If you were lucky enough to get a spanking new camera for the Holidays, you may be gleefully looking for opportunities to take some great shots of your spouse, kids, family, pets, or whatever else happens to appear when you look through the viewfinder. But are you taking steps to ensure that your photos are the best they can possibly be?
Understanding Modern Cameras
Today’s cameras are both easy to use and terrifically complicated at the same time. The easy to use part is the assortment of automatic modes (such as sports, portrait, macro, etc.) which will happily roll along figuring out what works best as far as shutter speed, aperture, sensitivity, metering, white balance, flash, and so on. Nine times out of ten, automatic settings will work for you just fine. That is, until they don’t. So what do you do? Take the plunge and head into your camera’s menu or try out some of the manual settings offered! This is where it can get quickly complicated and overwhelming if you are not familiar with how your camera operates. If you haven’t already, pick up your camera’s user manual. Wait, no one actually reads these things do they? Most people don’t, which is why they continue to get average photos when they could be getting fantastic ones. By browsing your manual you can learn about all the handy features your camera offers, and how they can help you get better photos.
Practice Makes Perfect(er)
Next, get out there and use your camera. Don’t just wait for a family gathering or for your child’s next piano recital. You need to be familiar with the settings and operation of your camera before you are in a situation where you have to get good shots. So, head to the park with your kids and practice taking still shots, action shots, and even shots of leaves or flowers to get accustomed to your camera’s menus and capabilities.
If you happened to get a DSLR or other interchangeable-lens camera for the Holidays then you are facing a slightly bigger learning curve. While these types of prosumer cameras are more likely to help you get creative and stunning photos, they also have a lot more to learn in the way of manual adjustments. Fortunately there are a ton of places where you can read tutorials and get help, such as on this site or Digital Photography School.
In the meantime, continue reading the manuals and practicing. If you are still struggling with your camera in a few weeks you may want to consider looking locally for one or two-day beginner digital camera classes, they really do help you to understand your camera.
Finally, make a commitment to take better photos by improving their composition. Look up common composition guidelines like the rule of thirds, leading lines, straight verticals and horizontals, focal points, contrast, and color. Understanding these compositional guides will help turn your shots from simple snapshots into frame-worthy works of art. Again, there are a ton of online resources available on photography composition, as well as many helpful books at your local library or online.
Make a resolution now: This year I am going to learn to take fantastic kids photos!