I recently received the following email


Hi, I am _________. I want to ask for your recommendation on how to improve my photography and your opinion on upgrading to t4i or other semi pro canon cameras or lens. My kit: -T3i -18-55 kit lens -55-250 f/4 -5 .6 -50 f/1.8 I enjoyed using my DSLR to take indoor photos of friends, families, foods, toys and out door photos of people or things. I do shoot some videos to put on youtube for my girl friend’s make up blogs, but she recently been taking a break. I want to improve how my pictures look, learn how to compose my photography, find resources to taking sharper, brighter, more stylish, better balance of pictures, etc… I know that’s a couple questions there so I’m just looking for suggestions on where should I focus on and any books or website you can recommend to get become proficient if not professional. I can send some examples of street photography, model photography (not sure what its called) that I want to learn more about. Thanks a lot, __________


I have had a handful of similar questions in the last few days and thought it would be worth sharing my answer for all to see.   The question is a big one, basically “how can I take beter photographs?”


I am going to try to keep my answer short and sweet.


1. I don’t think upgrading your camera is going to help, the new features of the Canon t4i don’t necessarily translate into better composed and sharper photos.  The T3i does just fine.  You may want to consider a new lens or lenses.  The 18-55 and the 55-250 are good lenses to start with, they are lightweight and decent enough but as you grow as a photographer they can be somewhat limiting.  Both are variable aperture lenses which means as you zoom the widest available aperture decreases making it more difficult to get those lovely portraits with that nicely blurred background.  For more information spend a few moments reading Aperture Explained Simply.  This is why the nifty-fifty or 50mm f1/.8 lens is an excellent purchase. For around $100 you get a decently sharp lens with a very wide aperture.  This allows you to explore how shooting at wide apertures can affect your photography.   Spend a little more for the 50 f/.4 and you get even sharper, faster focusing with USM and nicer color, not to mention an extra stop of light (f1.4 vs f/1.8).  Either 50mm on a Rebel camera is actually 80mm, this has to do with the cropped sensor.  80mm is getting a little long for general photography but as a portrait lens it is excellent.   You can set your camera to AV mode, dial in a nice wide aperture (e.g. f/2.0) and take some nice portraits. This brings me to my next point-

2. Know your camera and all of its modes.  I have a post about the basic modes of the Canon T4i and those are applicable to other earlier rebels but if you really want to get the most out of your camera you should be exploring the other side of the dial, especially Av (aperture priority) and M (manual) modes.  These modes give you much more control of your camera and the images it produces.   Reading the manual and Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure can really help here.  I think I recommend that book at least once a week, it is fantastic and one of the first books I read that really explained to me how the camera “sees” the world and allowed me to get much more comfortable shooting in other modes.

3. Shoot Raw, shooting raw allows the camera to capture more detail and then you have control in post processing to create the JPEG you want.  Using a program like Lightroom where you can easily decrease noise and add sharpness and clarity can really make a standard looking, ho-hum photo POP.  Don’t over do the sharpening though – I hope to have the talented and wonderful Christina Bernales guest post on this very subject within the next few weeks.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice.   Take lots of photos, review those photos on your computer, paying attention to the Metadata: shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focal length and see if you can figure out what appeals to you about certain photos, why others are blurry etc.  Share your best images for critique, on my Facebook page or in the Flickr groups – pay attention to the feedback.  Look at other photos you really like – where is the subject, what does the background look like and try to recreate those – your goal isn’t to just copy someone else but until you get comfortable with the basics and develop your own style, it is a great way to start.


One more resource I point all new-ish photographer to is Kodak’s Top Ten Tips  It might seem basic but the tips are excellent composition and lighting focused for a variety of subjects and well worth taking a few minutes to review.

I hope this help.  I do plan to expand on some of these topics in future posts and will be posting a series of tutorials on the creative side of the DSLR dial soon.


Thanks for reading!




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