Monday, September 28, 2009

A Few Digital Photography Basics!

A few days ago I photographed a family of four at Cox Arboretum. I arrived about 30 minutes early, as usual, and it gave me the opportunity to watch other photographers at work. Cox Arboretum is a Mecca for local photographers, amateur and professional. It offers great locations and backgrounds for any type of photographs at any time of day. You can always find a location with great lighting if you know what to look for. There must have been at least a dozen photographers of all skill levels working in the park. All were using digital cameras of a wide variety. From point and shoot to mega SLRs. Only two or three were creating good images. The rest were not paying attention to the light, using the wrong lens, not finding the best location for their subject, or not paying attention to detail.

While it’s hard to help in print with lighting, posing, locations, and detail, I can help with the camera and how to use it. So here are a few tips to get started, and more will follow in later articles.

It’s not about the pixels! When two people with digitals cameras meet, the first question they ask is: “How many megapixels are you shooting?” It’s not about the pixels; it’s how they’re used. I have seen beautiful images created with 2 and 3 megapixel cameras, and lousy images created with 12 megapixel cameras. The camera is a tool. It is only as good as the person using it. Most people make prints that are 8x10 or smaller. Actually, 4x6 is the most popular size. Why? Because they’re cheap! About nineteen cents apiece. If you want to make large prints, 11x14 and larger, that’s when you need the high megapixel cameras for the best possible print. Think of a pixel as a piece of information for your image. The more information you have, the better your image. You do not need as much information for a small print as you need for a large print.

Exposure! Most cameras do a good job of setting the correct exposure. You have to learn when the meter is not setting the correct exposure. Is there something in the scene that is affecting the meter to give the wrong exposure? You need to learn what to look for and how to compensate for it. One thing about digital exposure: Never over expose if you can help it. Once you blow out the highlights, you will never get them back. Photoshop can only do so much. The owner’s manual / instruction book is your best resource. Most people never get past the first two pages. Read it from cover to cover. It will help you take better pictures.

Hold the camera steady! The average person has trouble holding a camera steady: Especially at shutter speeds slower than 1/125 of a second. Think of taking a picture with your camera as if you are firing a rifle. Take a deep breath, let a little out and hold it, and gentle squeeze the shutter release. Not like you’re typing at the keyboard. Gentle squeeze the release button. Keep your elbow in and your body balanced. Lean against a wall or a tree for support if necessary. Use a tripod. That’s the easiest way to hold a camera steady. With a tripod holding the camera steady and where you want it, you can concentrate on your subject and taking the picture.

That evening at Cox Arboretum amongst all those other photographers, I was the only one using a tripod.

These few tips should be enough to get you started on your way to better digital pictures –more to come. If there is anything specific or special you would like me to cover, please let me know. I’m off for a few days in the Smokey Mountains. May be the next article will be on how to take better vacation pictures.

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