When Peanut was about 9 months old I got my first DSLR camera. Of course, like every new mama, I wanted to take beautiful pictures of my baby. But after more than a year of using it in auto mode, I realized pretty much the only difference between my old point and shoot photos and my big fancy camera photos was the clarity. It was frustrating to have such a nice camera but not know how to use it.
Over the past two years since I’ve started shooting exclusively in manual mode, I’ve learned a few things, and want to share six tips that have helped me take better photos, because really learning how to use my camera has made my photos infinitely better. Plus, I’ve teamed up with Marie from Bloom and Grow Photography to help you learn how to use your camera — and there’s a fantastic giveaway at the end of this post!
- Learn your camera. Shooting in auto is so incredibly limiting. This is where Marie comes in. She’s teaching a four week long online camera basics course every month that takes you through the ins and outs of your camera and gets you out of auto and into full manual use. I took the class last month, and even though I already knew how to shoot in manual, I still learned a ton and came away from the class taking significantly better photos than before. (enter the giveaway below for a free course!)
- Be patient. Once you’ve learned how to use your camera in manual mode, it still takes time to get good at shooting in manual quickly. I’m still getting there, even after shooting solely in manual for almost two years. It’s especially tough when you want to capture a shot and your kids don’t stop moving…but be patient. Setting up a shot quickly is a skill that takes practice!
- You can always learn more. Just because you’ve figured out how to use your camera doesn’t mean you should stop learning and experimenting. My camera has video capabilities and that’s my next venture since I want to get better about filming my boys so I can remember their sounds, mannerisms, and personalities. But even without the video side of it, I still have a lot to learn about my camera.
- Invest in a nice lens. The biggest difference in my photos came when I was I purchased a nice lens. My first one I purchased (besides the standard kit lens that came with my camera body) was a high zoom lens (I think it was 55-200mm), and instantly my photos were improved with this better lens. I certainly don’t believe you have to drop a few thousand dollars on a lens, but nicer (more expensive) lenses definitely are better and make a difference in your photos. I currently shoot exclusively with my 50mm f/1.4 lens, which was a bit of an investment, but it’s made a world of difference (although only when I started shooting in manual!)
- Think before you shoot. With kids this is definitely a little trickier since you usually only have a few seconds to get the shot, but this makes a world of difference for better photos. Take an extra second to make sure your settings are correct, and that your angle is the very best it can be. Turn your subjects toward a light source if you’re indoors, or move into a shady area if you’re outside so you don’t have harsh shadows. Get down on the your children’s level so you get a nice blurred background behind them rather than a straight shot down at the carpet or cement that they’re sitting/standing on. Whatever it might be, take a second to think through a few things and make your shot the best it can be.
- Try continuous mode. I love using continuous or burst mode when I’m photographing my children. It allows my camera to take a bunch of shots in rapid succession, meaning I can almost always get the shot I want, especially if my kids are moving fast. Yes, I have to go through and delete about a hundred photos after the fact, but it’s worth it to get the perfect shot.
These are only 6 out of a million things that are helpful in getting better photos. So are you ready to learn those cameras??
The winner is Holly Anderson! Congratulations!