WFMW – Getting better pictures from my camera

Anyone who has followed this blog for the past few weeks knows that I’ve been a little picture-happy lately. My husband recently bought me a new camera and I cant. stop. taking. pictures! And thanks to some amazing online resources, I’ve gone from being completely ignorant about SLR’s to knowing what every button on my camera does – and I even know how to optimize my settings.  ;) I’ve been so pleased with my progress that I wanted to share the resources that have helped me in learning how to use my camera, and Works for Me Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to do so.  But first, let me show you some examples of what these cameras – and almost any digital camera – can do once taken out of “auto” mode. Except for cropping and sharpening (done exactly the same on both), these pictures have not been altered in any way:

Picture control set at Standard:

Picture control set at Vivid, Saturation at +3:


Picture control set at Standard:


Picture control set at Vivid, Saturation at +3:


White balance set at B6:


White Balance set at A6:


White balance set at B6:

White balance set at A6:


Flash set at Default:


Flash set at SLOW:

(This is especially helpful when taking indoor pictures of people – the “slow” flash setting makes an incredible difference in taking away the harsh light sometimes associated with indoor flash.)

Camera set on Auto:


Camera set on Portrait, white balance at A3


So… to put it all together:

Here is a shot taken in AUTO mode (which is where most of us leave our cameras):


Here is the same shot, taken out of auto and set to “Program” mode (which chooses ISO and aperture for me, but lets me choose picture settings and white balance). Picture settings are set to VIVID (at default vivid settings and default white balance):


Here is the same shot, but this time I’ve bumped up my Saturation to + 3 (default white balance):


And once again, only this time I set the white balance to A3:


Amazing, huh?

In these pictures, I’m using a Nikon D90 SLR, but most digital cameras, including point and shoot camears, come with many of these settings (and some come with a whole lot more!). Ken Rockewell (at has a site offering free users guides for many types of cameras (he asks for $5 if you plan to print them), and in these he explains exactly how to set cameras for the best types of shots, and explains terms like ISO, Aperture, and RAW. Unfortunately, not all of the information on his site is geared toward beginners, so I also suggest this beginners course for those using SLR cameras. It isn’t free (the course costs $15), but the man who offers it makes himself available to those taking the course via email and is very quick to respond to any questions (within 2-3 days. I know this from experience. :)) The combination of these two sites have helped me SO MUCH when it comes to taking pictures with my camera, and I feel so much more confident in my ability to use it. Thanks to these sites, I’ve been able to get pictures like this:

And this:

Which I think is pretty good, considering that it wasn’t long ago when I asked a sales person if an SLR camera could be used without a lens. :)

I hope this information is helpful and if you have any other helpful sites to share, I’d love to hear about them! I’m especially trying to find a good online site that teaches about composition. Now that I know how to use my camera, I’d like to know more about setting up a good shot!

For more great tips on just about every subject, visit Works for Me Wednesday.



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35 Responses to WFMW – Getting better pictures from my camera

  1. Holly says:

    Gorgeous photos! Thanks…I’m going to check out those sites.

  2. Thanks for sharing this info. I need help in the picture taking arena!

  3. Jenny says:

    Wow! I’m going to have to practice with my camera tomorrow!


  4. Kirsty says:

    Wow! You have inspired me to crack open the manual of my fancy camera which I use as a POS. That’s very cool

  5. I can’t tell you how great this post was for me! Perfect timing. I’ve been looking for ways to learn how to take better pictures. Thank you so much for taking the time to show the differences and writing down all the details. I’ll have to check out those sites. I really am excited!!
    And please e-mail me with info about your camera. Is it your favorite? Would you recommend another, as well? everybody says the Nikons are the best, but I really don’t know where to start.
    Thanks for your time and awesome post!

    • Rina says:

      Thank you for your comments, everyone – I’m glad this was helpful! I usually try to respond to everyone individually, but I’m in a rush right now so I’ll just say “Thanks” across the board, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
      LaVonne, thanks for linking to me – I don’t mind at all and I look forward to visiting your site.
      Hillary, I’ll send you an email as soon as I get a chance and also post some information in the body of this post.

  6. LaVonne says:

    thank you so much! I need to learn how to use my Nikon D50 so badly! I want to take better pictures! I just got a for dummies book so I hope that will help. I linked your post in my WFW blog post. Hope you don’t mind. Check out my blog anytime.

  7. Lori says:

    I must confess I have a camera only two months mine, and it is still set on auto. You have really inspired me to get that blasted manual out and maybe even peruse these sites to get some help…maybe. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thank you! In my dreams I can sing like Mandisa, cook like Paula Deen, and take pictures like the Pioneer Woman.

    You’ve done a great job! I would love to have an SLR camera, but for right now I’m trying to improve my skills with what I have which is a point and shoot. I’m bookmarking this page so I can come back when I have more time to check out your links!

  9. TidyMom says:

    Great post!!! I’m hoping to get a DSLR sometime this year – but you’re right a lot of Point and Shoots have many of these settings (mine does) – I’m off now to check out the sites you mentioned, and bookmark them!!


  10. Thanks for sharing. Unlike Kirsty, who is checking out her fancy-camera manual, I will be pulling out my simple-camera manual and checking to see if there are some fancier options on there that I have ignored!

  11. Jerri says:

    Thanks for the info. I have a lot to learn. Your photos are gorgeous, by the way!

  12. Tiff says:

    I love taking photos and after reading this blog it makes me want to go out and get a brand new camera!!

  13. Mo says:

    Wow…awesome tips, and FANTASTIC photos! Thanks for sharin’ this with us; have a great week ahead, and keep enjoyin’ that camera of yours!

  14. Wow, way to go! You have me ready to take mine off auto now!

  15. muddiedwaters says:

    beautiful. I’m off to that man’s site to learn learn learn. I love a good photo and yours are stunning.

  16. Kirstin says:

    wow, those are amazing. I have a Nikon D50 and admit I’m still really only using the auto modes. I always have such a hard time understanding all the lingo..I’m going to check out your site recomendations.

  17. wanda says:

    Wow..impressive. I am really terrible at using my camera. It’s fairly new…but every single picture I’ve taken has pretty much sucked!
    I need to use this tip!

  18. Quinn says:

    I have a D-40 sitting in Auto Mode right now. I’ve been meaning to get around to learning all of its features, but haven’t because it’s better than the point and shoot that I had a couple of months ago. There’s no time like the present.

    Thanks for sharing those sites/sights! I love the one with the Red Winged Blackbird! Beautiful. I’ll be checking out those links during naptime this afternoon.

  19. cookingupafamily says:

    okay i must be lazy cause I have had a nikon SLR for about 3 years now and still use auto. Its having issues and needs a turn up so hopefully once I get it fixed than I can read up and get better at it like you have. thanks for the works for me tip!

  20. Chris says:

    This is so helpful. I’m so into taking pictures of my son and I always want them to come up looking professional. I will take your suggestions.

  21. Jamie says:

    Awesome pictures and tips! I’m using a D60 and I occasionally get really good shots while others are blah. I shoot a lot in Manual but I’m not good at it. i know I have a lot of learning to do. BTW- I’m jealous… I want the D90 but all I could afford at the time was the D60.

    • Rina says:

      Jamie, most of my pictures are “blah,” too! I got the “good” ones after about 572 shots. :)
      Mrs. P, if they’re good I owe most of it to you and your husband! Thank you so much for your help and support and encouragement in this – it’s a wonderful “outlet” for me, and is turning into quite the hobby! :)

      For those wondering what kind of camera is best, or feeling down because they “only” have a such-and-such kind, I really recommend these links:

      Recommended Cameras
      Why Your Camera Doesn’t Matter

      He’s a little rough around the edges, but he makes some great points. If I hadn’t already bought my D90 I think I’d seriously consider going with a D40 instead (although I love my D90!)

      Also, if you do searches under D90, D40, D300, etc. he lists some of the differences, so you can really determine what you want, and whether you really want to pay an extra $500 for a few features. You can also look in his users guides and see what some of the differences are.

      Sorry I don’t have time to write more, but I hope this is helpful. I’ll be without a computer for the next few days, but feel free to email me if you have any questions (I’m new at this, too, but I’ll do my best!) and I’ll get back with you ASAP.

  22. Mrs. Parunak says:

    Rina, you really are amazing. Your pictures are incredibly good!

  23. Noel says:

    Oh, man, I had completely forgotten about these settings on my camera. Thanks for reminding me :)

  24. wherelifebecomesart says:

    Great post. You’ve certainly gotten some great pictures! I recently made the switch from Nikon to Canon after being a Nikonian for 8 years. I will always love nikon too though.

  25. niki says:

    I love that you took the time to do this!


  26. Ruth Saves $ says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. Learning to take better pictures is definitely on my to-do-list in life!

  27. lori says:

    I’m now wiping the drool off of my keyboard…..You got a D90??? Awesome!!! I was super surprised with a D40 for Christmas. I had wanted one for a long time but didn’t have the money for it. My in-laws bought one for me! Aren’t they great?!? I’ll admit though that I mostly keep mine on auto. I just have not had time to learn more so far. I really love taking pictures though. So addicting! =)

    • Rina says:

      Checking my blog from the local library, ’cause, you know I don’t want to miss all the action going on over here! ;) Thought of something else I wanted to tell you about the site… Ken Rockwell is mostly a LANDSCAPE photographer. So he writes from that perspective and sometimes I think he doesn’t consider those of us who are taking portraits or wildlife or macro. For instance, he favors the D60 over the D40 because he says that pixels don’t matter. Well, they might not for him but for an amature like me, pixels make a huge difference when I’m cropping out portions of a picture I don’t like! And he always keeps his camera in certain modes that, while great for landscape, aren’t recommended for portraits or wildlife. So I suggest looking at the other site I mentioned in my blog post ( and searching it for other information that might be helpful in determining what kind of camera you want, and what additional settings you might want to put your camera in for different shots. Also, Ken Rockwell doesn’t offer a users manual for the D60, so if you have a D60, look up the manual for the D40 because I believe they are very similar. You can also search camera reviews on both sites ( and to determine what will work best for you. HTH!

      PS. Lori, that is SO COOL about your in-laws. How nice! The D40 is actually the camera that Ken Rockwell uses most (according to his site) and if I hadn’t already bought a D90 I would have seriously considered getting it instead, after reading his review.
      Nancy, I think you’ll really enjoy the class if you take it!

      Oh – and one more thing… If you’re taking pictures of people, the “vivid” setting looks horrible. “Portrait” or “neutral” is much better. Ken Rockwells site has more info on that, but I wanted to warn you! :)

      • Rina says:

        ***CORRECTION! Ken Rockwell prefers the D40 over the D60… I got that backwards in the last comment.***
        If pixels matter (and they do for those of us who don’t always get the shot right the first time!) you’ll probably want the extra pixels in the D60 – especially if you’re shooting from far away and will be using only a small portion of the picture, as I was in the last three pictures.

  28. Nancy says:

    LOVED this! OMG, I can’t believe that I haven’t taken advantage of the different settings that I can chose from my own camera!!! What a difference! Thanks for the tips and for sharing ways that I can improve by taking a class that has worked for you!

  29. RINA says:

    After reading your post i checked out my D70. There is a pre setting for “vivid” but i can’t adjust the saturation unless i use the custom setting… how were you able to change the saturation?

    • Rina says:

      I don’t have a d70, so I’m not positive, but after doing some searching on google, this is what I found:
      “Go to Shooting menu, then scroll down to Optimize Image sub menu, then go to Custom. Here you can adjust Contrast, Sharpening Colour Mode and Colour saturation.”
      If that doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll do some more digging.

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