Photography Tips - A Beginner's Guide to Better Pictures

Photography tips for beginners in manual mode

We will be making certain assumptions in this article. Assumption 1: We own a digital camera. Assumption 2: We have taken photos with the camera and know they could have turned into better. Assumption 3: We would like them to be better. Here we go. Digital is the easiest topic to learn due to its instant access via technology to our results.

This is a simple tip article, so we’ll start with the basics. The “basics” are light, aperture, and shutter speed. Once we have mastered these three things, you will see a significant improvement in the quality and composition of your photos. Next, we can move on to more advanced tips.


Photographers can use light as a blessing or curse. Amazing pictures can be achieved when the lighting is right. If there is too much or too little lighting, our photos will turn out differently than we expected. Photographing outdoors, shoot either early morning or late afternoon. Try to position your subject so that the light favours you. Avoid shooting directly from the sun if your subject is a person. Try to get at an angle that allows them to see us without the sun in their eyes. Make sure the lighting is consistent across your subject. If the subject is a person (or a group of people), make sure that the lighting is consistent throughout the shoot. This will prevent awkward shadows and unwanted effects. If you want to be more creative, you can invest in a reflector. This will allow us to further control the lighting of our subjects.


To think about the aperture, lift your hands with one hand and make an “O” shape with your fingers. (Bring tips together with thumb tip). This is the aperture. Bring it up to one eye. Do you find it easy to see? Great. We can now hold our hands straight up and start to curl our fingers along the base of our thumbs. Is there a disappearing light? This is how our camera’s aperture (also called an f-stop) works. It can open and close to let more or less light in our shot, depending on what we have available. The smaller the number, the more light reaches our image sensor. The smaller or tighter the opening, the less light gets in. This function can be used in conjunction with shutter speed.

Shutter Speed

Blink. Blink a few more times. Shutter speed is the time in between blinks. It controls how much light is allowed in, as well as how much action. The lower the number (or, the higher the 1/ number), the faster the shutter speed. The shutter speed will be faster if the number is smaller (or higher) than the 1/ number, i.e. 1/1000 versus 1/30. Special settings B and T are available for bulb (keeps the shutter open as long as our finger touches shutter release) or time (keeps the shutter open until we release it again). Fast shutter speeds let in very little light, which is why they are useful for high-light situations or when moving targets are being targeted. Low-lighting is best done at slow speeds. If there is motion, slow speeds will blur. Have you ever seen the blurred cars lights on the streets of cool photos? Slow shutter speed. To prevent handshaking from causing damage to the image, tripods were used. That’s right. Even a slight handshake can cause blurred images at slow shutter speeds.

Photographing at different times and in different places should help us determine the best combination of aperture/shutter speed to achieve the shot we want. Let’s have some fun now that we’ve covered the basics. All the best!