I am always learning. You never stop learning. And that's part of the fun.
That being said, I do not ever use Manual Settings. I find that I'm happy with photos done on Automatic, and never use Flash.
I'm not trying to talk you out of learning Manual Settings. I'm sure it would enhance my photos. But I'm happy with simple. You have to make that choice for yourself.
Here is my ironclad rule: NEVER USE FLASH.
It just never makes for a good photo. Turn on lights or use natural light.
Note: All of these photos were taken with a zoom lens. To be specific, it is a Canon Zoon Lens EF-S 55-250mm. And I've had it for at least 7 years.
At the park last week, I was in absolute heaven. Nature all around me.
Now when you stand in front of something like this flowing pond, bend down, stand up, go to the side. Look at the photo op from every possible angle. And take many photos. You can always delete them.
But you learn from every single one.
Always, always keep the background in mind. This is a very simple photo with nothing in front that is all that appealing. But look beyond it. See those little circles of light? This is called bokeh.
Basically, rendered by a camera lens – it is NOT the blur itself or the amount of blur in the foreground, or the background of a subject.
The blur that you are so used to seeing in photography that separates a subject from the background is the result of shallow “depth of field” and is generally simply called “background blur”.
The quality and feel of the background/foreground blur and reflected points of light, however, is what photographers call bokeh.
The photo above, years ago I would have never paused in front of. I would have walked right by it. It doesn't look like much.
But stand there and look at it with your finger lightly pressing down. Focus. Move a bit. Focus. And it's amazing what you might find of interest just by moving a few inches either way.
Photography doesn't have to be all that complicated. It is just like anything else. Practice, practice, practice. And crop, crop, crop.
This pink rose did not look like this straight out of the camera. I cropped, and I cropped to achieve this result.
If you need more clarity, go to your favorite photo editing site (I use Picmonkey). Go to Sharpen and move the bar just a bit to get a bit more clarity. Watch the photo closely as you do this.
Stand and look at the view. If it is not all that compelling, bend down on one knee and get something else in there. Like these bushes.
One is close and blurred, but that gives texture and interest to the photo. At least I think so!
If you have a body of water, walk around it and try to get something mirrored in the water. Just a few steps either way will make a big difference.
Take every single thing in your sight into consideration. A few fallen leaves. Moss on the rocks. The way the water looks when a fish swishes to and fro.
This all brings magic to your photos.
If you have questions, please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer.
Go out and take pictures! I find it so relaxing and enjoyable.