They say the best camera is the one you have on you at the time. What they seldom tell you is how to get the best picture from that camera.

One of the biggest problems with capturing the best picture is that no one really knows what that means. Best compared to what? Are you comparing your snapshot to all pictures ever taken? That would be insane.

Why would you even care about the best picture? Is there some contest for the best picture ever taken in all of history? If there is, there is an excellent chance you are not going to win it.

So rather than focusing on the best picture, let’s narrow it down to the best picture you can reasonably take at the time based on the tools you have at your disposal. That is a lot less ambitious and more approachable. Here’s what you need to know:

The Best Picture After the Fact

The truth is you are not going to always be carrying around a $5,000 camera kit at the time inspiration for a photo strikes.

Even if you know everything about taking great pictures, you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t have time to do any of those best practices. You literally only have time to point, shoot, and pray.

In the likely event that prayer fails to get the job done, you might want to review Snapseed, or some other free editing tool that can make the best of your picture after the fact.

The best picture is seldom the one you capture with the sensor, no matter how expensive that sensor was when you bought it. The best picture almost always has some work done in post-processing – a nip here and a tuck there.

So try to use all those tips and tricks you learned in that online photography class you took. All of that will certainly make a difference. But at the end of the day, the best photos are the ones that had a little work done after the picture was taken.

The Best Picture of a Scene Worth Remembering

We have to remind ourselves that the best picture has less to do with what we adjust in the back of the camera, and more to do with what is going on in front of the camera. When you are taking a picture of something like this, it is all about the scene, not the camera.

The biggest mistake you can make is to miss a once in a lifetime moment while adjusting settings. Your child is not going to hold the pose for her first step. During that age, you should always have a camera at the ready.

If you are using something other than your smartphone, keep the camera set to auto, as you don’t know what the lighting conditions will be when the moment is upon you. The best picture is the one you can take right now.

The Best Picture Set Up with ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

Don’t take any of this as a license to be lazy about your image quality. It is just that photos that are in the moment benefit more from speed than settings. But when you have time to set up a shot, there are three words that will change your photo-taking life: ISO, Aperture, and shutter speed.

  • ISO – the amount of signal vs. noise for increased detail
  • Aperture – the size of the opening that introduces light to the sensor
  • Shutter Speed – how long the shutter is open

This is not the end of your studies. It might take you months just to learn how to use all the functions of your expensive camera. But if you master these three things, there is nothing you can’t do with your photo that you can imagine doing.

The technical achievement award for photos goes to the people who have thousands of dollars of gear, have spent thousands of dollars learning the craft, and spend thousands of dollars traveling to highly photogenic locations. Don’t worry about any of that.

The best photos you can practically take in the moment are the ones that get a little work in post, that capture something worth remembering, and if there is time, were set up using your knowledge of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.