Allied Publishing Books and Training Manuals

Taking Better Pictures with Digital Cameras

beautiful landscape photo in fall season
How do you take professional pictures with your digital camera? The quality of a photo depends on its composition, what you choose to include and leave out of the picture, how you arrange it in the frame, and how you select the right shooting mode for the job.

If you want to take better photos, you have to become familiar and use more advanced shooting modes, including:

  • Aperture Priority – This setting is used to control the depth of field or how sharp you want to show the image from front to back. Use it for portraits, macro photos, and landscape. For example, the headshot will be in focus and background will be out of focus to put emphasis on the model with a blurred background.
  • Shutter Priority – This setting is generally used for shooting sports and action.
  • Program mode – Camera automatically sets the aperture and shutter speed.
  • Manual – You set both aperture and shutter speed. However, you don’t have to use the manual; many of the automatic settings provide great results. The camera will raise or lower ISO sensitivity based on the lighting condition to provide a sharp image.

Here are some photography tips to take good photos with a digital camera:


The exposure of the film is a vital step in making a photograph. Exposure is usually based on the important shadow areas of a scene.

To get correctly exposed pictures, you have to control the light that enters the camera and reaches the film. You do that by first measuring the brightness of the scene and then adjusting the aperture and shutter speed until the quantity of light reaching the film matches the film’s sensitivity or the sensor for digital cameras. Therefore, controlling the light is a simple matter of increasing or decreasing either the size of the aperture or the shutter speed.

There are four factors that contribute to exposure: the aperture, the shutter, the light meter, and the film for non-digital cameras or a sensor for digital cameras. In digital cameras, a sensor instead of film is placed behind the lens. These four factors are working together to provide correct exposure. By gaining control over these factors, you’ll be able to produce high-quality pictures.

Aperture and Shutter Speed

Correct exposure is obtained when the aperture and shutter speed are in the right relationship. To get a correct exposed picture, you need to control the light that enters the camera by adjusting the aperture and shutter speed until the quality of light reaching the film matches the film’s sensitivity or the sensor for digital cameras.

Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens that admits light. Longer aperture allows more light to reach the film or sensor and therefore require shorter exposure times. Aperture also determines the depth of field, that is how sharp the picture is in front and behind the point on which the lens is focused. The smaller the aperture the greater the depth of field will be.

The size of the aperture is controlled by the lens’s aperture ring. This ring is calibrated in f-numbers. Larger f-number means smaller openings. The large f-number, such as f/22 represents a small opening, while the small number f/1.4 represents a large aperture. So the bigger the f-number, the smaller the lens aperture, and the less the light that reaches the film or sensor.

The standard series of f-number: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22. Each step toward larger aperture doubles the amount of light reaching the film or sensor. For example, f/2 transmits four times as much light as f/4.

Lenses with large maximum aperture are considered fast. For example, a 50mm f/1.4 is faster than 50mm f/3.5. Faster lenses permit shooting in dimmer light, and provide brighter viewfinder images for easier focusing. Faster lenses are more expensive and generally not as sharp at maximum aperture.

The shutter controls the length of time that is allowed to reach the film or sensor. If the shutter speed is doubled, the amount of light is halved. This is also the effect if the size of the aperture is decreased by one stop. A fast shutter speed freezes the movement. A slow shutter speed can convey movement.

To obtain enough light for exposure in low lighting situations, you often have to use both wide aperture and slow shutter speeds. Some subjects can be shot with a handheld camera providing a wide maximum aperture of at least f/2.8, but support the camera for exposures slower than 1/60.

For exposures longer than 1 second, use a tripod and a cable release. One advantage of using a tripod and long exposure is that you increase the overall sharpness of the image by choosing a very small aperture.

city downtown night lights

You will need to practice different settings in both bright and dark lighting condition and to compare the quality of your image. Best shooting time is when the light is soft and diffused such as early morning and evening. Avoid shooting during midday when the light is too harsh.

For portraits, try backlighting and use reflectors for better results. Watch out for shadows. Also beware of camera shakes, especially in dim lighting conditions.

Most digital cameras offer a choice of RAW and JPEG formats. RAW file format gives you the choice of editing if you find that your images are too dark or too bright. You can fix them in Photoshop or similar image-editing software. However, if you choose to save images as RAW files, then you have to process the images yourself. When you see JPEG option on the camera, the image will be processed automatically from the raw data and saved as JPEG to the memory card.

You may discover some of your images are overexposed. You need to prevent overexposed images. Find your camera’s brightness histogram. The graph can be displayed alongside a photo during playback. You will see the highlights on the right and the shadows on the left. If the histogram is pushed towards the right side, then the image may be overexposed. You need to learn to use your camera’s exposure compensation function to reduce the overexposure.

The highest quality pictures come from taking a lot of photos on a daily basis using different setting and learning how to use your camera in different lighting conditions.

Use of tripod or keeping your camera steady can help in giving you better images. In addition, good images come from turning off the camera flash or at least pointing the flash towards ceiling to allow the light to bounce from the ceiling.

Try to use a low ISO in most of your shooting because you will get a lot of noise using higher ISO. For portraits, adjust the height of camera on tripod and set the camera at about the center of the model’s face. Also use reflectors to help model’s features to stand out and to provide a soft lighting.

By Robert Stevens – 2019 – Update 2020
Copyright © 2019-2020 Allied Publishing
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For additional articles written by Robert Stevens, see Robert Stevens is the author of How to Make Money With Your Camera published in 2019.

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