Until you start using an actual camera.
Actual cameras, you may come to find, have actual buttons. Actual cameras have knobs and numbers and settings. Actual cameras are complicated.
What follows is my attempt to make the complicated slightly less complicated. What follows is a compilation of tips that I made up myself! All backed by experience of course. Don’t worry. I am a professional.
What… you don’t have memory deleting capabilities? Well fine. I can settle for simply don’t use it. Auto mode is a default for people who don’t know what to do with their camera. Sometimes it produces O.K. pictures, I will admit, and it is helpful in a pinch. Most of the time, however, it creates shadowy, drafty pictures, (yes, drafty) that don’t do your subject any justice. If you MUST use auto, use the “no flash” version. It should have a symbol that looks like a lightning bolt with a slash through it. That one is better. Why? Because…
Or, at least, the one that comes standard on your camera is bad. External or adjusted flash is a completely different story. The standard one just isn’t big enough or mobile enough to do any good. The problem is in the location: it has no choice but to flash right where the lens is, so your light is always coming from where you are, which ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS creates terrible shadows. Shadows add weight to your thighs. Don’t use flash. Instead, you should…
It is much more worth it to use the light that is already around you. When you are inside, find a window. If it is nighttime, find a lamp that you can position well. If you are outside, there is a large fireball in the sky that I give you permission to use. If it is night, there is the large cheese ball reflecting the fire in the sky. Or you could use a lamppost. This creates an environment that is more natural to look at. This is because this is the way it actually looks when you look at it. You just have to be strategic. How, you ask? Well I will tell you how.
I already mentioned using natural light, but where do you go from there? The most important thing to pay attention to is shadows. Light can’t just come from behind, although you need to have some behind. It can’t just come from the front, although you need some in the front. If you are inside, you have ultimate control of what goes where and how. Test things out… experiment.
If you are outside on a bright day, it would be a poor move to take a picture of someone with the sun behind him or her. S/He would be a complete shadow. This results in something called a silhouette. I don’t know about you, but I like faces.
On another hand, (my left hand; I only have two) if the sun is high noon, this causes facial shadows. It would be cool if faces were naturally flat. Then that would be normal and not weird… and easy to photograph at noon. But no, faces have peaks and valleys and creaks and crevices. When the light is coming from directly above, or anywhere similar to above, awkward shadows appear. We can see those with our eyes too, we are just too smart to notice. But if you really look for it, you can reposition and find a better spot…
Shooting in the shade on a bright day is great fun. We avoid all of this shadow nonsense. There is diffused (as opposed to direct) light coming from all angles, so harsh shadows cannot exist. Be careful of shifting clouds or light coming through leaves on trees, which cause awkward blotchy shadows. Aside from blotchy shadows, cloudy days are ideal for outdoor pictures. Cloudy days make colors richer too, which is always delightful. This is extra apparent when you…
Six. …shoot in the golden hour!
a.k.a. when the sun is almost ready to go down. The time when things turn gold. If you think about it, you notice that when then sun goes down, the tones of the world around you get warmer. Things literally turn gold. It is a beautiful time to shoot. Trees become greener, I promise. Skin becomes richer; eyes become deeper. It is pure magic. It also eliminates shadows.
Seven. Learn your knobs.
Quite honestly, all tips – even from a professional like me – are null and void unless you know what your buttons do. You just have to know first and foremost that everything – I mean EVERYTHING – in photography has to do with light. The manipulation of light; the perception of light… it’s all part of it. That is what your camera does. It collects the light that reflects off of whatever it sees. It can collect it in many different ways, but that is up to you. Fast or slow, with wide eyes or squinty, we control the light the camera absorbs. How do we do that?
You’ll have to wait and see.
Or you could research “shutter speed,” “ISO,” and “aperture.” But who am I to tell you what to research.