Carrollton, TX Photographer // 3 SIMPLE TIPS on using that crazy expensive camera you just bought!

So....you had a baby (or two, or five). You decided that giving birth and creating another human being justified spending $600 or more on a fancy digital camera to capture all of the awesome memories your family was bound to make, right?? The problem is that the only buttons you understand on the camera are the on/off switch (and you can't even find that button half the time) and that super enticing, bright green "AUTO" button. It's soooo tempting!

I'm going to tell you a few secrets...actually, they aren't really secrets at all. It's simple, really. If you just take a few minutes to learn more about your camera, you will build the confidence it takes to get out of AUTO and you'll begin to capture incredible, timeless photos of your family.

So...back to your new, fancy camera...

You take the camera out of the box, insert the battery, and start taking a few photos with it. You thought your photos would be instantly award winning (cause you spent a million dollars on it, remember???) with your new camera, but unfortunately, the photo comes out looking something like this:

  One of the first photos I ever took with my first "fancy" camera in 2008!

One of the first photos I ever took with my first "fancy" camera in 2008!

Not really what you were going for, huh? The framing is all wrong, her arm is blurry, and the flash is way too harsh. 

Let's move on to the tips to see how we can improve our photos!

1. LIGHTING

  • Great lighting is the number one indicator of beautiful photos! Open your windows, go outside, use light bouncers/reflectors...do whatever you need to to find the best lighting around you. Watch how the light moves around your house during different times of the day and you'll learn to find the best light for your photos. In the photo example below, you'll notice all of the light on the (gorgeous) couple, as well as the light coming from inside the building. Look for interesting light sources like this to give you tons of natural light instead of using that on-camera flash.
  • Even if you don't feel comfortable moving to "Manual" mode, get your camera out of AUTO and move it to "AP, A, or A Priority." Your camera will label this differently, but the setting is aperture priority. If you're really interested, we can go out for coffee sometime and I can explain in further detail everything you need to know! Turn the knob so your camera aperture is open as wide as it will go. For example, if your lens says f/2.8, that means that 2.8 is the widest your lens will open. If it says 1.8, even better! That means your lens will open up all the way to 1.8. On aperture priority, your camera will decide the shutter speed.
  • Read your camera manual to find out how to put your ISO on the lowest setting possible. If you don't have tons of natural light, you'll have to increase the ISO. 
 LIGHTING // Nikon D7100 24-70mm lens ISO 250, f/3.5, 1/250 SS

LIGHTING // Nikon D7100 24-70mm lens ISO 250, f/3.5, 1/250 SS

2. FRAMING

  • The way you frame your photo will make a huge difference in the final product. Always look for the little details. Keep your eye inside the viewfinder so you can make last second changes before releasing the shutter. Physically move your body up, down, in different angles, etc. so you can find the best frame for the subject. Move around until the subject is facing the best source of light. For example, in the photo below, you'll notice that I aimed the baby's face toward the window since that was my source of light. The final product would have looked very different had she been facing the opposite way. And by different, I mean BAD. 
  • Take a few extra seconds to move trash out of the way, lamp chords, remotes, clutter, etc. Think about what you want people to focus on. What do you want their eyes to be drawn towards? If it isn't the laundry hanging over your headboard, move it!
  • If you Google the "Rule of Thirds," you'll find lots of photography blogs teaching you about how to frame your shot. Read the blogs if you'd like, but then try other framing options as well. In the example below, I wanted the subject to be centered in the frame as opposed to being off-center, as the Rule of Thirds teaches. Get creative! Try different framing techniques to figure out what YOU like best!
 FRAMING // Nikon D700 35mm lens ISO 200, f/2.2, 1/200 SS

FRAMING // Nikon D700 35mm lens ISO 200, f/2.2, 1/200 SS

3. EDITING

  • If you have an extra $10 to spare each month, consider investing in one of the BEST, cheapest editing programs out there. Adobe Lightroom AND Photoshop can be accessed for almost the price of a Subway sandwich! 
  • Lightroom makes editing super easy! As you can see in the example below, the original photo was way too bright, the white balance was off, and the colors were washed out. With the click of a few buttons, the lighting and colors were fixed and it became a beautiful photo that mom and dad will treasure forever! I'm happy to help you understand the ins and outs of Lightroom...just let me know how I can help you! 
 EDITING // N ikon D7100 50mm lens ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/160 SS

EDITING // Nikon D7100 50mm lens ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/160 SS

I know I said there would only be three tips, but just like anything else you want to get better at, the best way to do that is to... 

Practice, practice, practice!! 

I seriously cannot stress this enough. Set a goal for yourself to use your camera everyday, even if it's only for a minute or two. Take TONS of photos. Delete most of them. Take a few random, amazing photos and try to figure out what was different about them. After practicing for a while, read the camera manual as you begin to understand more of the verbiage and start to feel less like a newb. Take a few more hundred photos. Delete most of them. Aim to have 5 good photos out of 100. Read articles and scour Pinterest for stunning photos that catch your eye. Analyze why the photos are good, and then go practice attempting the same technique! Get a little crazy and take a few risks...try something new you didn't think you could do. Fail miserably at it and then figure out why the photo didn't come out the way you were envisioning. 

Whatever you do, just don't stop taking photos. Keep practicing. Find your "style." Ask other people for help. Ask them for some constructive criticism. Learn to take their feedback to improve your skills!

Want to continue the conversation? Post a comment below or contact me. I'd be happy to share more tips and tricks to help you use your camera to its fullest extent!