Learn to See and Capture Images Like A Pro

I meet new and learning photographers all the time. Very often, I find myself having a conversation with someone I’ve never met before and the standard question comes up, “What do you do?” Once people find out that I’m a photographer, I often hear people say that they want to take better pictures, but they don’t how to use the manual settings on their camera. It’s as if they automatically assume that if you’re not using the manual settings, then the pictures won’t look as good.

Now, granted that the manual settings do give you better control over how a scene is captured in the camera, it’s definitely not a given that just because an image is captured in manual makes it better than an image captured in an auto mode. It’s also certainly not a given that just because a photographer knows how to use the manual settings that it makes them any better as an artist.

The reality is that cameras don’t make art. Artists make art. Cameras only record light and the camera doesn’t know or care what it’s recording. The camera is no more responsible for creating a great photograph than a painters brush is responsible for creating a great painting. I’ve often shown someone a photo on my cameras screen and they attempt to compliment me by exclaiming what a great camera I have. Now I understand that their statement is meant well, but if you’re going to compliment my camera, then just email Canon. I’m sure they’d appreciate hearing that their technology and engineering is amazing.

Tip: Most of the time, I don’t actually shoot in full manual mode.

It’s true. 90% of the time I use my cameras AV (Aperture Priority) mode. It’s a partial manual/partial automatic mode. It allows me to set what I want for my ISO and Aperture settings and then I let the camera choose an appropriate shutter speed.

Why do I do this?

When I used to shoot weddings, the lighting and environment was constantly changing from moment to moment. It’s fast paced work and very often I wasn’t fast enough myself to change the manual settings in time to capture the moment before it was gone. I missed lots of great moments either because I was busy changing settings or because I forgot to change settings. So I learned from those mistakes and let the camera do that work for me in a way that gave me partial control and let the camera do the fast work for me. The image quality was no different and it actually freed me to spend more time looking at what was happening around me and less time looking at my camera settings.

Learn How to be a Better Photographer by Seeing

Becoming a professional photographer is less about how much you know about cameras than it is about seeing. Learn to “read” light. Learn to compose. Learn to see what isn’t obvious and you’ll be well on your way more than knowing all the tech stuff. Don’t get me wrong. Knowing the tech stuff is important because it gives you more control to accomplish your creative vision, but if you have no creative vision, then the tech stuff won’t help you.

What am I REALLY Saying?

Please don’t get wrong, I’m not saying that you don’t need to become proficient in understanding your camera. Not at all. What I AM saying is that you shouldn’t let a present lack of knowledge hold you back from moving forward. Do the best you can with the knowledge, skills and equipment you have right now.

There’s no doubt that being able to use the manual functions can open up huge realms of possibilities and help you be able to make your inner creative visions become reality. By all means, pursue knowledge and find a mentor. (I offer personal mentoring)


With all that said, I also have some great articles to help learn the technical aspects of photography. Check out the links below to learn more.

Mentoring Sessions

How to Shoot in Manual Mode

What Lens Did You Use?

Night Photography

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