How to Take Your Own Pictures - A Comprehensive Guide
It’s no secret we live in a digital, visually-driven world! If you’re building an online presence, or just enjoy capturing your memories, here are a few tips of how to take your own pictures, make the process easier and get great photos!
Click to Navigate the Post
Equipment You'll Need
Any photographer will tell you that it’s not just about the gear, but there are definitely a few key items that can make taking great photos easier!
Here are some recommendations to get you started!
You can shoot with a DSLR camera, mirrorless camera, and even just your phone. We will review all in this section, including camera lenses!
Admittedly, I own a professional camera, and yet I shoot on my iPhone way more often than that camera!
Your phone camera is really powerful, so don’t worry if you aren’t ready to make the investment in a camera yet.
Read the shooting section below for tips on shooting & editing with your phone.
DSLR or Mirrorless Camera
Using a digital camera like a DSLR or mirrorless camera will provide more options to get the shot you want. You have more creative control over focus and framing which is what makes the noticeable difference from phone photos to camera photos.
A digital single-lens reflex camera or DSLR, as they are referred to, has a mirror that flips up and down when a photo is taken. While a mirrorless camera still has a mirror, it just doesn’t move up and down when a photo is taken. This allows the camera to be smaller, which is appealing to someone not wanting to carry a bulky camera around. A DSLR is typically less expensive, but both types of cameras come in varying price points!
Camera models change quickly, so don’t get too hung up on the specific model. You want to look for a camera in your budget that offers manual mode and interchangeable lenses.
When I started my personal brand online, I invested in an Olympus OM-D Mark III Mirrorless Camera. It’s a great camera for beginners because it’s affordable and so are its lenses!
Prime Camera Lenses
Lenses are arguably more important than the camera itself. Lenses are complicated and can take a while to learn. I’ll try to keep it as simple as I can for this post and give you the basics.
There are two types of lenses, Zoom and Prime. For beginners, I recommend a Prime lens, because it doesn’t have the built-in zoom feature, which means it’s easier for you to control the settings.
What do the numbers mean on a lens? “50mm, f1.4” … huh?
Simply put, the number that’s followed by “mm” the focal length of the lens. The smaller the focal length number, the wider angle the lens is.
The decimal number (sometimes with the “f” in front) is the aperture. The larger the number, the more of the photo will be in focus. The smaller the number, the more you will be able to achieve that beautiful blurred (aka “Bokeh”) background.
Here are some of my lens recommendations:
- The 50mm, 1.4 lens is a great starting lens for any camera. All camera brands make it, and it’s one of the most affordable lenses out there for a DSLR. This lens can photograph food, people, and pets with ease and provide plenty of range without compromising quality.
- If you also have an Olympus Mark III Mirrorless like me, my favorite lens is the Panasonic 25mm, 1.7 lens
The key to taking great photos of yourself is using a tripod!
They are relatively affordable and you’ll never have to worry about your camera falling off a random stack of books, or asking someone to take a picture for you only to later realize it was totally out of focus.
I like a tripod that is lightweight and rated well for travel, so I can bring it with me anywhere and set it up for self-portraits.
If you shoot with your phone, make sure to get a phone holder to attach to the top of your tripod. I use this one.
If you shoot with a DSLR camera, make sure your tripod can handle the weight of the camera and lens, which are typically 6-8 pounds.
I own two tripods:
Remote Trigger / Bluetooth Remote
The last piece of equipment for shooting photos yourself is a remote to control your camera shutter. No more running back and forth from your camera using the self timer!
If you are shooting with your phone, get a handy little bluetooth remote. It connects to your phone & controls the shutter button. Easy peasy!
If you shoot with a DSLR/mirrorless camera, you’ll use a remote trigger that’s compatible with your camera model. Many cameras now have apps you can download and trigger the shutter using your phone, too. Talk about convenient!
For professional gear, my favorite spot to shop is at B&H Photo and Video. They offer everything you could need, and even used section where you can find gently pre-loved equipment at a huge discount. This is a great place to shop for lenses especially! Just be sure to read the rating system to know what you’re getting.
Setting Up Your Camera
Before you shoot your photos, let’s get your camera settings ready.
Setting Up Your Tripod
Before you choose your camera settings, you’ll want to set up your tripod and frame your photo. Find your angle and lighting, and take some test shots if you need to get the framing right. I like to mark the spot on the floor with a small item to remember where I should stand to be centered in the frame.
Once you get your tripod set up, let’s get your camera settings ready.
Phone Camera Settings
There aren’t any settings to prepare when shooting from your phone. Just one thing: DO NOT ZOOM IN. You instantly lose all your quality when you zoom. Crop the photo later, instead.
Also choose whether to shoot with the regular camera or portrait camera. Regular mode will be easier to keep the subject in focus. Portrait mode will give you an overall higher-quality photo but it doesn’t capture movement as easily. Experiment with both!
DSLR/Mirrorless Camera Settings
Automatic mode allows your camera to evaluate the lighting and subject your camera is focused on and automatically determine the settings needed for a properly exposed photo. This is an easy way to get started using a camera, but not having control over settings will limit your creativity and style.
By teaching yourself a few camera basics, you will have control over what the camera focuses on, how fast the camera takes the photo, and how sensitive the sensor is to light.
The main components of manual mode are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.
These are also known as the exposure triangle.
Shooting in manual mode takes time and practice. So be patient and enjoy the process as you learn the ropes of manual mode!
Buttons and functions will look different depending on what camera you have, but how each component works is the same. Check your camera manual for details if you can’t find where to access these functions.
Aperture is also commonly referred to as “bokeh.” This is how you’ll get those creamy, blurred backgrounds with sharp focus on your subject. You will adjust this setting first when getting your camera ready to take a photo in manual mode. Since this determines what your camera focuses on, it’s an important setting.
Shutter speed is how fast your camera takes the photo. The longer your camera takes, the longer the shutter is open and the brighter your photo will be from light having more time to get in. Don’t keep the shutter open too long though, your photo will be blurry.
ISO is your camera’s sensor sensitivity to light, the higher the number the brighter your photo will be. Keep in mind, this will also increase the grain in your photo, so this is always the last setting to adjust!
If you don’t fully understand all that, don’t worry! It takes practice and hands-on exploring to fully grasp it. Also, there are tons of tutorials on Youtube that show the basics, here is one that does a great job explaining manual mode more in depth.
Taking Your Pictures
Once your camera is all set up, let’s shoot these photos!
If you’re shooting on your phone, here is a detailed guide to help you take better photos: 9 Tips to Take Better iPhone Photos
And if you really want to step your game up, I’ve even got a guide on how to Clone Yourself in a Photo, using just your iPhone!
Using Your Remote
If you’re using a bluetooth remote, simply connect it with your phone. Then open your camera app!
When shooting, you’ll simply hold the remote in your hand and click it as you pose, making sure to hide the remote in the shot.
You can buy a remote for your camera that allows you to take photos with the click of a button. These are typically smaller than a phone so they’re easier to hide in photos. You just point, click and it fires away.
If you’re shooting with a DSLR/mirrorless camera, you can use an interval timer. Many cameras include this feature, which means you won’t have to buy another item. An interval timer lets you set up how many photos you want to take and how quickly to take them.
I usually like to take a set of 12 photos every 3 seconds. You let it go and just keep posing until it stops. It’s almost like your personal paparazzi! I like this method because it captures natural motion for more candid lifestyle looking shots. I also don’t have to worry about where to hide the remote or my phone in the shot.
Check your camera manual to see if your camera offers this option.
Posing takes practice and confidence. My biggest recommendation? Don’t try too hard, unless you already know what you’re doing. Natural poses always look great and resonate well with viewers.
Make slow movements in between shots. But don’t move too fast, especially if shooting on your phone, because your photo might not be in focus. My favorite photos come from the good-ole walking pose, like shown here. It’s one step made over and over in the same place.
My final tip with posing is to create different angles with your body. Pull hair behind your ear, place your hand on your hip, or cross one ankle in front of the other. These angles make your photos more interesting rather than your body being in one straight line.
Editing Your Photos
Taking the photos is only half the work. Editing is where the magic happens!
Adobe Lightroom will be your best friend. Lightroom is what the vast majority of photographers use to edit their photos. It requires a subscription of $9.99 a month, and they also offer a free trial so you can try it out before you buy
If you already know the basics of Lightroom, check out my Free Lightroom Editing Guide for 10 high-level tips to take your photos from “meh” to amazing!
If you aren’t familiar with Lightroom yet, it has both a desktop app and phone app that you can use to edit your photos. Your Adobe subscription allows you unlimited access to use both. (PRO TIP: The basic version of Lightroom mobile app is actually free to use and doesn’t require an Adobe subscription. But it does lack pro editing features that you can only get with the paid version.)
Lightroom presets are one-click filters for your photos. They are a total lifesavers for new photographers!
Presets are applied in the Lightroom mobile or desktop apps. They are designed to be super easy one-click edits. Presets are how creators get that oh-so-dreamy matching tones on their Instagram feed, because they use the same presets on all of their photos. So if you want a consistent style, find presets you like, and stick to them!
Shameless plug: I offer a variety of Preset Packs in my shop! I designed them myself, and they are what I personally use to edit my photos. So if you like the look of my Instagram Feed, check out my presets! There are a variety of styles available to purchase.
Here is a video showing you how to import & apply Lightroom Presets for the first time.
Thank you for reading!
I hope these tips how to take your own pictures make creating your own blog and social media images easier!
I know it can be intimidating at first but you will be so glad you took the time to learn the basics of photography when you no longer have to rely on friends and family to take your photos!
Check out my other Content Creation posts here for more tips!