If you’re into photography, you don’t necessarily need to own the most expensive camera to take great photos. The truth is, as your camera gets more expensive, you receive diminishing returns. This is because even a moderately-priced camera nowadays is designed to be able to take excellent pictures, you just need to know how. Yes, that means even your 5-year-old DSLR. So, dust off your trusty old camera because you’re about to teach an old dog some new tricks.
It’s More Than Just the Camera
The first thing you need to understand before you start taking photos is that the thing that matters the most in photography is not, in fact, just the camera; it’s you. How good a camera is does play a part, yes. But eventually, when you own a good enough camera, the photography all comes down to how good of a photographer you are. And this is something you’re going to have to learn over time with practice. But for now, let’s discuss some major aspects of photography you should keep in mind when you’re out and about with your camera.
Angles are everything when taking a picture. How you look at a scene or an object, how its edges interact with its surroundings, and how much of its surface area is visible in the photograph are all very important aspects of taking a good picture. Experiment with different angles and look up famous photographers for inspiration until you are well acquainted with how to approach angles.
What actually makes up your photograph matters, but so does how it makes up your photograph. A well composed photo is taken in a way that it naturally draws attention from the viewer and is overall pleasant to look at. Whereas, a badly shot photo is confusing or has bad contrasting color tones. If you learn to take pictures from good angles, you’re halfway to taking pictures with good composition.
And finally, the setting of your photograph matters too. To take truly eye-catching photos you will need to hunt for environments that make for pleasant or exciting photographs. A dull photo with a dull background will barely pass as a decent photo no matter how interesting or pleasing the main subject of the photo is.
Play Around with the Settings
Just taking photos without any camera preparations will almost always lead to disappointing pictures. It might be easy to leave your camera on Auto, but you can take much better pictures if you take the time to properly set your camera up. Cameras today come equipped with tons of modes and features, but the basics that you need to pay attention to the most have remained the same. Light is what makes or breaks a picture. This is why cameras nowadays have so many settings and options to vary lighting, but the big ones you need to keep an eye on and experiment with for each photo are shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.
Shutter speed determines how long the camera is exposed to light. A shutter speed that is set too fast will churn out a darkened photo that only caught a very brief moment in time, while a shutter speed set too slow will give you a super bright and unclear image with moving lights and objects appearing as trails and blurs.
Setting the ISO basically means setting your camera’s sensitivity to light. An ISO set too low will give you dark images, whereas an ISO set too high will give you a noisy, grainy image.
Aperture pertains to how wide your lens’s diaphragm opens up to accept light. Aperture set too high makes for photographs where everything is in focus and less light enters the camera. Aperture set too low means more light enters the camera and nighttime shots turn out better but not everything is in focus.
Natural lighting doesn’t always play nice with cameras, and might make your pictures look too warm or too cold. This is where white balance settings can help, allowing you to set the tone of the image yourself so your picture turns out just right.
Shooting in RAW
Most people set their cameras to shoot in JPEG. This is much easier to deal with because the camera does all the work of editing and compressing the photo, giving you a finished product. However, if you don’t mind editing your images on your computer after photography sessions, you should switch to shooting in RAW. What this gives you is an unfinished image that is full to the brim with everything your camera captured, allowing you to be in control and choose exactly how the final product looks like.
Edit Your Photos
One major reason people leave their cameras in Auto mode is because they don’t want to mess around trying to take the perfect photo. If you don’t mind going the extra mile, and if you’re playing around with your camera settings you probably don’t, then do consider editing your photos on your computer. A world of possibilities opens up to you once you move your photos from your camera to a computer and on to professional editing software. It truly allows you to perfect even mediocre photos into looking pretty decent, and turns good photos into excellent ones. All you have to do is learn how to edit.
Read the Manual and Experiment
Lastly, give your camera’s manual a look. The manual is best equipped to familiarize you with all the settings we’ve discussed and more. You will even find instructions on features you never knew your camera had. And once you’ve completely familiarized yourself with your old camera, pick it up and go outside and start taking pictures while trying to apply your newfound knowledge. Experiment with all the settings and modes until it becomes second nature to you and you start taking brilliant photos without even trying.
Just because your camera is a few years old doesn’t mean that it’s not capable of taking great pictures, and hopefully we’ve helped you breathe new life into it. Now that you’re out and about, read up on how to become a successful landscape photographer. And if you love taking long exposure shots at night, read our 13 tips on long exposure photography and improve your game even further.