“Here are some snaps I’ve taken recently with my good ‘ol, store bought Canon PowerShot S110 compact camera.” – Mark McKnight

Hey fellow Amateur Snappers, Mark McKnight here. Getting your first camera is a great feeling. You have dreams of wonderful snaps that look amazing and inspire awe in everyone who sees them, and you just can’t wait to start taking some awesome photos… Then, as you start playing around taking shots of everything you see, you realize that this is harder than it looks and instead of great pictures of your family, friends or pets, you end up with something like this:

I know how it is. Not too long ago, I was exactly where you’re now. My father was crazy about photography, so I practically grew up with a camera either in my hand or pointing at my face. At first, he would hold it for me and I’d press the shutter button, and then when I got older he’d let me run around on my own, taking pictures of anything interesting I could find. Every vacation we took, we must have gone through at least 5 rolls of film, and my dad made a point of always developing every one of them. It was expensive, but well worth it, as we were always able to find some gems. The one thing I didn’t like was the fact that although I was trying, it was him who usually took the best pictures. I am very competitive by nature, so it kinda bugged me. Finally as I got older and ready to learn, I asked him for some tips. I wanted him to teach me how to get these great shots myself, but I’m sure you know how fathers are… … “Just keep trying Son, you’ll be fine.” OK, thanks dad!

Looks like I was on my own, so I went and started reading everything I could on taking better snapshots. I was more or less camped out at the local library in Belfast and spent hours reading through photography magazines and every book I could find about digital photography. After a while, what I began to realize was that good snaps don’t just happen. I mean, you might just want to go out and stumble across a picture worthy scene and capture it perfectly without much planning or preparation. But actually getting it immortalized on paper so that it comes alive each time you look at it, is no accident. There is usually always a simple, but proven, preparation process you need to follow for any shot, no matter what it is. Let me give you a few examples.

Say you want to take a picture of your dog chasing a ball in the garden and by the time you press the shutter button and the camera fires, the dog has moved. Well all you have to do is use the Burst Mode on your digital camera, (nearly all compact cameras have one). Just follow the dog with your camera and this time when you press the shutter button, it will fire off a continuous burst of shots in a short period of time making it more likely that you get the money shot you’re after. Try it yourself!

Here’s another example. People who don’t know much about photography will probably chuckle when you tell them this, but it’s actually a really good idea to use your flash outdoors on a sunny day. What this does is helps light your subject up a little better when the sun is behind them, and your photos come out more colorful and sharper. If you don’t use the flash, your subjects could end up as Silhouettes in your photo.

Lastly, if you want your children to have their eyes open in pictures, instead of forcing them to have them open for a long time, go ahead and tell them to close their eyes and smile. Then, when you’re ready to take the photo, say “3, 2, 1, Open”, and take the shot. Doing this will ensure that they’re smiling, their eyes are open, and you get a beautiful portrait picture every time.

As you can imagine, during my research I learned a TON of useful tips like that, but unfortunately, a lot of it I had to trash as not effective, the ones I kept, I perfected, and you can see the result below:

There’s also what I like to call the secret sauce. This is something I do every time to ensure my snaps look absolutely stunning. I can’t describe it here in sufficient detail without completely cluttering the page up, so I’ve decided to put together a resource for you that describes exactly what I do to take amazing snaps like the ones you’ve seen above. This resource is called Digital Photography Basics For Amateur Snappers, and it’s a jargon free, easy-to-follow and read, printable guide that’ll have you taking awesome shots, even if you’re a complete beginner or never really touched a camera before. Here are a few things you’re going to discover when you go through it (this list is by no means comprehensive. Just a little something to let you see what we’re talking about here.)

The two simple tricks I utilize to set up a perfect shot and make sure that my subject is properly framed. (Page 12)

The secret of selective focus. How to make sure that everything you want in focus in your picture is nice and crisp. (Page 25)

How to do small adjustments to your pictures right on your camera (no photo editing software needed for this technique.) (Page 32)

What never to do with your ISO settings unless you want to totally ruin your snaps (yes, you’re guilty of this.) (Page 48)

The one way to set your lighting up so that it works for you and not against you. Hint: Open Shade. (Page 82)

WARNING: Almost everyone you learned to take pictures from does this one thing wrong. Discover

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