Three Ways to Improve Your Photography skills | Mastering Manual Mode

Three Ways to Improve Your Photography skills | Mastering Manual Mode

So you’ve invested in a nice DSLR camera only to set it in automatic mode and let the camera do all of the work. You could have saved a lot of money by getting a point and shoot instead, because that’s basically how it is functioning. Don't feel bad, I was in your shoes 8 years ago and I'm hear to help you get the most for your money and improve your photography skills. While I was pregnant with my first son we invested in a Canon 40D. We spent over $1000 on that camera and I was using it as a point and shoot! It took me almost 3 years to start learning the camera and using it for how it was intended. Remember why you bought your camera? There is no better time than now to kick automatic and get a return on your investment!

If you are brand new to photography and dream of starting a business or are a hobbyist and just want to learn to improve your skills then you are in the right place.  There are so many components involved when it comes to taking great pictures. If you are going to be a professional photographer it is vital that you learn and master many of them. It's unlikely that you will ever master them all because there are so many styles out there all requiring different techniques. Once you know what your style is or want it to be focus on mastering the skills within that style. Technology changes at lightening speed and by the time you've mastered your camera a new and improved one is already on the market.  It’s so important to never stop learning. Just as with any profession, if a photographer feels he/she has reached the point where they no longer need to educate themselves, then they have reached the end of their road. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve and grow and if you’re still with me that means you are too and I’m so excited to get you started on your journey! 

It’s important to note that what I’m going to share with you pertains to my own style of photography and is not the only way of doing things. I am a portrait photographer and I’m going to teach you a basic approach to learning to shoot in manual mode. There are several different ways of doing things and my hope is that by sharing one way you will gain the basic skills and confidence necessary to go out and find your own style and learn many other ways of doing things and continue to grow! 

In order to achieve a similar style to my own you will need a lens that has an Aperture or F/STOP (same thing) of 4.0 or lower. Chances are you have a lens that came with your camera that is somewhere between a 3.5 and 5.6 and that is perfectly fine! If you want to achieve a look with a very blurred creamy background where the subject is the main focus (known as bokeh or depth of field) I would highly recommend a 50 mm lens with an aperture of 1.8. If you shoot with Canon you can purchase one for only $125 (see lens here). Nikon users can also purchase a 50 mm 1.8 portrait lens for just slightly more $131.95 (view lens here). This is a great lens to get started with and won’t cost you a fortune! 

Looking to invest in a better lens?

If you're committed to starting a business, already have or just interested in investing in a better lens then you may want to check out an article by The Digital Picture.  My personal favorites for family portraits is Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8L although I've got my eye on Sigma 85 mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM (half the cost of Canon and just as nice!) For newborn portraits right now I use Canon 50 mm f/1.2L, but I would recommend a 35 mm f/1.4 which allows you to stay closer to the baby and get a wider shot. The Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens is great and again half the price!

3 ways to improve your portraits

  1. Mastering Manual 
  2. Understanding Light
  3. Clean background

Out With Automatic is a 3 part series. The first series will teach you basic skills to start your mission of mastering manual and saying goodbye to automatic. Every Friday a new blog will be posted throughout the series giving you tips on how to improve your photography skills. You can quickly find the posts by searching the blog using the key words "Out With Automatic". You can also follow along on facebook and instagram where announcements will be made! 

Ask Questions!

I'd love for you to join my closed facebook group Community Over Competition. Once approved (at no cost) you will be able to ask specific questions about anything you'd like! 

Join Community Over Competition Now

need some inspiration?

One of the first pictures I took with my fancy DSLR (in automatic mode) was of my son Brennan almost 8 years ago when he was just a couple weeks old.  It’s not a horrible picture (although now it makes me cringe) and I’m glad I have it, but if I had just known the few tricks I am going to teach you this image would have been 1000x better! 

Image taken in 2008.

Image taken in 2008.

The second image I took after I started to fumble my way through manual. I had no idea what I was doing and knew nothing about light, but was determined to figure it out. Unfortunately my exposure and settings were all wrong! Although this images is still cute (because sometimes the moment is more important than image quality) this could have been a phenomenal picture!  

Image taken in 2010

Image taken in 2010

This last picture is where I am today! All learned on my own through many mistakes, but there is no need for you to suffer as I did!  Every Friday by 10 am a new post will be released from the series. You can quickly find posts by heading to the blog and typing in the search bar “Out with automatic”. If you need a reminder make sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram where posts will be announced. 

Image taken in 2015

Image taken in 2015

So for now, put down your phone, put down your tablet, walk away from your computer and make sure to charge your camera batteries , clear your memory cards and get ready to take your photography to the next level. 

Out With Automatic Series

A Simple Approach to Getting Proper Exposure in Manual Mode