11 March 2012

six tips to help you on your photography journey | a guest post by courtney

There is so much to learn on your photography journey. Honestly, I’m not quite sure you will ever be done learning. I know, I am constantly learning new things after over 2 years of shooting on manual mode.

Here is a list of things you can do to improve your images when you are starting your journey.

1.   Composition

This is such an important part of your image. The way you compose your photo can draw your viewer in or it can distract them. You want to lead the viewer into your photo and have them see what you want them to see.

A few things to try:
Rule of thirds - this is when you place your subject in one of the thirds of your image
Straight horizons - it is very easy to hold your camera crooked so be sure to correct this in post processing
Leading lines - this is one of my favorites.  You use the natural lines of the image to draw your viewer into your subject
Negative Space - leaving some negative space on the top, right, left, or bottom of your image is a dramatic way to really show off your subject

2.   Choose your focal point

I can’t say this enough how important this is. You want to pick what your camera focuses on. Don’t let your camera pick it for you. What if you are shooting a newborn and only want their feet in focus. You need to be able to change your focal point. You will need to go into the menu of your camera to change this setting.

3.   Shoot in Manual mode

Honestly, this is where it gets fun and you can really take control of your photography. If you aren’t already shooting on manual mode, I challenge you to take it off the green box and switch it to “m” for one week. You must force yourself to practice. 

When learning manual mode you need to understand the exposure triangle:

Shutter speed - how quickly your shutter button closes. This affects how much light is let in to your image as well as how sharp it will be. If you are shooting at 1/30 and photograph a moving toddler your subject will be blurry. When photographing a moving subject, I would not go below 1/125.

Aperture - this helps decide how much of your image is in focus as well as the amount of light. If you are shooting at f/2.8 then a small portion of your image will be in focus and you will be letting in more light. Shooting at a lower number aperture (wider aperture) will help you achieve those blurry backgrounds everyone loves. If you are shooting at f/22 then almost everything in your image will be in focus and less light is let in.

ISO - this has to do with the amount of light let in. If you are shooting during the day time, keep it low - around 200 or so. If you are shooting indoors without a lot of light you may want to bump it up to 800 or 1600. Remember though, the higher the ISO the more grain/noise your image may have. However, it is better to raise your ISO and have a properly exposed image than to keep it low, have an underexposed image because the grain/noise will be a lot more noticeable in an underexposed image.

4.   Meter off the skin

You may have heard this before. When setting your exposure (using SS, aperture, and ISO) you want to get them all to meet so that your ticker is on the zero. To find what spot is best to set that exposure, you should put your red box or circle on the subject’s skin. This will make sure their skin is properly exposed which is the most important thing.

5.   Adjust Your White balance

This is the tint of your image. Have you ever taken a picture inside and it has a yellowish tint to it? I know I did and had no clue how to fix it. This is your white balance and it is off if your image is too yellow or too blue. You can adjust your white balance by going into your menu and using the preset ones or you can do custom white balance.  I use the Kelvin’s method for white balance these days. Some cameras don’t have that option though so be sure to check out what your camera can do. Play around with your white balance because if you can nail it in camera you can save yourself so much time in editing.

6.   Learn about Light

I could write posts upon posts about light. Honestly, light is so important in photos. I’m a huge fan of natural light and when shooting indoors I want to make sure my subject is near a window. You want to capture catchlights and shadows on your image. You can achieve this easily by having them turn at a 45 degree angle.  Make sure their eyes are facing the light source so you can capture a bit of light in their eyes.

I hope these tips help you on your journey. Please let me know if you have any questions.  I promise I have had the questions as well and love helping people. Thanks, Hope for allowing me to guest post on your blog!
I am a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom. I have two fantastic little girls and another one on the way. Married to an amazing man in the military, we are currently living in Japan. I blog at Click it Up a Notch where I write about photography tips, inspiration, equipment and editing. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter (@clickitupanotch).


  1. Yay! I love Click it Up a Notch :)

  2. Thank you soo much for these tips! I am just starting to experiment with manual mode, so your explanation of it is very helpful. Thanks again!

  3. Thank you SO much for this! I just started practicing manual, and I think this will really help me! :)