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Take Better Digital Pictures Using Manual Controls

Why master your digital camera settings?


take better digital picturesWhy are manual controls important if you want to take better digital pictures? What can be done with the aperture and shutter speed settings on your camera to make your photos more impressive!?

Well these, and a few other basic digital camera settings, give you a lot more freedom to express yourself with a camera. They give you more technical as well as artistic control.

Basically, getting the hang of your camera makes it more fun to use! So here's a look at why it's important to understand the basics of digital photography, with links to relevant tutorials.


The Aperture

Setting the aperture manually allows you to take better digital pictures by controlling 'depth of field'. Depth of field is the size of the area in sharp focus.

So by controlling the aperture you can, for instance, make sure that the whole of a landscape picture is sharp, from foreground to background.

Or you could do the reverse in a portrait shot by blurring the background to intensify the subject.

Because the aperture works reciprocally with shutter speed, opening it wide allows you to work in low light with a fast enough shutter speed to prevent camera shake.

Here is my full guide to taking better pictures by using the aperture: What is Aperture?


The Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is one of the basics of digital photography because it's fundamental to how the camera works and is crucial for taking better digital pictures in a range of situations.

Firstly, controlling the shutter speed allows you to avoid blurry images caused by camera shake.

Shutter speed also makes it possible to freeze fast moving objects and capture sharp, still images of wildlife in mid flow or fast paced sporting action.

Conversely, shutter speed can be used to deliberately show motion blur. With the use of a tripod you can capture, for example, rushing waves on a beach.

Alternatively, holding the camera by hand with a slow shutter is a great way to explore abstract photography!

Here is my full guide to taking better pictures by setting the shutter speed: What is shutter speed?

take better digital pictures


The ISO Speed

ISO speed determines the speed at which a digital camera's sensor reacts to light and forms a photo. So fast ISO means less light has to be admitted through the aperture/shutter speed combination, and slow ISO means more has to be.

Using a fast ISO allows you to take better digital pictures in low light. It makes it possible to retain a faster shutter speed - because less light is needed to form a picture - and freeze motion clearly.

ISO is also important when shooting in good light. The disadvantage of fast ISO speeds is that they result in increased noise, little specks, in a photo. So keeping the ISO speed as low as possible benefits the technical quality of an image, which is especially important if you plan to print it (Guide to printing digital pictures).

Here is a complete guide to taking better digital pictures through using ISO settings: Camera ISO - Understanding and Using it.


The Metering Modes

take better digital pictures

The metering modes on digital cameras determine how the built in light meter reads light and in turn the aperture and shutter settings you select.

They are really important digital camera settings to use because they provide greater control and precision in different, and perhaps challenging, lighting conditions.

For example where there is a lot of contrasting light in a scene - bright highlights and black shadows etc. - 'spot' metering allows you to take a reading of only the precise area you need to make sure is correctly exposed.

But this kind of accurate metering would be too time consuming in other situations. When shooting wildlife or sport, the crucial moment you want to capture is gone in the blink of an eye.

Here it's often best use 'matrix' metering, which averages out the light throughout the entire scene. This is a less accurate metering mode but helps you take better digital pictures in situations where you need to grab the subject spontaneously and set up a shot as quickly as possible.

Here's a guide to the basics of digital photography metering: Using a Photography Light Meter



Getting to grips with the basics of digital photography and learning to take manual control of your digital camera settings is well worth it!

It will both reduce the number of disaster photos you take (!) and, more importantly, enhance your technical and artistic prowess! Your photos really will improve immeasurably once you get the hang of things like aperture and shutter speed.

So if you're eager to become a brilliant photographer and take better digital pictures, you may be interested in my reviews of the best online digital photography courses.

Where are the best places to learn how to take better digital pictures? I'm a big fan of:

The Photography Crash Course: 17 Short Lessons To Camera Mastery

Where Next?

Create Cool Personalized Greetings Cards

Finding the Best Digital Photo Printers

Great Digital Photography Magazines

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