How to Achieve Your Desired Photo Results – A Guide For Beginners

All photographers experience learning curves at various times along their journey. Not getting the results you intended with your photograph is frustrating.

It is important to remember the following cornerstones to creating a successful photo – exposure, composition and framing.

So, how can you improve the photographic results?

Every Photographer Should Know The Exposure Triangle

In photography, a technical relationship exists between aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. The triangle makes up the cornerstones of exposure.

Exposure refers to the capture of the ambient light, in the scene we are photographing, onto the camera sensor.

A photographer’s primary aim is to capture the most accurate exposure at the time of shooting. Getting your exposure as accurate as possible is key to delivering a masterful image.

The correct manipulation of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed will ensure image excellence.

It is acceptable to use the Program or Automatic modes when starting out, but, in the long run, a photographer should learn to use the Manual mode for the best results.

The three components of the aperture triangle are further explained below.

1 Aperture

Aperture is the physical opening and closing of the “aperture ring.” The aperture ring regulates the amount of light captured through the lens. You can compare it to opening and closing a door.

A door allows light in or keeps light out, depending on the degree to which the door is opened or shut.

Aperture settings are standard across all camera types and lenses. The diagram below illustrates the apertures of a camera.

A diagram showing the size of different apertures.

A converse relationship exists with aperture. The larger the aperture number the smaller the aperture hole, Ex. f/22. The smaller the aperture number the larger the aperture hole, Ex. f/2.8

F/8 is an ideal default aperture when you are unsure, if applicable to the scene and your photographic intention.


ISO is the control of your digital sensor’s sensitivity to light. The light refers to the ambient light coming in through the lens.

The ISO equation is straightforward – the darker the ambient light, the higher the ISO number, Ex. ISO800. The brighter the ambient light, the lower the ISO number, Ex. ISO100.

Apply the lowest ISO number possible to your photographic scene or subject. The overall photo quality will incrementally decrease the higher the ISO number is dialled.

The photo will begin showing image grain at higher ISO settings typically used in lower light shooting scenarios.

3 Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is a vital element of the exposure triangle.

The function of the camera shutter is to protect the camera sensor from light exposure.

Shutter speed is literally the speed at which the shutter opens and closes to allow light onto the sensor at the time of exposure.

That is what is meant by “releasing the shutter.” In different photographic scenarios, you need to contemplate the shutter speed. For example, in the case of photographing fast-moving subjects such as in sports photography.

Fast-moving subjects will require a fast shutter speed, such as 1/2000. Slow shutter speeds will be required in darker settings, or when you want to create a motion blur effect in your image such as a waterfall shot.

Fast-moving subjects are suited to a higher ISO, like ISO400 or above. Still, subjects with lots of ambient light can allow for low ISO such as ISO100 for example.

In the exposure triangle equation, the ISO would be the next consideration. Next, you can dial in the most appropriate F-stop for those shutter speed and ISO settings.

Shutter speed is also an important consideration for camera shake.

Avoid Camera Shake in Your Images

Camera shake is the term used when your images are blurry (as opposed to out of focus). Camera shake is a result of your shutter speed being set too slow for the focal length of your lens.

A photo from Venice that shows camera shake
The image above shows the effect known as camera shake. Photo by Crowpix Media.

For example, if the focal length of your lens is 50mm then your smallest shutter speed should be 1/50th or more. If your focal length is 200mm then your shutter should be 1/200th or more, and so on.

The rule applies to hand-held photography specifically.

Using a tripod for slow shutter speeds will ensure that the camera does not shake at the time of pressing the shutter release.

Focus is a Challenge For All Levels of Photographers

Focus is vital to producing clear, sharp images. A sharp image is one that has clear detail and no visible blurring. In certain images, you may desire a blurred-out background or motion blur for effect.

Your composition needs to be sharp and in focus to please the viewer’s eye and deliver a message successfully.

Modern digital cameras have very sophisticated focus functions. Take the time to learn the various focus modes your digital camera possesses then practice which focus modes work best under different demands.

Composition is Key to Impactful Photographs

Mastering photographic composition is a skill that will take time to develop. Composition excellence does not happen overnight for most photographers. Enduring practice will develop your photographic eye and bring advanced composition to your image.

I think it is fair to say that the longer you are an active photographer, the better your composition will become. 

A young girl in a masked outfit photographed at Venice carnival
An example of effective framing in the composition. Photo by Crowpix Media.

Elements of composition include:

It would be worth your time to read up on these concepts.

Framing The Photograph Can Make or Break Composition

Framing theories will make large differences to the appeal of your final edits. Framing allows more leeway in the post-production of your images. 

Framing considerations include:

  • not cutting off limbs
  • no trees or poles coming out of the subjects’ head
  • filling the frames
  • using frames within frames.

In Conclusion

We all start as beginners in whatever we do in life and it is no different in photography. Get out and practice, practice, practice.

Then refine your photographic techniques as your eye progresses, and you start to master all the components that make a great image.

The above points will lead to improvements in image quality and fewer unpleasant surprises.

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