7 Tips To Becoming A Better Photographer With Your DSLR Camera And A Few Videos To Help

If you are local to Raleigh, NC, please check out my WORKSHOPS page.
I offer individual and group training.

7 Photography Tips:

The 7 photography tips below, when implemented and practiced, will help you improve your DSLR Photography. If you already own a DSLR Camera that is likely worth hundreds of dollars minimum or maybe even thousands, you might as well learn how to start getting better results from your investment or gift (if you were lucky). Some of the tips even have a video from YouTube that I thought may help you understand the tip better than trying to say it all with words.

The tips below are not meant to go into great detail. That would take a book. But when implemented and practiced, these 7 photography tips will help you become a better DSLR photographer.

1) Understand Light:

Light can make or break your photography. You need to learn how to use it as your friend not your enemy. One of the key components of making light work for you is paying attention to the direction the light is coming from. Is it behind your subject, beside your subject or in front of your subject? Once you know that, then you have to practice making light work for you not against you. Toss out the rules (at least for now), like the sun coming from behind your subject, and try something new which is this case may provide a nice silhouette with bursts of light coming from behind your subject. The nice thing about digital photography is that you can see what you are getting without having to wait like the film processing days.

Using a flash and a reflector are tips #5 and #6, so you'll gain a little more knowledge about light as you continue through this post.

Lighting tips go way deeper than the basic advice above. This post is only meant to scratch the surface.  You should start noticing light more and practicing how to use it to your advantage.

2) Compose the Shot:

Composition is critical to creating great images. Although in the digital age, you can easily crop an image after the fact to change the composition. However, that is not the same as truly being aware of your image composition through the camera lens at the time you release the shutter.  If you don't have something in the frame that could help with the composition, you cannot make cropping work for you in the same way as if it were already part of the image. It's true that with digital that you can add or take away things in Photoshop. However, I am talking about being truly aware of what you are seeing through the lens of the camera and purposely composing your shot.

There are two great ways to get better at composition. First, study other photographer's work to begin understanding what some of the best photographer's are up to. Joe McNally and Trey Ratcliff come to mind quickly.  Secondly, practice, practice, practice.  I know that doesn't sound like a lot but these two things will make a difference.

3) Understand Depth of Field:

Depth of field in its simplistic form relates to how much the back ground is in or out of focus. It is controlled by your lens setting like f/4 vs. f/22 for example. You have likely seen many images with the background out of focus that causes the image to POP more. Rather than type a lot of words here, I will simply encourage you to watch the video below. He shows a quick example within the first 90 seconds or less of the video.


4) Use Manual Mode:

The longer you continue to shoot in auto mode and let the camera do all the thinking, the longer it will be before you are truly in control of your photography.

It helps to have a good understanding of the exposure triangle first which will not only help you with manual mode but with depth of field, understanding light, exposure and ISO.

1) You need to understand the exposure triangle: 


2) Shooting in Manual Mode (Watch the video above first.):


5) Use a TTL Flash:

It amazes me how many people own a DSLR camera and rely on the little pop up flash.  The missing piece in many DSLR owner's camera kit is an external hot shoe mounted TTL flash also known as a speedlite.  TTL is short for "Through The Lens."  In other words, the camera and flash communicate well with each other to give proper lighting from the flash.

It's true that the Nikon and Canon brand name top of the line flashes can be $500+.  If that is way out of your range, one of the best off brands that I am aware of is the Yongnuo YN-565EX which as of this post is $119.99 on Amazon.  If you want something  a little more expensive and more of a popular name brand, you could look into the METZ brand.

There are 3 key things to keep in mind when using a hot shoe mounted flash.

1) Be sure to have backup batteries - Most units work off of 4 AA batteries.
2) Bounce the flash with something like a small ROGUE Flashbender currently around $35 on Amazon.
3) Use the flash outside to fill in shadows and get better results overall potentially outside.

If you want more in depth knowledge about flash, you may want to see my post about the FroKnows Guide To Flash Photography.

6) Use a 5-in-1 Reflector:

You can find a 5-in-1 reflector for under $20 on Amazon. Even one as large as the one in the video below.

This is something that is far better to SHOW than TELL, so I'll leave you to the video. It's only a 5 minute video about an awesome tool for controlling light.


7) Use a Prime Lens:

Most lenses that come with camera kits today are zoom lenses which makes logical sense because they provide a greater range of focal points like wide angle to closer up for example without the photographer having to move around very much. However, in the film days, 35mm cameras typically came with a 50mm lens. That's a prime lens. Actually a prime lens is simply a lens that is not a zoom lens and has one focal length. A few other primes lenses are 28mm, 35mm, 85mm, 100mm and 135mm, but the list goes on.

You may already be thinking....."Why do I need a prime lens?" That's a great question. One of the key reasons that comes to mind is the lens opening. For example, Canon makes a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens for just over $100. The typical kit lens is around f/3.5 at the widest opening and sometimes f/4 or f/4.5. That means the prime lens will be better in lower light. If you have not watched the depth of field video above in tip #3 that may help you understand some of this f/stop geek speak a little better.

If you are local to Raleigh, NC, please check out my WORKSHOPS page. I offer individual and group training.

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David Williams

About The Author: David Williams is a professional still photographer and videographer focusing on corporate and commercial work. His love for still photography began in 1982 while still in High School. David started making money at photography in 1982. David and his wife Brenda started working together in photography in 1988 when they met and were married in 1989. Brenda is the photo editor for the business. David and Brenda have two daughters in their 20's. Please be sure to get a quote for services if needed: our goal is to respond as promptly as possible. You may also call David direct at 919.723.8453. You may share this content using the larger social icons above this bio section. You may find David on various social platforms by clicking the smaller icons to the left of this paragraph under David's headshot. Check out David Williams on Google Plus. Finally, you may also want to visit our home page as well.
  • Thanks for helpful tips,David. First is really the most important – Understand light.

    • David Williams

      Chris, Thanks for commenting. David