A Beginner’s Recipe to Better Photos Without Editing

I was shooting these maternity photos of one of my good friends and was seriously DROOLING over the amazing light. I kept showing her the back of my camera screen and how dreamy the images were turning out. The light was just that good. At that moment, I grabbed my phone, because I would obviously want to Instagram a sneak peek of this magic. Yet, the moment I held my phone camera up, I realized there was zero chance of the phone capturing this beauty. It couldn’t understand the lighting. It automatically wanted to underexpose the scene, because the sun streaming through the trees was so powerful. Right then, I realized that is exactly how my camera would handle the situation, if I were to put it into Auto.

So I did! And this was the result…..

2015-01-02_001

When letting it do the thinking for itself…. my $3000 camera took a photo that wasn’t much better than what my iphone would have taken.

This is exactly the reason why photographers get semi-offended when people say things like “Wow, you take great photos, I wish I had a camera that nice!”. Because a nice camera is a blessing and a GREAT tool, but it doesn’t carry the load on it’s own. Imagine you got access to a 5-star chef’s kitchen. Would you be able to cook the dishes that they do? Without the experience and the signature recipes….probably not. Photography is just the same. You need the recipe to good photos. And just what is that recipe?…..

MANUAL!!!

The recipe to a gorgeous photo is the combination of ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, and White balance, that you dial into your camera. There are many other contributing factors, such as lighting, composition, posing, etc. However, these are not relevant to this example, since they were the same in both of the photos above. This particular recipe is for pushing your camera to make the most of the situation before you. It is for not relying on just editing to make a photo look the way you want it to and rather, getting close to that result right in your camera.

Spend some time with your camera. Learn what aperture gives the depth of field that you want. What white balance gives the right amount of warmth that you want in your photos? How slow are you comfortable with going with your shutter speed? Learn what you want and how to push your camera to it’s full potential. I personally love wide apertures and a very warm color temperature.

What else is left to learn here? I’ve shown you how poorly a $3000 camera can shoot…..and you’ve probably seen on Instagram how well an iphone can shoot in the right scenario. So, what can your camera do? Is it a very nice and expensive camera that could be pushed further, but you are leaning on it’s value and not making it work hard for you? Or is it a lower-grade camera that you are assuming can’t take amazing photos, because it’s not the best model available? Whichever category you fall under, take that camera and push it! Shoot in manual and work that recipe to get the best possible result. Don’t let how fancy or how inexpensive your camera is, be the only thing that defines what you can do with it.

Charity Faith Oesch - January 29, 2015 - 4:42 am

Awesome post! I am currently in photography school and I am learning a lot of this for myself. My current class is just starting to teach about presets in Lightroom, which I know you’ve also mentioned as being important for a continuous “look”. You really are one of my main inspirations, and I am glad that you freely share what you know : D

Justin Willet - January 30, 2015 - 4:50 pm

Great article! Learn how to “master” the tools that you have at your disposal.

Ana Morales - February 19, 2015 - 9:39 am

Wwoowww your an amazing photograoher love it

Alixandra Mullins - March 11, 2015 - 5:34 pm

nice! I was just trying to teach my 6th grade photo class yesterday why they would want to use manual over auto (think I will show them your blog!)

Laura Jimenez - July 27, 2016 - 4:26 pm

Great post!!