects with both options and compare. Take photos inside, outside, of still subjects, landscapes, portraits. See what (if any) changes you may see.


If your camera is a point and shoot or even an iPhone, "Google" and see if you have the ability to change the f-stop/aperture or shutter speed. If so, you're in business.


If you have any questions, or want to post some examples to my Facebook page, you can do so at