PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Do you like to take pictures, but find yourself getting overwhelmed by all the settings on your camera? Professional photographer Becky Thurner of Thurner Photography offers some expert advice to help you take great photos with the camera you have.

Thurner says it’s important to start with the basics. “We get caught up in chasing the technology and you kind of have to dumb it down — start with the nuts and bolts. I call it starting with the cheese pizza and add the toppings later.”

Sometimes if all else fails, just read the directions.

“They’ve made the manuals a little simpler, a little less intimidating,” Thurner adds, “so open up the book. You’ll be surprised at what you learn!”

A good place to start may be by using your camera’s pre-set modes.

“They’ll give you that type of look,” explains Thurner. “There’s one for landscape, portraits, kids and pets, sports, low light — whatever you are looking to do. Most of them are preset on the point-and-shoots.”

There is no shame in putting your camera on automatic and firing away, either.

“Don’t discount the benefits of automatic because the automatic functions on these cameras are great right now,” she adds. “It’s hard not to take a good picture under most circumstances.”

The key to taking great photos is lighting; and Thurner says nothing beats natural light — “especially when you get an overcast day.”

“It’s like a giant soft box, a giant diffusion, a very, very pretty light. It’s just pretty.”

But she warns, “There are certain times of the day that are not the best. I wouldn’t recommend taking pictures outside at high noon.” The lighting at that time of day is harsh and your subject will probably squint.

On more expensive cameras, you can change lenses; but be forewarned: it is not unusual for a professional grade lens to cost as much — or more — than the camera itself.

“A really nice option is to have a telephoto lens — to have some kind of zoom,” Thurner adds. “I have a 24-70 zoom that I use for just about anything I can think of. I never thought in a million years I would use that lens as much as I do, but it’s a wonderful lens and it covers a nice range of distances.”

Since pictures are our way of trying to freeze the moment in time, Thurner says it’s important to take your time capturing it.

“Fill the frame with what you want to see and if that means taking two steps closer or backing up a little bit — whatever that means, take the time to just take that extra 5- to 10-seconds and just make sure it’s what you want to see.”

In other words, photography is still as much about the person taking the picture as it is the equipment in their hands.