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How to: Intermediate Photography skills - Levelling up

As an intermediate photographer, you have likely already mastered the basics of photography such as using a camera, understanding exposure, and composing a shot. However this is often where many people stay in the skills, taking them to the next level, it is crucial to go deeper into the subject of manual mode and composition. In this article, we will discuss the essential skills and techniques that intermediate photographers should learn to evolve their skills, with a focus on manual mode and composition.

Manual Mode

Manual mode is one of the most important settings for intermediate photographers to master, often shown on your mode wheel as the letter M. By using manual mode, you have full control over the exposure settings of your camera, including aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This allows you to create the exact image you have envisioned in your mind.


Aperture refers to the opening in the lens through which light passes into the camera. It is measured in f-stops, and a smaller f-stop number means a larger aperture opening. Aperture controls the depth of field, which is the range of distance in the image that appears in focus. A shallow depth of field is achieved by using a wide aperture (smaller f-stop number), and this is useful when you want to blur the background and focus on the subject. On the other hand, a narrow aperture (larger f-stop number) will increase the depth of field, resulting in more of the image being in focus.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time the camera's shutter remains open to allow light to enter the camera. It is measured in seconds or fractions of seconds. A faster shutter speed freezes the motion in the image, while a slower shutter speed creates motion blur. A slow shutter speed is useful when you want to capture movement, such as the flow of water in a waterfall or the motion of a car at night.


ISO refers to the camera's sensitivity to light. A higher ISO setting will make the camera more sensitive to light, while a lower ISO setting will make it less sensitive. However, using a high ISO setting can result in noise or graininess in the image. To avoid this, use the lowest ISO setting possible while still achieving the desired exposure.

With manual mode being the most important setting to master when levelling up your photography, there are other key concepts to also understand and needing to learn. Exposure is one of them, and maybe the most important concept in photography. It refers to the amount of light that enters the camera and is captured by the sensor. The exposure of your images can have a big impact on the overall look and feel of your photos. As an intermediate photographer, you should have a good understanding of how exposure works and how to adjust your settings to get the desired result. Being it over, under - or correctly exposed, the process getting there can sometimes be tricky. But comes with a little bit of time and practice. The exposure compensation setting/button (check your camera for how to adjust this), will allow you to adjust the exposure without changing your aperture, shutter speed, or ISO. A nice tool when you want to do quick changes without messing with the manual mode settings you have set.

The above is more technical part, but do practice with these settings in different enviroments and lighting situations. All this practice will grant you knowledge for later. We are now moving over to what often people find hard and what separates the good ones from the great. I will try to give you some tips on what to look for, making your image stand out.


Composition is a critical element of photography, and it sets photographers apart from each other. Good composition can make an image stand out and convey a message or emotion, while poor composition can make an image look cluttered or uninteresting.

Composition is the process of arranging the visual elements in an image to create an appealing and harmonious composition. These visual elements include lines, shapes, colors, textures, and patterns. By combining these elements in an effective way, a photographer can create a compelling image that draws the viewer's eye and holds their attention.

The importance of composition in photography cannot be overstated. A well-composed image can create a sense of balance, harmony, and order, while a poorly composed image can feel chaotic and cluttered. By understanding composition and applying it in their work, photographers can create images that are not only visually pleasing but also emotionally impactful.

Good composition is particularly important in photography because photographs capture a moment in time. Unlike paintings or other forms of art, photographers have to work with what they have in front of them. They cannot add or remove elements from the scene. Instead, they have to work with the existing visual elements and arrange them in a way that creates a compelling composition.

By mastering composition, photographers can create images that are unique and memorable. They can set themselves apart from other photographers and develop a recognizable style that resonates with their audience. Whether they are capturing a landscape, a portrait, or a street scene, understanding composition can help photographers create images that tell a story and convey a message.

Below I will describe key elements of composition and the techniques that can be used to create more interesting and dynamic images.

placing objects on the lines of rule of thirds
Rule of third

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a fundamental principle of composition. It involves dividing the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically, creating a grid of nine equal sections. The points where the lines intersect are called "power points." Placing your subject or point of interest on these power points can create a more dynamic and balanced image. For example, placing the horizon on the upper or lower third can create a more interesting composition than placing it in the center of the frame.

leading lines and symmetry
Leading lines

Leading Lines

Leading lines are lines that draw the viewer's eye into the image. They can be straight, curved, or diagonal and can be created by elements such as roads, bridges, and buildings. Leading lines can create a sense of depth and can be used to guide the viewer's eye towards the main subject of the image.

Symmetry and Patterns

Symmetry and patterns can create a sense of balance and harmony in an image. Symmetry is when an image can be divided into two equal parts that mirror each other. Patterns are repeating shapes or forms that create a sense of rhythm and movement. Using symmetry and patterns in your composition can create a sense of order and balance, making your image more visually appealing.

Framing, depth of field, leadling lines
Use of many techniques.


Framing involves using elements in the foreground to frame the subject of the image. This can create a sense of depth and draw the viewer's eye towards the main subject. Elements that can be used for framing include trees, archways, and doorways. Using framing in your composition can create a more interesting and dynamic image.

Depth of Field

Depth of field refers to the area of the image that is in focus. A shallow depth of field can be used to isolate the subject from the background, creating a more dramatic and impactful image. A deeper

depth of field can be used to create a sense of depth and to ensure that all elements in the image are in focus. Understanding depth of field and how to control it can greatly enhance your composition.

Color and Contrast

Color and contrast can be used to create mood and atmosphere in an image. Colors can evoke different emotions and can be used to create a sense of warmth or coolness in an image. Contrast refers to the difference between light and dark tones in an image. Using high contrast can create a sense of drama and impact, while low contrast can create a more subtle and subdued image.

Blue hour capture, with deep natural colors and contrast, the image become warm and mooding
Crown of sunsets

Negative Space

Negative space is the empty space around the subject of the image. Using negative space in your composition can create a sense of balance and harmony. It can also be used to draw attention to the main subject and to create a more minimalist image.

using negative space to draw the attention to the main subject
Rise Above

In conclusion, understanding manual mode and the rules and tools of composition is essential for creating impactful and visually pleasing images. Experiment with different techniques and find what works best for your style and vision as a photographer.

Happy shooting,



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