I know a bit about photography. Manual settings are a must if you want to get good photos. While automatic settings are very helpful, the camera can't always do everything efficiently on its own. If you have the option to shoot in RAW format, I strongly recommend that, because it is higher quality. The camera manual should be able to tell you if this format is an option, as well as how to use whatever manual settings you have. Lastly you should read a bit about lighting. I figure you don't own studio lights and a backdrop, so you will need to find a way to work with whatever you have. Try to plan as much ahead as you can (angles, light, props, etc.) that way you can get your photos done quickly.
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