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Take better photos with this handy cheat sheet

Manual photography infographic

It's never been easier for everyone to take decent photographs now that we all have high-quality cameras built into our phones (see our list of the best camera phones if yours is lacking). They're easily good enough for most day-to-day photos, however if you're set on taking excellent, pro-level shots then there's no getting around it: you're going to need to invest in either a DSLR or at least a well-specced compact camera. Again, we've got just the guide for you if you're looking to upgrade your camera – see our post on the best cameras.

Even then, you might find yourself a little underwhelmed when you take a look at your first snaps. If you're shooting with one of the camera's automatic modes then you're likely to find that the end results fall short of the professional look you were hoping for; they tend to be geared towards taking a sharp, well-focused shot, and that can often end up looking a bit boring.

Manual photography infographic:

This infographic demystifies your camera's manual settings

If you want to produce more exciting photographs with beautiful bokeh effects or evocative lighting, you're going to have to learn a few photography skills, and this new infographic from Skylum is just the thing to help you get to grips with the three most important things you need to know about manual camera settings.

Digital photography is all about balancing three settings: the aperture, which controls how much light gets into the camera; ISO, the sensitivity of the sensor to light; and shutter speed, or how fast the shutter opens and closes. This infographic explains them all, as well as providing some excellent tips on how to use them to create all those lovely effects you see in pro photography without having to rely on fiddling with photo apps afterwards.

Manual photography infographic: Settings

It's all about balancing your aperture, ISO and shutter speed

So if you want an ethereal bokeh effect, you'll need a wide aperture of at least f/4 to create a narrow depth of field, a fairly low ISO and a shutter speed of at least 1/60; Skylum also suggest keeping a good distance between the subject and the background, and having a light source in the background to create that blurred look.

On the other hand, for a sharp action shot, you'll need a narrower aperture between f/11 and f/16, an ISO between 100 and 400, and a really fast shutter speed of about 1/2000. Remember, though, that between the aperture and shutter speed there's a limited amount of light getting to the sensor, so if your first shots turn out a little dark then you'll need to turn the ISO up to compensate.

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Skylum's infographic is a great way to get a handle on the relationship between these three vital settings, and it's packed with practical photography tips as well. To get the best results, though, you're going to have to practise and also experiment with different settings to find out what works well for you and your camera. So head for the full infographic and get snapping.

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