Digital Photography is a great technological advance to those who love to take pictures. I remember back in the day, when using the old Kodak Hawkeye plastic cameras with the 120mm film cartridges. Or the Polaroid cameras with the gaudy flash attachments. Man has picture taking come a long way since then. Now days it’s just a matter of getting a little SD Memory card and you are ready to take 1000’s of photos without ever having to change film.
Fortunately photography has come a long way since the stone ages, and this allows us more time for enjoying our photos and less time taking them. Here we’ll explore some of the great features available to you in the more modern digital cameras, what they are, and how to use them.
If you’re more into the post photo manipulation, then you may want to check out a couple of Photoshop Tutorials I created.
There are several online image storage sites that are free and very easy to use.
PHOTOBUCKET is by far my favorite of them all. It gives you the ability to customize all your albums with different themes and has a ton of storage for free users. There are also many other options such as image editing and you can even order photo prints with the click of a button.
If you want to link to an image either by email or on a website or post in a forum or blog. Photobucket has easy to find links for mycode or direct html image links that you can use to link to your photos.
One of the neatest features they have is the ability to create custom web addresses for photo albums of your choice and you can even password protect your directories. For example, I have one album that is dedicated to family photos. So I have a Family album set up with a password, so all my family and friends can access the private directory and catch up on all the latest pics. Just a great site, I’ve been using it for many years and have never had any problems.
There are many other similar sites available such as:
Just to name a few. So if you’re an avid photographer whether it be professional or amateur, I highly recommend you take advantage of one of these sites. A must have for any photo buff.
We’re going to go a little into some of the basic settings that are available on most digital cameras in today’s market.
Basic Camera Settings
Of course we all know depending on the camera that one is using, these modes could possibly be more vast, or even fewer modes capable for you to use. This of course all depends on the make and model of your camera.
Lets jump into going over some of these settings with a particular camera in mind. I own a Canon, PowerShot A1000 IS. It is an excellent camera for the everyday amateur photographer. It also has many of the settings mentioned above.
So let’s start with the easiest mode to master, the Easy Mode.
Easy mode is just what it says…Easy. All you have to do is select the easy mode on your camera dial and point and click. This should correctly enable the proper white balance, focusing, exposure etc. And the pictures usually come out pretty good. As long as you’re just taking regular indoor photos of everyday subjects. We’ll go over in more detail the specifics of white balance, focusing and exposure a little later. But if you want to just turn on the camera and start taking photos, the Easy Mode is the one that can make that happen.
Now this mode is similar, but more geared toward taking photos of people. This mode will give your photos a more soft effect when photographing people. Helps to make the skin tones and highlights subtle so people will appear more natural in the pic. Keep in mind that lighting always plays a huge role in how your photos will turn out. You can always have your flash set on auto, which will correct your lighting when necessary. But it is always better to use a natural light source over a flash any day. A flash can produce too much light and create shadowing in some cases.
This mode is fantastic for taking wide scenic photos of the great outdoors. It will give your photos more depth if used properly. Landscape mode actually will keep your focus setting at infinity and should be used mainly for very expansive landscapes.
Otherwise the focus will try and sharpen every object in your frame view causing a loss of the depth that it is intended to give. Another thing to keep in mind when using the Landscape Mode is the shutter speed will be slightly slower which allows more light in for better exposure. But this can cause the camera to become more sensitive to movement, which will cause your photos to become blurry. So in order to take great landscape scenes, a tri-pod is an excellent tool to eliminate any user movement.
Taking photos at night is normally extremely difficult. Especially when the object is to capture your shots as natural as possible. So many digital cameras come with a Night Setting made specifically for these kind of shots. The night setting will slow the shutter speed down so that more of the natural light sources can expose the image. Whether it be the moon, or the stars or street lights. If your flash is set to auto, the night setting will also adjust the flash timing so that only the objects in the foreground ‘are illuminated. All these factors combined, will give you the best exposure for those beloved night shoots.
Ok to start off, let’s remember that we are using a camera that is made for taking still photos and trying to capture moving images with it. So to speak frankly, you will not get the best of movies using your digital camera. But some camera are better than others at accomplishing this task.
So the mode seems pretty self explanatory, but we’ll go into a few key areas. First off, if you plan on taking movie shots with your digital camera, be prepared, the video files will eat up your storage space very quickly. So to be safe, I would use nothing less than a 4GB SD card to start. Although some would recommend a higher capacity card for storing videos.
It would be my recommendation to use Movie Mode only for short clips of subjects or scenes that you find special that just can’t be captured properly with a still image. And of course we all have come across those situations. But if you’re planning on doing very much in the way of recording video shots. It would be best to look into a digital camcorder instead. And leave the digital camera to what it does best.
White balance is a very important tool that can do wonders to you photos if used properly. In a nut shell it basically takes a measurement of light temperature and will create balance amongst the colors in your shot.
The object is to get your white balance set to where the white color in your photograph is the closest to the natural or neutral white that you can get. The easiest way that I’ve found to properly set the white balance is this…
Once you’ve established your subject and area that you are going to take you photos, and the lighting is set how it will stay. Then take a plain white piece of copy paper and hold it in front of your camera to where the whole field of view is filled with the white paper. Then go to your white balance setting and push the button to automatically adjust the setting.
This will set your white balance automatically and if done properly you will see the color on your LCD display change and it will appear more natural. I find this especially useful when taking photographs of coins or other metal finished objects using a Macro setting. It produces much more natural colors in the objects in which I’m photographing.
Of course there are more extensive ways to adjust white balance depending on the model of camera you are using, but this seems to work best with most basic digital cameras and is geared more toward the amateur photographer. But this setting is definitely worth playing around with, it can help you to better set the mood of your photos by making images more warm or cool.
This is one of my favorite settings. As I mentioned earlier, I use this setting quite a lot while taking close up images of coins and or currency. I’ve also used this setting to take some magical shots of flowers. Here are a few examples below of images I took using the macro setting.
As you can see from the photos, the macro setting will aid in keeping excellent clean details while getting an enlarged image of your subject. This setting usually works best if your subject is within a few inches of the camera lense. I have used it in conjunction with zoom at a few feet away and had reasonable results as well. But my best results have been at just a few inches.
I also will normally make use of a tri-pod when taking photos in macro, this will help achieve a cleaner image as well as it keeps the camera stable. Most digital cameras have an Image Stabilization, which works great if you’re holding your camera. But if you are using a tri-pod, it is best to disable the IS.
Most cameras Macro setting will be denoted by a little flower on the setting dial. In some instances the Macro setting makes focusing a bit more difficult for the camera. So the best option is to hold the shutter button down half way and let the cameras sensor focus in on the subject before depressing the button fully.
If you’re thinking, “but if I hold the button etc. then won’t the camera shake causing an unclean image?”, then you are right. This bring us back to the tri-pod, a tri-pod is priceless in this case. The one disadvantage of Macro photography is that sometimes part of your image that may have a greater depth-of-field may not be in focus as well as things in the near foreground. This is cause of the cameras aperture.
Most camera models have an automatic aperture and it can not be adjusted, but some may allow you to adjust the aperture-priority where you can select a smaller aperture to correct for this. But if yours does not have this, then you may be able to correct the depth-of-field by adjusting your ISO. By increasing your ISO, this may lower your aperture.
But the main point, is to chose your focal point wisely and always focus on the main points of interest when using Macro Photography. It’s a whole other world when it comes to taking interesting detailed photos and you’ll love yourself for mastering this technique.
Exposure is made up of three main parts that deal with the amount of light that enter the cameras sensor. The three parts are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Aperture deals with the size of the opening in the camera. Where Shutter speed is the length of time the camera allows light to enter into the cameras sensor. Finally ISO is the measurement of how sensitive the digital cameras sensor is to light.
These three things work together to produce just the right amount of light needed to produce a desirable image. The one component of the three that is generally easily manipulated is the ISO. Not all digital cameras allow you to adjust the aperture or shutter speed. But ISO can help alot. By increasing the ISO it will allow for a faster shutter speed.
For example, by increasing the ISO, the cameras sensor is more sensitive to light, so the shutter speed doesn’t need to be as slow to let in the amount of light that is needed to expose the shot. So actually increasing your ISO will allow you to get more light into the cameras sensor without having to decrease your shutter speed.
This also allows for smaller pertures, as discussed earlier in the Macro section. This can be handy if taking action photos at night where you don’t have a tri-pod. Because remember as discussed earlier, longer shutter speeds can cause shakey images when the camera isn’t stationary. But keep in mind, by increasing ISO, it will also make your photos have more “noise” in them, in other words, they will appear more grainy.
Auto Image Stabilization
Auto Image Stabalization is a great tool when taking photos on the run, or when you just need to whip out your camera and take a quick shot. This will help eliminate any shake that may occur by holding your camera during use.
I usually leave this setting on by default, and only turn it off when I switch to using a tri-pod. Especially in Macro mode. But if you’re taking photos with family and friends, or at your kids ball game. It’s best to leave this setting on. It will save you from many blurry images to sort through. It will decrease the image quality by a fraction, but it is rarely visible to the naked eye.
But I guarantee you that if you try to take photos with or without IS on and you’re not using a tri-pod, you will see the difference. Another cool setting you may want to check out is Auto Face Recognition while experimenting.
The Self Timer is a built in timer on your digital camera that will allow you to set up your camera and get in the photo yourself. This is great for group photos or vacations when you don’t want to miss out on being in the photo yourself.
Another great reason to invest in a tri-pod. You can usually use any number of pre-programmed timers, or make a custom timer that will release the shutter within a certain number a seconds after the button is pressed.
The only tricky part is getting the camera set up in the right position. That’s why it’s always best to have everyone else in position and set the cameras field of view on the subjects while leaving enough room for yourself. So when you press the button, all you have to do is jet over there and pop yourself into place.
I certainly hope this guide has been helpful and I wish everyone the best in taking great digital photos. Lots of fun to be had with digital cameras!
Do you have any other great tips or tricks for taking great pictures with your digital camera? Please feel free to share in the comments below!