Five Tools for Taking Better Photos

An Instagram filter or Photoshop action can only take your photo so far. Photographer Brooke Snow reveals five resources to help you shoot better pictures from the start.

In the wonderful world of digital photography we live in today, it can be a great temptation to rely on Photoshop actions or filters to create a good photograph. While these tools can be fun, they can also make us lazy! The best way to improve our photos is to…wait for it… TAKE A BETTER PHOTO! Indeed, nothing substitutes for creating a great image to begin with! And you may find out, a great shot can happily stand on its own without the filters!

Here are five great resources for taking better photos

Book: Understanding Exposure,, $17.15
One of the best ways to take better photos is to take control of your camera. Rather than shooting in auto mode and letting the camera make all the decisions, learn how to shoot in manual, where you control the settings. You really are smarter than the camera! Choosing your own settings will allow you to be more artistic, and combat all the exposure and lighting problems that auto mode isn’t capable of understanding.

Understanding Exposure is one of the best books for learning how to shoot in manual mode on your camera. Bryan Peterson explains things in easy to understand terms. Trying to figure all this out by reading your camera manual can be frustrating. This read makes it empowering.

This online resource is one of the best digital photography resources on the world wide web. There are thousands of amazing tutorials that are searchable on their site, they have free forums to participate in photo challenges as well as thorough and responsive Q&A threads that will greatly help you in your own photo journey.

I love this website! It’s full of great tutorials, but also home to an amazing weekly themed photo challenge. The photos featured for the challenges are so inspirational. Having a theme usually invites a new sense of creativity so you’re exposing yourself to images that aren’t just trendy, but truly storytelling. They also feature incredible interviews with amazing photographers. You can learn so much about improving your own photos by exposing yourself to great photos of others.

Project 365
Practice. Practice. Practice.
With as much amazing information there is available to us to learn photography, nothing substitutes for good old fashioned practice. This point cannot be overstated enough. A fun way to encourage daily practice is to consider participating in a 365 Project. This is simply taking on the personal challenge of shooting one photo per day all year long. I have seen photographers transform through this project, because they are taking daily baby steps toward improvement. The change is incremental, but over time it is astounding the progress that can be made. You can find out more about participating in a project of this sort at If a photo a day is too overwhelming to you, you can participate in a project 52–which is one photo per week.

Sweet Photoshop Tutorials
We want to take the best photos that we can without the help of filters or actions. But that doesn’t mean that editing isn’t an important part of photography. It’s integral and often part of the entire vision we have for a photograph from beginning to end. The difference though, is to know how to use editing programs on your own so you can be the one that fine tunes your adjustments rather than relying on an automated template. Just like our photos improve when we stop shooting in auto on our camera, our editing improves when we stop editing on auto as well.

Sweet Photoshop Tutorials is an amazing online resource for learning how to use Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. It’s set up like a table of contents and you can watch short clips about any topic you need. Unlike an editing class that may go really deep all at once, or cover things you may already know, this resource allows you to pick and choose exactly what you want to learn right when you need it. It’s an amazing price, and outstanding quality.

BONUS: Find a personal mentor or participate in a photo class.
There is immense value in being held accountable for our work and having it critiqued by professionals. Receiving some outside perspective can be an empowering way to grow by focusing on your own individual strengths and weaknesses.

Add comment