6.14.17 9

Photography 101 – 5 Basic Truths About Taking Better Pictures + My Hacks

One thing I love about photography is that everyone can do it. Especially, these days where every other person is equipped with an easily accessible camera on their phones. I truly believe you can be a successful blogger and putting out quality content with just that. However easy that may seem, taking better pictures depends on many factors. How to get there? Well, you need to know a few things first.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this topic lately, so today I’d like to share how I’ve learned and developed my skills for taking better pictures, as well as what I did to get there. Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

Easy Photography Hacks for taking better pictures

dress: c/o Quiz Clothing

Question #1 I get is who takes my photos and I think the answer usually surprises everybody. While I have worked with many photographers before (for the list, click here), lately I’ve been trying to focus on working more with my boyfriend. Now, you need to know that by no means he is interested in photography or had much experience with it before.

However, he was willing to learn the basics in order to help me with what I want to achieve. Since you all have been telling me that you’re loving what you’re seeing lately, I believe his example goes to show that with a little bit of practice (and training/ guidance), you are bound to take good photos.

taking better pictures how to

I always say that knowing the technical basics is only one step for taking better pictures. I believe what’s more important is actually having a good eye for picture framing and story telling. Because let’s face it. Your settings might be perfect but if your head or limbs are cut off awkwardly, then the overall picture won’t look good.

As I mentioned before, you can get great pictures with just a phone camera (I’m currently looking into getting an iPhone 7+, thoughts?), and have your blog and Instagram feed (Marianna Hewitt is a great example) look flawless. However, there are situation where your phone won’t be enough and that’s when the DSLR camera comes in handy.

5 Basic Truths About Taking Better Pictures by Shenska

Which brings me to Question #2 What kind of camera I’m shooting with. The answer is Canon EOS Rebel T6i and you can buy it here. Now, if you’ve been loving my pictures, then you’ll love this camera too. In fact, any other bloggers I got to shoot with before agreed with me. I believe it’s a great starter and not as big of investment as you might think. My camera with two lenses, a camera bag, and a bunch of accessories cost about $700 (around Christmas).

However, if you want to save more money, I recommend checking out Amazon and searching for a used body camera (maybe even a lens if you’re feeling risky). The good thing about DSLR cameras is that you can kind of mix and match, meaning get a used body and then a brand new lens. First, you just have to figure out which one will suit your needs best.

taking better photos hacks and tips by Shenska

Question #3 that YOU need to answer yourself is what kind of photos you want to take/ get. If you’re a fashion blogger, then you might be looking for a lens with a low aperture (1.8 and lower) to get that nice blur in the background. My camera came with an 18-55 mm (f/3.5-5.6) kit lens, but we also got the fixed one 50 mm (f/1.8) for that specific purpose. To be completely honest, I barely ever use the kit one. We did in the beginning but once my boyfriend tried the fixed lens (meaning you can’t zoom in and out), we were hooked.

For reference, all photos in today’s post were taken with the 50 mm one. Now, keep in mind that this particular lens is perfect for portraits and close ups, but it takes a bit more practice to take full body length photos and some action. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done! You just have to mess with the settings a bit more and make sure you’re always focused on the right object in order to get a clear photo.

photography 101 tips for taking better pictures

Question #4 is all about what you want to accomplish. For me, it’s always been about location, location, location. Yes, I said it three times because it’s that important.  But it doesn’t have to be. You might be one of those bloggers that can’t afford much time for scouting new places to shoot at every time or simply don’t feel comfortable doing it in public. That’s where your garage door or a wall in a quaint neighborhood might work. I believe that once you have a good light and settings on your camera, then almost all backgrounds can work. It all depends on your aesthetic and what you’re trying to get.

I always aspired to tell a story through my photos and to share a certain feeling. I never really wanted them to be just about the clothes I’m wearing. Of course that’s not always a case (because of the time restraint and such), but more likely than not you’ll see each look in a different setting in my case. Once again, it’s all up to you.

tips for taking better pictures by Shenska Napa Valley

Question #5 I also get asked a lot is about where I edit my photos. Let me preface it by saying that I had a Photoshop and Lightroom training, which certainly was helpful. However,  one thing about photography that’s always true is that you’ll never stop learning new things about it. I know I still do. For example, yesterday I was googling where to get free Lightroom Presets and then spent about 3 hours testing them! The photos in today’s post are the result of that experience. Thoughts?

I think in the beginning when you’re still trying to establish what kind of aesthetic you want to go with, you will spend a lot of time on editing… However, on a side note: my teacher used to say that every photographer should aspire to take the best photo they possibly can right on the spot so then it’s so good that it doesn’t even have to be edited. And that’s so true! While I always keep in mind I can use Photoshop to fix what I don’t like later on, I still try to do my best to capture the photo to the best of my ability first.

What if you’re shooting with a friend who doesn’t have as much training as you do? My tip or hack for taking better pictures is to always shoot in RAW instead of JPEG. I can’t tell you how many times it saved my ass! Any time I would get a photo that’s a bit over/underexposed, I could easily adjust it to the right settings in Photoshop. And you can do so much more with it! Just please keep in mind that in order to handle RAW files (which are taken in much bigger resolution that JPEGs, you need a bigger memory card with high speed (I also learned that the hard way). Otherwise, your camera won’t register fast enough. I recommend buying this one for a start.

my photography hacks and tips for taking better photos Shenska

OK, but where to actually edit your photos? You might be surprised but for the longest time I used a free online editing software called PIXLR. It’s a great starting point for those who don’t want to or can afford a monthly Photoshop subscription (which can be as low as $10 a month for the Creative Cloud Photography package). I learned about Pixlr at my photography class and it’s been a great substitution for Photoshop in the beginning. Like I said before, you always want to learn and evolve with photography. That’s why I eventually outgrew it and switched to a professional editing software.

Whoa! This must be my longest post to date but hey, you know what they say! If you love what you do then you won’t feel like working! Originally, I wanted to include my tips on how to model for pictures, but I think I’ll continue it in my next Photography 101 post. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

What are your tips for taking better pictures? I’d love to learn!




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  1. Brooke wrote:

    First thing I noticed when I first started coming to your blog is how amazing your photos are!! I feel like I know more about Lightroom and Photoshop than I do my actual camera, so that is something I’m working on!! Thanks for the tips!!

    Pumps and Push-Ups

    Published 6.16.17
  2. Dasynka wrote:

    Your boyfriend is so sweet! And your tips so helpful 🙂 thanks for sharing!
    With love,

    Published 6.16.17
  3. Jeanne wrote:

    So awesome! Love your photos! My husband takes all my photos – the men in our lives are just so supportive. <3


    Published 6.18.17
  4. Klaudia wrote:

    It’s always the best when boyfriend or husband makes your photos because only he knows what you like and when you look the most beautiful. Nice tips and photos of course. 🙂

    Published 6.18.17
  5. Jessica wrote:

    Excellent tips, girl! I love your photos and your boyfriend is doing an excellent job! Love the outfit too – that dress and statement necklace combo is perfection!

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

    Published 6.29.17
  6. Kristen wrote:

    These are great tips! We haven’t used our kit lens since we got the 1.8 50mm lens either. It’s just soo good! Your pictures are stunning!

    xo Kristen

    Published 7.27.17
  7. beehappy wrote:

    great tips! Your pictures look great. I don’t do fashion photography (or much photography) but I do take a lot of pictures of my kids and the 50mm lens is wonderful! It’s fast and I get amazing shots of their smiles in that brief split second before they turn away.

    I’m always wondering what software photographers use to organize their photos? Do you use lightroom for that? I have a windows PC and the built in app really sucks but I’m not sure what else is out there (I used to use picasa but it isn’t available anymore).

    Published 11.3.17
    • Paulina wrote:

      I usually organize my photos through Bridge (Adobe Creative Cloud) – that’s when I make my selects and delete what I don’t need. Then edit in Photoshop or Lightroom, or both 😉 I hope that helps!

      Published 11.3.17