Level Up Your 'Gram: 4 Ways To Improve Your Shots

Brian McIntosh


Congratulations! You've finally decided to upgrade from your cell phone. You just bought yourself a brand new camera and are eager to play around with it. After a few months of shooting, you hit a plateau. You can definitely see the difference from using a cell phone but you’re still not really satisfied. However, you can’t really put your finger on it. Frustrated, you go on Instagram and decide to look at the pages of popular photographers. After comparing your shots to theirs, you realize that there’s a little extra “umph” missing in yours. If this sounds like you, then don’t worry! We’ve all been there.

As a budding photographer or aspiring social media influencer, you are bound to struggle. However, it’s the struggle that forces us to become better at our crafts! Yes, I know that the struggle can be painful too. This is why I am here to help you fast track your way to crafting some awesome shots your next time around!

The one thing that you absolutely must learn about photography is a little thing called “exposure”. Simply put, it is the brightness (or lack thereof) of a photo. If you’ve ever found yourself always using auto-mode on your camera, then chances are that you don’t have a strong grasp of this concept. This is because the camera is doing all of the thinking for you. So let’s talk about the first step to improving your shots!



Exposure consists of 3 pillars; shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

a) Shutter Speed: If you think of your camera like human eyeball, then shutter speed is equivalent to an eyelid blinking. Shutter speed is used for controlling the amount of allowable light per shot. The longer it takes for the shutter to close, the more light it allows in. Hence, slow shutter speeds make your pictures brighter. However, the consequence to that is the possible motion blur that can occur. Hence, a faster shutter speed is needed to freeze motion.

b) Aperture: This is how wide or small the opening of the lens is. You can think of the aperture as the pupil of the human eye. The wider (or more dialated) you have it open, then the more allowable light you’ll have to make your picture brighter. The consequence to this is the shallow depth of field or lack thereof (if the lens opening is narrow). Having your aperture wide open causes the camera to focus on an object that’s near while blurring out the background. Or you can focus on the background and blur out the foreground.

c) ISO: You can think of this as the sensitivity of the camera sensor. If the case of a human eye, if you are in a dark location, then your eye becomes more sensitive to help you see better. Thus, by raising the ISO, you’re increasing the sensitivity of the sensor to help the camera see better in low light. The consequence to this is that your pictures will become too grainy if you raising the ISO too high.


You can never underestimate the power of a great lens! As we first start out, we are pigeon-holed into using the kit lens (the lens that comes with the camera). A lot of the time, the kit lens is what’s holding you back. Kit lenses don’t do anything very well. But they do everything, just okay. Investing in a one lens to begin will make a world of a difference. Some lenses specialize in creating a nice shallow depth of field for amazing portraits. Other lenses specialize in macro shots so your pictures of insects will be large and clear; something that zooming in can’t do on other lenses.


This will be the single greatest investment next to getting a great lens. If you’ve ever thought about shooting starry night skies or yourself for that matter, then a tripod is non-negotiable. As I mentioned before, using a slow shutter speed opens your camera open to more light (brighter photo) but it also allows for motion blur. With a tripod, you can eliminate the chance of motion blur.

If your subject is constantly moving though, then it won’t matter if you’re using a tripod. The subject will still be blurry if the shutter slow enough. Thus, everything in your frame needs to be super still for the cleanest shot possible.


It isn’t realistic to expect yourself to always be behind the camera to take a shot. This is when having a trigger is essential. A trigger can be a remote or an intervalometer. Essentially, anything that will take the shot for you without you touching the camera itself. These devices are important for getting clean shots as pressing the shutter button can cause motion blur.

With a few more tools in your bag and rock solid understanding of exposure, you will be well on your way to crafting some awesome shots! Don’t get frustrated if they aren’t amazing at first. Practice will definitely make perfect if you put in the effort!

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