How to Take Great Photos with any Camera

Grand Tetons National Park

Photography has surged in popularity in the past decade with the emergence of social media and smartphones. Even though we’re all taking more photographs, many of us assume we’re limited in our talents due to our equipment. I’m here to say it’s not about the equipment, and you can create great, even amazing, photographs with any camera.

three sandhill cranes in a fieldI’ve had an interest in photography as long as I can remember, but my true passion didn’t emerge until we hit the road full-time in our RV several years ago.

After wearing out a couple of point and shoot cameras, I upgraded to a Bridge camera. I still suffer from camera envy and may one day switch to a Mirrorless Camera, but for now, my Lumix(s) fits my needs … certainly not professional-grade cameras by any means.

We’ve slowed down our travels somewhat and now spend our winters settled in an RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy this RV community and the friendships that have developed.

Although I don’t engage in many activities at the RV Park, I do co-host a photography group … a group of like-minded RVers who share a passion for photography. Not only have I learned a few things, but I’ve also been able to teach and share a few tidbits of my own photography knowledge.

I still consider myself a novice photographer, or rather more of a photo snapper and try to improve my skills with every click of the camera.

Being involved in the RV Park Photo Group has served as a great learning experience for everyone involved. Our group consists of every level of shooter along with every level of camera. Yes, we are indeed a diverse group of photo enthusiasts.

close up of a young deer

Here are a few tips that our RV Park Photo Group discussed on how to create more professional-looking images with any camera.

15 Beginner Tips – How to take better looking photographs

1. Learn your camera inside and out. This might mean diving into that owner’s manual and actually reading it. If you don’t have a manual, no worries, a Google search will come to the rescue. And don’t forget YouTube tutorials. It really is necessary to know how all the settings work and what they mean.  Even if you won’t use all the features, it’s important that you’re comfortable navigating the camera’s menu and settings with ease, especially in the field.

Always half-press the camera’s shutter button before taking the shot. On an iPhone, simply tap the screen for your desired focal-point (a little yellow box appears around the item when you do). Once you know where your camera is focused, you can decide if this is where you want the focal point to be in the image, and if not, start over.

One of the best things I did when I first bought my iPhone 8+ last year was to attend some free seminars at the local Apple store. Needless to say, there were a few ah-ha moments by many of the attendees … me included.

a shadow of a cross reflected on a church

2. Shoot regularly. The best way to improve your photography and get comfortable with your camera is to shoot often. Considering digital photography is free, there’s no reason not to spend hours behind your camera clicking away. Learn to love the delete button but always delete in your computer (unless you’ve taken a complete dud, like your lap or something 😆).  You’ll be surprised by how an image might appear on your LED screen versus your computer screen. Sometimes it looks better in the camera and sometimes an image looks better on the computer. So give the photo a chance and review it on your computer screen before deleting it.

Experiment with different subjects, different camera settings, and different light. Over time you’ll develop a style and voice that will be authentic to you.

bee on a pink flower
Taken handheld with a bridge camera – Panasonic Lumix FZ200

3. Stabilize your camera to achieve sharp photos. Obviously, the best way to stabilize a camera is by using a tripod, but that’s not always convenient, especially if you’re lazy like me and leave the tripod at home. So, the next best thing to do is to use a wall, fence post, or another stable surface to minimize camera shake. Learn to hold your camera correctly and pay attention to your breathing when pressing the shutter. And be sure to have stabilization turned on when handholding and turned off when using a tripod.

4. Use the Camera’s “scene” modes. Cameras and phones are smarter than ever before. Therefore, take advantage of the camera’s preset scene modes. The various modes optimize your camera’s settings and do the thinking for us. Depending on your camera various modes may include; landscape, food, action, portrait, night, and more. I love using these settings, but I always shoot the same image in P (program) mode or A (aperture priority). Remember, taking digital images is free. So shoot away and shoot the same subject using different settings.

On my iPhone 8+, I use the portrait mode to capture food or flowers and create great Bokeh (blurred background).

pinkish red roses in bloom
Taken with iPhone 8+ on Portrait mode

5. See the light. Before clicking that shutter, observe and assess the light. The first step to creating better photographs is understanding light. Think about how the light interacts with the scene and subject. Is the light highlighting an area or casting unique shadows? Light plays a vital role in the mood and interest of a photograph and is the most important element in creating a great photograph.

birds in a dead tree with a setting sun and orange sky
Photography is all about the light … and a little luck!

Composition guidelines for newbies

6. Rule of Thirds. This is one of the most common tips when it comes to improving your photographs. It’s an easy technique and will aid in making an image more interesting. Think about cutting the frame into thirds by using both horizontal and vertical lines. Then place your point of interest over the cross-sections of the grid.

I have the gridlines always turned “on” on both my camera and my iPhone. By doing so, it aids in composing my image and keeping my camera level. Actually, when I attended a seminar at the Apple Store, the first thing they recommended was to turn on the gridlines on the phone.

a hiker and wildflowers at Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, AZ
The trail serves as a leading line while the wildflowers create an interesting foreground. The rule of thirds definitely applies in this image and the single hiker is an odd number of subjects creating balance.

7. Leading Lines. This is probably my favorite form of composition. I’m always looking for leading lines to photograph. This type of composition draws the eye into the image.

8. Interesting foreground. Adding an interesting foreground object will give depth to a photograph, especially in landscape photography.

9. Patterns are a repetition of objects, shapes, or colors. Patterns are everywhere if we once train our eyes to notice them.

texture in photographs
Look for patterns in nature.

10. Negative space. When shooting people, animals, or birds, always leave a little extra room in the image toward the direction the subject is looking. This creates interest and mystery. The viewer may wonder what the subject is looking at.

11. Rule of odds. While composing an image, try to include an odd number of elements in the frame. This is a common practice in interior design. With an odd number of subjects, the image becomes more balanced.

12. Include a frame. A natural frame around the main subject will add depth to the image by drawing the viewer’s attention into the photo. Think about a window or tree framing a subject.

a tunnel frames the winding road
The tunnel serves as a frame around the winding road.

13. Move your feet. Learn to shoot from different angles and varying heights. Moving your body closer to or further away from your subject can often create a more dramatic shot. Walk around looking for a unique perspective. Don’t rely on a zoom lens … move your feet and body and explore the subject’s surroundings.

flowers in front of an official building in Denver
Photograph your subject from a different angle.

Final thoughts for beginner photographers

14. Get good at processing. Every image needs some amount of processing, some images more than others. Embrace the process, learn the software, be creative and comfortable with whatever program you use. I’m a huge fan of Photoshop Lightroom while others prefer Photoshop Elements (similar to Photoshop, but geared toward beginners). These days, there are a number of photographic editing platforms to choose from. Some are free and some subscription-based. Find something that works for you and get good at it.

15. Slow down and don’t rush the process. Take the time to think about what is going on in your viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Think about the composition and what you’re trying to capture. Understand the creative process and make intentional decisions. Learn to tell a story with your photos. See the light, the lines, the moments, the little things, BUT be willing to put the camera down awhile and truly experience your surroundings and then photograph whatever makes you happy.

Happy Clicking!

Gambels Quail
Taken with a point and shoot camera

(This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support ❤)

How to Create Stunning Digital Photography
Extraordinary Everyday Photography: Awaken Your Vision
Funny Photography T-Shirt – Aperture F-Stops

Pinterest pin how to take better photos with any camera

88 thoughts on “How to Take Great Photos with any Camera

  1. I value your gems on photography, Ingrid, since your photos are beautiful! My little go to camera is a Lumix ZS70. My husband FZ300. Like everyone else, I am using my iphone more for photos. I am surprised at how some of the photos turn out great…..never perfect. I guess right now your diverse group of photo enthusiasts is not meeting.

    I have bookmarked your post to reread again. Great information! I had thought the Portrait mode was only for taking photos of people. I will experiment more. Goosebumps on the “grid lines” gem. Great post! Thank you!

    Like

    1. Yes, all activities at the RV Park have come to a screeching halt. Folks are still playing Pickleball and Bocce Ball though.
      Oh, what a coincidence that we have the same cameras. I hardly used the ZS70 and love my FZ300. I used the FZ200 for years until I wore it out and bought the 300.
      With your phone, do give the portrait mode a try when photographing flowers or food. I love the bokeh (blurred image) it creates. Keep me posted!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I greatly appreciate this information. It is nice to lose myself in something good and beautiful. I think no rain tomorrow so I will go out and take some photos. My concern is leaving our house may be restricted pretty soon. We will stay focused on what we can control and the good surrounding us. I will let you know my results.🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That is a great tip that you share about the rule of odds and negative space. Even if we know these things instinctively, being reminded about them, helps move them into a conscious effort! We can all become better photographers then. One day, I might approach making photos at your level! They are incredible.!

    Like

    1. Awe, thank you so much for your comment. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of shooting regularly. I recall being overwhelmed in the field and unable to remember how my camera worked let alone composition. The more I shot, the better I remembered. Happy shooting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Another good tip. Camera settings are getting more and more complicated, and getting one’s head around the various f stops takes time. Good to hear that regular practice helps, Ingrid. Thanks.

        Like

  3. Wonderful post, Ingrid, as always. Your photos are proof that you know what you’re talking about, and the tips are thorough and comprehensive. I am in awe of photographers, for there is much more to this art than we think. Especially when it comes to light. Knowing the light makes all the difference, and that seems to take a lot of practice and attentiveness. Great job on your photos! While I really liked every single photo, I forced myself to pick a favorite: the first one of the Tetons. wow!

    Like

    1. Thank you Jet. That image of the Tetons is one of my favorites as well. Sometimes I happen to be in the right place at the right time to capture a beautiful sky and reflections. Photography is definitely about seeing light and noticing details. Hopefully, I’ve improved my skills over the years.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Ingrid. Do you find that at happy hour when everyone is settling in for a good chat and a few laughs you’re the one who has one eye on the sky ready to leap into action? It truly is all about light.

    Like

    1. Haha! Yes, that’s me. I assume you do the same thing. And when the light and clouds beg to be photographed, I politely excuse myself. My husband is quite able to entertain without me for a short time 😆

      Like

  5. As a photographer of 50+ years, many of those as a professional, you must have known I would weigh in on this one 🙂

    I have many times been asked by people who want to improve their photography what camera they should get. My answer has always been the same: it doesn’t matter what camera you have. You might have the best camera in the world but if you don’t know how to use it I will shoot circles around you with my iPhone. What you need to do is learn the principles of photography.

    You’ve given a number of good tips in your article, but I would disagree with some. For example, using Scene Modes. IMHO, those are for people who don’t know photography and if you want to be a better photographer you need to learn more about the principles of photography and art, not Scene Modes which are a crutch for those suffering from photographic ignorance–IMHO. Sometimes they are better than nothing, but they are not a substitute for exercising the control that knowledge affords. I have never liked them or used them. They leave you in the dark. You don’t know what they are doing and you are at their mercy. You are not in control.

    Even really advanced techniques such as HDR (high dynamic range) and photo stacking can be executed on the simplest cameras if you understand the principles of photography–lighting, composition, depth of field and exposure. You can be an insanely great photographer with the least sophisticated equipment when you know how.

    Like

    1. Hey Russ, of course I expected you to weigh-in. Keep in mind, our Camera Club is a diverse group of individuals. Several folks shoot with P&S cameras and use basic free editing software. Thus, many of these tips are geared toward vacation photo snappers. Keeping it simple and basic around here! 😊

      Like

  6. How awesome to cohost/be involved in a photo club within your park, Ingrid! I’ve made a couple of friends in our RV park this winter, and we’ve begun to share photos. I’m pretty sure we’ll be returning to Florida next winter and I was thinking about starting a photo club at our park too. So glad to hear it’s working great at your park!

    Like

    1. I would highly recommend starting a group, even if it’s a once a week get together over coffee. We were meeting every Thursday evening for a one hour chat and then did a couple of field trips. After the field trips, it was fun to review everyone’s images. It’s also a great way to meet people and develop friendships.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Always great tips! And I will always thank you for introducing me to the LUMIX! I am tempted to get the WiFi one… but it’s bigger and heavier… and that discourages me.

    And how I enjoy your photos… that first one needs to be framed… gorgeous!

    *Quick note… ankle is much better but I will be needing it wrapped for a long while. And hiking boots for me from now on. I need the support.

    Like

    1. Glad to hear the ankle is doing better. Give it time. My twisted ankle took a while to heal. The flowers are insane right now and I spend almost 2 hours slowly walking the Sidewinder Trail at the 7th Ave trailhead. So, so pretty!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great Post! I like to shoot into the sun, so a filter on my lens is a must for me, especially with the sunrises and sunsets here. Mr. Craves did not realize how active a photographer can be. I am constantly moving about and in different positions. Plus my camera weighs about 8 to 12 pounds – hello! built in arm workout. I agree with getting out to shoot often as well as to take your time and experiment in shooting different mediums, light, etc. JUST HAVE FUN!!! Happy Day – Happy Exploring – Happy Capturing – Enjoy 🙂

    Like

    1. I share your love of the sun in photos. Ooh, I could not handle that kind of camera weight. Kudos to you! It’s easy to get out and shoot regularly when there are so many photogenic subjects nearby as I know there are in FL. Enjoy! 😃

      Like

  9. Great list of beginner tips, Ingrid. It’s spring here in California, and your post reminded me I need to get out and capture the season. Hope you are feeling better.

    Like

  10. I purchased the FZ300 just before our last trip to Mexico. I knew that I would be taking pictures in low light and learned that it had a special setting for that. It is about the same size as my Nikon DSLR but I’m finding that I like the Lumix better. Haven’t tried macro shots yet, but your picture of the bee on the flower is good encouragement! You’ve shared some great tips!

    Like

    1. Thank you Janis. Personally, I think the FZ300 is a great camera for travel considering there’s no changing of lenses. Yesterday I captured some really nice images of bee/wildflowers. Sometimes achieving focus while zoomed in real close can be frustrating but I was still happy with the images. I’ll be sharing soon!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved my FZ200 but wasn’t initially thrilled with the FZ300. After practicing and taking a bunch of photos, I’m now very happy with it, but I will be reviewing some of Graham Houghton’s videos.

      Like

  11. Hi, Ingrid,
    Just turned the gridlines on in my Iphone 10r…thanks! You made a believer out of me on bridge cameras. Just sold my Canon T6i and all the lenses to pick up a Lumix FZ300 and am learning how to use it.

    My favorite picture above is the B&W Cactus. Great composition! Joe

    Like

    1. I’ll admit, at first the gridlines use to irritate me, and now I love using them. Keep me posted on how you like the FZ300. I just captured some great bee/wildflower images yesterday that I’m excited to share in an upcoming post.

      Like

    1. If you’re happy with the Mac editing software, then I’d say stay with it. I use iMovie on my phone for video. It’s whatever you feel gives you the ability to edit your photos in a way that makes you happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You may not consider yourself a good photographer but you sure are a super picture taker. I always enjoy your photo tutorials and realize that I didn’t get past step one – I hate to read manuals and it is my worst learning method behind watching and experiencial.

    Like

    1. Thanks Larry! Some YouTube tutorials came to my rescue. I failed with the manual even though I read it 😆. Might as well have been written in another language … oh wait, it was. Still didn’t understand the English version 🤣

      Like

  13. Very good summary with excellent photos to demonstrate!
    Since I don’t have a cell phone, I carry a Panasonic Lumix in my purse. I also have a Canon Powershot with a 50X zoom for when I’m birding, and a Canon Rebel with a macro lens for walks in the garden!

    Like

    1. Thank you Margy. Those Powershots do a great job with that zoom. Since I got the iPhone 8, I don’t carry my smaller Lumix with me like I used to even though it takes great pics.

      Like

    1. Thanks and keep me posted on that iPhone 11 with the telephoto. That sounds fun and promising. Remember, the best travel camera is the one that you carry 😎 Hmm, that might make a good post!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Good tips overall, especially “shoot regularly” and “don’t rush”. I think bridge cameras are underrated for what they do and what they are capable of. I also think that they’re great for anyone wanting to really take their time learning photography, as it allows someone to concentrate less on gear and lenses, and more on the tips that you pointed out (composition, framing, exposures for scenes, etc.).

    They also give photographers a chance, as you describe, to really figure out what they want in a camera when they do decide to upgrade. It narrows down the choices so they can figure out which focal length, camera capabilities, control layout, and much more.

    Like

    1. Thank you Patrick. I appreciate the comment and totally agree with your assessment. I have learned so much using a bridge camera that I know what’s important to me and what isn’t. And by shooting ‘a lot’, I’ve learned a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely check out all the free classes your Apple store offers. You can start online. I think I took about 4 different classes on photography and video and walked away with at least one useful tidbit per class and more from others. Well worth the time!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. All great tips and good reminders for when I get lazy and just start snapping. I’ve never used the grid lines on my camera or phone but I’m going to give that a try. I enjoy your photos because they always look so professional.

    Like

    1. Thank you Beth. I really appreciate the compliment. The gridlines really bothered me at first, but then I embraced them. Let me know if you find them helpful. I’m curious how others feel about using the gridlines.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. A “good eye”? Then you’ve already got a head start. I bet with just a tad more thought, you’ll be taking photos that you’ll be happy with. 😊

      Like

  16. Ingrid these are excellent tips. I definitely need to dig into manuals and learn more about settings. Thank you for generously sharing all of your knowledge. I wish I lived nearby and i would be attending your sessions for sure. Gorgeous photos that you have shown as examples.

    Like

    1. Thank you Sue. Sometimes it’s just a matter of snapping away and practicing. Fortunately for me, I’m usually near photogenic places where practicing photography is fun. Next time you visit AZ, let me know and we’ll squeeze in an outing … if you two busy bees even have a minute to spare 😀

      Like

  17. An amazingly helpful post, Ingrid, and you covered all the bases! So true to just take the shots and delete later. I’m a big fan of post editing and even just adjusting the exposure can do wonders for any image. Another pro tip I learned early on is to straighten your image, especially horizons and water shots. I enjoyed your class when I was there and I really need to find a local one when we eventually head north. Your images are stunning and great examples of how to do them right!

    Like

    1. Yep, that’s the first thing I learned about the necessity to edit – straighten. So glad you were able to attend our Photo Group during your visit to our RV Park here in Phoenix. We enjoyed having you. I’m finally loving the FZ300 like I did my FZ200. I just needed time to practice and learn since the two models do have their differences.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Tim. The orange sunset image was taken at Galveston Beach State Park. It was one of those right place right time moments. I returned to that spot the next 4 evenings only to be disappointed with the light and lack of birds.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Excellent tips, Ingrid! I remember my dad telling me to frame my photos with a tree or branch as a kid. As a result, onlookers are most likely amused at me ducking into foliage at an overlook In search of the perfect shot. 😊

    Like

    1. Before I purchased the FZ300 last year (my FZ200 was wearing out), I almost pulled the trigger on the Canon M50 until I realized it didn’t have a viewfinder … deal breaker for me. Ah, I still have camera envy and keep a wish list going on my B&H account.😃

      Like

      1. Ingrid, based on reading your blog over a year ago, I bought a bridge camera to learn on. I got the FZ2500 the bigger brother to the FZ2500. Your guide posted here is helpful as now I finally am finding the time to use the camera (just retired). I found Graham Houghton also a great resource for the details on how to use these bridge cameras as he has guides for the FZ300 and other bridge cameras.

        With time I will get another camera, a mirrorless (and with a viewfinder),but for now I love the Panasonic, good choice! Thanks for all your posts and pictures you share.

        Like

        1. Ooooh, you got the big boy! Without Grahams videos, I’d most likely still be fumbling with my FZ300. I actually need to rewatch some of his tutorials because there are some differences between the 200 and 300. Thank you for commenting and reading 😊 and keep me posted on how your liking the FZ2500.

          Liked by 1 person

Let's connect. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.