Three Ways to Improve Your Photography skills | Mastering Manual Mode

Three Ways to Improve Your Photography skills | Mastering Manual Mode

Goodbye Point and Shoot

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 once and I'm here 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!

The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started

It’s important to note that what I’m going to share with you pertains to my own style of photography.  I am a portrait photographer and I’m going to teach you a basic approach to get you started in learning to shoot in manual mode. There are endless ways to shoot, so my hope is that by sharing this simple approach you will gain the basic skills and confidence necessary to get you on your way to mastering manual. Eventually you will find your own style and learn many new techniques, but you have to start somewhere. We often avoid starting something new because  we are afraid of failing, but failure is the best platform for growth, so no more excuses! 

It's All in the Lens

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 are the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8L and the 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 or Canon's 24-70mm f/2.8L. 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

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 in 2008 when he was just a couple of 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 a result of hard work, determination and lots and lots of growing pains! 

 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