Take Better Shots

Whether you simply want to know how to take better photos or if you want to become the next David Bailey, the path to becoming a great photographer starts with the basics. 

Better photography, like everything else, takes dedication, patience and hard work. If you want to improve your photography then I hope this guide helps you on your way.

1. Study Your Manual

This is indeed a bit boring  but unfortunately there is no other way around it: you have to read the instruction manual. I am aware that with the new digital cameras the owner's manual can look thicker than the dictionary. It is possible that you read less to graduate college than the reading needed to complete that instruction manual but it still has to be done.

Many people are so excited after getting their hands on a new camera that they throw the instructions into a drawer and forget about them. The trial-and-error method of camera functionality may last a few hours or days but soon you will become frustrated. 

To become a great photographer you need to know your camera well and to do that you need to understand all the functionality of what your camera can do.

In the long run knowing how to change the frame buffers, understanding you PTP, and even learning how to put the flash on will improve you as a photographer.You will eventually need it all. Not only will this bring with it better pictures but in the process a lot more enjoyment.

2. You Don't Have to Be Brilliant Immediately

It is important to realise that everything worth doing well, is worth doing very poorly to start with. Don't be disheartened with the first few efforts. Whether it's an ideal picture spoiled by a finger over the lens, a lovely sunset where you can't make anything out, or a brilliant action shot that unfortunately missed all the action:don't despair. 

Remember that there was a time when you didn't know how to put a car into gear and drive ten yards. Now you can drive a car while flicking over tracks on your ipod, shouting at the kids in the back seat, and changing lane all at the same time.

With practice and patience you will improve.


3. Take Lots of Pictures

Don't be afraid to experiment. Take lots of pictures. Lots will be rubbish but some will be good. Think about what you did to capture the your best pictures. Think about how you could replicate that going forward.

4. Light

Think back to high school and cast your mind back to physics class. Remember the experiment when you passed a ray of light through a glass prism? The result was that it broke the single ray of light up into the constituent parts across the whole spectrum of visible light.



Well traditional photography film was made for taking this into account and using natural light to produce vivid colours in photographs. This explains why those shots came out so well and some photographers still prefer film.

An artificial light source, such as a camera flash, is a manufactured equivalent of natural light. However artificial light sources only produce a partial spectrum of visible light and this affects the colours in the pictures.

Modern digital cameras have the technology to change colors automatically. Rather than natural light  hitting the film and chemically altering it, digital cameras have sensors that recreate the process of natural light on film. However you have to adjust the camera to optimise this process and this is where point 1 on my list, study the manual, comes in useful.

5. Get Close

Don't be afraid to get in close. If the subject of the photo is all your trying to catch then you can leave out the background. It's up to you. These are your photos.


7. Learn To Use Colour Contrasts

A lot of the best photographs have a number of shades of white, gray and black. It is possible to have a great shot with only one color in it but expert colour contrasting puts you on the path to becoming a great photographer.

Remember also that different colours show different moods. A black and white still is more poignant than full colour, red shades illustrate vibrancy, and darker colors are used for the more sombre shots.

6. Know Your Shutter Lag

Shutter lag is the time it takes from when you press the camera button to take the photo, to the camera actually capturing the image in front of you. It is possible for digital cameras to have a 1 second shutter lag time but the best camera are as low as 1/8000 th  of a second. This can be the difference between a brilliant shot and a shot that has just missed the action. You have to learn to compensate for your camera and take the photo early expecting the action to happen. This takes time and ability but improves the more you use your camera and adjust for the lag time. For taking better action shots taking into account shutter lag time you can read another of my articles here.

8. Pan

If your camera has a slow shutter lag and you're trying to take an action shot, then the best idea is to pan with the object. Follow the object while pushing the button and continue following it after taking the shot as well. 

9. Continuous Shots

When taking action shots it's better to take to have a camera that can handle taking four or five shots in quick succession. This increases the changes of catching that great photo and if four out the five missed the action don't worry. Four bad photos are worth one great action shot particularly when you can just delete the poor ones.

10. Enjoy it!

Finally enjoy yourself. Taking good photos is difficult and challenging but it should be fun. Don't put too much pressure on yourself and take as many photos as you can. With every photo taken you will improve.

Hopefully if you follow these tips then you'll not only become a better photographer but also enjoy the process as well.