purchasing a digital camera
Here is a photography tip that is so simple that it is often overlooked. The crooked horizon. As many of you know, I am not a professional photographer but own a photography studio. My job is to correct mistakes, through photoshop, that come through my studio. I would guess that besides the obvious removing people from the background, removing stray hair, etc, straightening the horizon is way up there. When you set up to take a shot, especially on the beach where the horizon plays a very big part of the background, make sure the horizon is straight and not going through the head of your subject. This task is sometimes more difficult for taller photographers. Just take a moment before you click your shutter and make sure the horizon is below the head and that it is straight.
Is Digital Right for You?
Let’s start by looking at the non-positives.
1. Usually end up with no physical photo album
2. Nearly always involves time on the computer (archiving, sorting, etc.)
3. Digital files can become lost or currupt due to computer crashes and damaged storage.
4. Must have adequate computer system requirement
5. Reliance on battery life of camera and potentially traveling laptop / storage
6. Cost of camera
By far the most difficult of these issues is the amount of involvement on the computer end (the archiving, sorting) and often the lack of a physical album.
Digital SLR vs Point and Shoot
One of the most important decisions you will have to make is one the style of camera. The most important differences between cameras is whether or not it has a detachable lens (also known as a SLR or Single Lens Reflex). The cameras fall into either the SLR category or are labeled a “Point and Shoot” (now on referred to as “P&S”). SLRs will always be more expensive than a comparably-featured P&S. These categorization applies to both film and digital.
The easiest way to identify a SLR versus a P&S is generally the size and the appearance of the lens. An SLR will have a focus ring that allows the photographer to adjust the focus on the barrel of the lens. A P&S lens will generally be much smaller and will not have such a ring. SLRs are also usually much bulkier than the P&S, as the P&S style aims for a form factor designed with your pocket in mind.
A couple of years ago, digital SLRs were priced out of reach for all but the most affluent photographers.
Deciding between digital SLR vs Point and Shoot types comes down to your expected uses and how far you want to pursue photography.
The range of point and shoot models has broadened considerably. While the early digital point and shoot cameras were fairly simple and of relatively poor quality(versus their film-based equivalents), a new point and shoot digital cameras has surfaced: the pro-sumer point and shoot. The term pro-sumer is a blend of consumer and professional, indicating that it is designed with the advanced amateur in mind.
* Digital Consumer Point and Shoot
Entry-level digital camera. Can be ultra-compact form factor. Lacks manual exposure, manual focus, optical zoom less than 4x. Very slow autofocus and significant shutter-lag. ISO sensitivity up to ~ 400.
* Digital Pro-sumer Point and Shoot
Mid to high-end for a point and shoot. Might offer manual metering modes, electronic manual focus. Some offer super-zooms up to 10x optical with surprisingly good optical characteristics. Some models have extremely little shutter lag, approaching those of SLRs. ISO sensitivity up to 800 – 1600, although noise from the small sensor elements causes higher ISOs to be less useful.
* Digital SLR
Pro-sumer to professional with interchangeable lenses. Always offers manual exposure, real manual focus. Lenses must be purchased separately, but have the ability to cover a much wider visual range and quality than the “super-zooms” built-in to the pro-sumer point and shoot cameras. Useable ISO sensitivity up to 800 – 3200.
So What To Buy?
Digital Consumer Point & Shoot
Lens quality poor
Manual focus difficult/slow
Larger sensor (Less noise)
Total Shutter lag minimal
Compatibility of lens/accessories poor
Bulky, heavy, multiple lenses take up space
Lens quality unlimited
Manual focus easy/fast
Shutter lag poor
Small sensor (More noise)
Compatibility of lens/accessories great
Tell the story of your vacation. Think how your prints will look when you show them to your friends and relatives. You’ll be narrating a story at the time so take shots to illustrate your story. Take photos of your traveling companions before you leave home, while traveling to the airport, and when you get back. Hopefully you’ll see a change in your sun tan! Photograph yourselves in front of “Welcome to…” signs to use as “chapter headings.”
Take a Small Camera
Despite having a lot of large ‘professional’ equipment, the camera I use most often with friends is a small, “compact” camera. I have a really tiny model that I can slip easily into a pocket and carry around with me. That way, whenever something unexpected and fun happens, I’m ready to capture the moment.
The most useful tip for photographing people is to get closer. Try and fill the frame with just the faces. Ask your subjects to stand or sit closer together, so there’s less “wasted” space in the photo. Turn the flash on, even when you’re outdoors, to highlight the faces.
Understand Your Flash
I often see people trying to photograph a live show or concert. Unfortunately this is almost impossible to do with a normal camera. Most on-camera flash units are only effective for about eight to ten feet – anything further away will just appear black on the photo. Whenever you use a flash indoors, make sure that you’re between two and eight feet from your subject.
Don’t Forget the Fun!
Many of the fun times occur between sights. Capture these with “ordinary” shots – checking in, waiting in line, at the shops, having dinner with friends, with people you meet.
Don’t Forget You!
The problem with being the photographer is that you don’t appear in the photos. Stand your camera on a wall or table and use the self-timer feature, or ask someone else to take the photo. Chances are they’ll have a camera too and will ask you to return the favor!
1. Warm Up Those Tones
The default white balance setting for digital cameras is auto, which is fine for most snapshots, but tends to be a bit on the “cool” side.
When shooting outdoor portraits and sunny landscapes, try changing your white balance setting from auto to cloudy. This adjustment is like putting a mild warming filter on your camera. It increases the reds and yellows resulting in richer, warmer pictures.
2: Sunglasses Polarizer
If you really want to add some punch to your images, then get your hands on a polarizing filter. A polarizer is the one filter every photographer should have handy for landscapes and general outdoor shooting. By reducing glare and unwanted reflections, polarized shots have richer, more saturated colors, especially in the sky.
If you don’t have or want to purchase a filter, try a pair of quality sunglasses, then simply take them off and use them as your polarizing filter. Place the glasses as close to the camera lens as possible, then check their position in the LCD viewfinder to make sure you don’t have the rims in the shot.
3. Using Your Flash Outside
One of the great hidden features on digital cameras is the fill flash or flash on mode. By taking control of the flash so it goes on when you want it to, not when the camera deems it appropriate, you’ve just taken an important step toward capturing great outdoor portraits.
In flash on mode, the camera exposes for the background first, then adds just enough flash to illuminate your portrait subject. The result is a professional looking picture where everything in the composition looks great.
1. “Photoshop is cheating”, Strive to take ‘good’ photos, rather than photos that I can ‘improve’ later on.
2. If your photo is not good, you are probably not close enough!
3. When shooting portraits in bright sunlight use a flash to reduce facial shadows.
4. Have the subject stand with their body at a 45 degree angle to you but have their eyes look directly at you.
5. “Think BEFORE you press the shutter”
Therefore, putting much more effort in the photos.
6. Examine the 4 corners in your viewfinder.
Make sure there is nothing in the corners of the viewfinder that is distracting form the central subject. For most of us it is relatively easily to focus on the main subject and to find an interesting perspective to capture what we find interesting, but we tend to be so focused that we may forget to examine the rest of the scene for objects that don’t fit. Bright highlights, disconnected object sticking in. Things that distract from the image.
7. “Don’t take photographs of subjects, take photographs of the light”
8. “Take three steps closer.”
Superficially this seems pretty vague, and you can even think of lots of shots in which this might actually be the wrong advice. But in terms of getting one to focus on the main subject – or even to make sure that there is a main subject.
9. “Shoot often and shoot many.” Especially in the age of digital, don’t shoot one, shoot five pictures, 10 pictures, try different settings. The more experience you have, the more you’ll learn and the better a photographer you’ll become.
10. The difference between great photographers and a not so great photographers is that the great ones don’t show their crappy pictures.
And Lastly for this series, don’t forget your camera and take off the lens cap.