Learning to Take Better Photos

I’ve had my Canon Rebel xti for years, but I still don’t understand how everything works. I am finally taking the time to read a book about photography basics and how to use my specific camera. I really need to take a family portrait (Jax just keeps growing!) but hiring someone is not in the budget.

I’ve made it halfway through my book but haven’t gotten a chance to practice much. I snapped about 20 quick shots on semi-auto to test out my remote control shutter. There were a couple keepers, but the toddler was in maniac mode. I only got a couple minutes to practice setting my aperture to create a nice depth-of-field before Jax demanded my attention.

Have you taught yourself to use an SLR camera? What resources did you use? I need tips!

And, am I totally crazy to try to DIY our family photos? (It’s probably a good thing I am amazing in Photoshop, hah!) Because, really, unless a photographer can donate their services, the only family portraits we’ll have will be the ones I take.

10 thoughts on “Learning to Take Better Photos

  1. Eric M

    I highly recommend http://www.digital-photography-school.com/

    But I will say, even for a professional photographer, it’s very hard to take a group portrait with yourself in it, you can’t effectively pose the shot. Your best bet is try and setup Live View so you can view it on a computer screen or TV while you post, then use the remote to trigger.

    1. Stephanie Post author

      In the past I’ve taken two shots – one with Dan and one with me (us each with a dog) in the same spot and Photoshopped us together. I’ll check that site out! Thanks!

  2. Elisa

    If you want to take (family) self portraits a tripod and wireless remote shutter button are your best friends — then just go outside so you can set the shutter high and keep a crazy kid from getting blurry. I’m sure there are tons of other families out there that can’t hire a professional — maybe ya’ll can make a trade. 😀

  3. Jack

    You can definitely take your own family portraits but you’ll need a tripod for sure (which I’m sure you already have) and some kind of remote shutter activation for your camera. This can be as simple as a timer and as complex as a remote trigger.

    I personally think that a timer is pretty easy to use and saves money from buying a trigger. Set it for at least 10 seconds. This sounds like a really long time, but its actually just enough. What you want to do is practice setting the timer and then getting into your photo position. Learn how long 10 seconds feels. The reason you pick 10 is because kids get excited when you get excited. By having 10 seconds you can set the timer and then walk over and get into position and still have time to say “cheese”.

    I also have a good friend that takes children’s photography I can put you in touch with if you’d like some addition feedback.


      1. Todd

        Without a person at the camera your best chance is to hang a toy or such below the camera and ask him where it is at…. worst case you don’t catch it… best case you get smiling, giggling boy pointing and looking right at the camera. Sillier the toy the better 🙂

  4. J

    You already have lighting down, and use of the tripod and remote. For focus issues: If your camera can do it you’ll want to leave autofocus active but set your focus point to a specific spot. For the image, set the mode to apeture priority and set the apeture to get the depth of field you want and then adjust your ISO to get the shutter speed you need. This asumes you are either not using a flash or are using one that you can adjust. Give that a whirl and feel free to email if you have specific questions.


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