Road Map to Mastering Your Camera

Your Road Map to Mastering Your Camera

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When you are first learning photography it can all be very overwhelming.  All the terms and buttons, it is kinda like learning a foreign language. Well at least for me it was.  I know I would spend hours searching for tips and would end my search session frustrated and just not sure where to go next. What I really wanted was a road map that told me what to master and in what order. Well, I have created that for you- A Road Map to Mastering Your Camera!!  Follow these 15 steps and you will be learning manual mode in no time and your pictures will thank you for it. 

Step 1- Learn the Exposure Triangle

Exposure is such a HUGE concept in photography, and is why you need to start your photography journey here. The concept of the exposure triangle is how Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO work together to create a correct exposure.

To Learn more- What is Exposure?

Step 2- Memorize Aperture, Shutter Speed, & ISO

Next, you need to have a more in-depth knowledge of the three exposure elements; Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. Learn and memorize what each element does with regards to letting light into the camera sensor and what your final image will look like. This would be a great time to step out of your comfort zone and switch your camera to Shutter Priority Mode or Aperture Priority Mode. 

To Learn More- Aperture Priority Mode

Step 3- Learn About Metering

Balancing Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO can be challenging but you don’t have to do it alone.  Your camera has a light meter that will help you achieve the correct exposure.  For this step learn everything you can about Metering. 


Step 4- Switch that Camera to Manual Mode

The best way to learn it is to just do it!!  Shooting in manual mode is when you control ALL three elements of the exposure triangle. You get to decide which aperture, shutter speed, and ISO you use for a shot. Learning manual mode is a MUST for creating pictures that you will love. You’re going to choose your settings based on two different factors- how much light there is in the scene you’re photographing and how you want the scene to look. 

Step 5- Shooting Over and Under

Our light meter is a great start for making sure our images are balanced but with more practice you will learn that you prefer images that are either a little darker or a little brighter than what your camera’s light sensor will read.  This is shooting over or under.  It takes time to learn what you prefer but read about shooting over and under, experiment to see what you prefer. 

Step 6- Learn the Histogram and highlight warning to check your Exposure

Exposure is huge when it comes to learning photography and we aren’t always sure we are getting it right.  Lucky for us our cameras have Histograms and highlight warnings to let us know if we are close to have a proper exposed picture.  Reading your histogram will help you adjust your setting to get a better exposed picture and highlight warnings will let you know if there is any part of your picture that is blown out. 

To Learn More- Reading the Histogram

Step 7- Light, Light & more Light

Light is everything in photography, without it we can’t make a photograph. But not all light is created equal, the right light can make or break your image. Start by using indoor light because you are able to control the light more indoor than you can outside. 

Once you have mastered indoor light move outside, but keep it simple at first by using open shade. Then cloudy days, full sun, and golden hour light. You will also want to consider how to light your subjects from different ways such as from the front, the side, and behind. 

To Learn More- Find the Light

Step 8- Using “tools” to help you control light (reflectors)

Light can be tricky but there are ways that you can manipulate light to make it work for your scene.  Many elements in nature work as reflectors making things look brighter. You can also buy reflectors that can help you brighten your images. Just remember the more things that you buy the more you will have to lug around with you when you are shooting.  I suggest learning about natural reflectors and looking for them when you are out shooting. 

Step 9- Notice the Different Color of Light (White Balance)

Have you ever noticed how the color of light in your living room is different than the color of light in your kitchen? Light has color and we need to have an understanding of that in order to control the colorcast in our pictures.

Learn everything you can about White Balance and how to set White Balance in your camera.  The more that you get right in camera the less editing you will have to do after. 

Embrace Light

Step 10- Get Creative (silhouettes, shadows, and reflections)

Photography is an art and being creative is part of that.  Experiment a little with different techniques. Learn how to create silhouettes, use shadows and reflections.  The options are endless!! Have fun and see what you can create. 

Step 11- Switch to shooting in RAW

Now not every picture we take is going to be perfect. Sometimes the moment comes and goes so quickly that we don’t have time to get our settings right or don’t have time for a retake that is where RAW comes into play. Research what it means to save your images as RAW files.  You will need a secondary program like Lightroom to view RAW files so be prepared to learn a new program when you switch to RAW. 

Step 12- Focus Focus Focus

The whole reason you picked up your camera was to take a picture of something.  That should be the focus of your image, but of course, it isn’t that simple there are different focusing modes and different ways to achieve focus. Learn about them and find the one that works best for you.

Step 13- Composition

Composition is another way for you to be creative with your photography.  Learn different techniques that will draw your viewer’s eyes into your photo. Start with learning the rule of thirds and move on from there. 

rule of thirds-directional

Step 14- Practice

Give yourself grace. Nothing great comes without practice. You can read everything that is out there about photography and how to create a great picture but if you don’t practice your images will still just be ok.  Fill up the memory card!! Take 5-6 photos of the same thing! Experiment! That is the only way you are going to get better. A great way to practice every day is to start a photography project. 

Learn More- Starting a Photography Project

Step 15- Print Your Images!!!

I can’t tell you how important it is to print your images.  Not only for you to see them but for your family to see them as well.  Celebrate the progress you have made.  Find ways to give your pictures as gifts either in frames or photo books. I love to create photo books for my kids that document all of our adventures. I create one book per kiddo at the end of every year using Blurb but I use Chatbooks to print mini books throughout the year.

To Learn More- Preserving Memories

Learning photography is a journey and not something that you are going to master overnight. It takes time, practice, and patience.  Use this FREE road map to document what you have learned and what you need to learn next in your Journey to Mastering Your Camera.  Remember to share your pictures on social media, #capture_your_adventures, so that we can celebrate your progress along the way.

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