Here’s our first digital photography tip and probably the only one that matters:
BLAZE AWAY! TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS!
Digital Photography liberated millions of photographers across the planet. The limitations of film, printing, on-going expenses, were all eliminated when camera manufacturers caught up to the digital age.
What’s good about digital:
- You can shoot until your battery runs out. Or your memory stick is full. Get spare batteries and spare sticks.
- You don’t have to take your film down to the local lab where they can drool over (and print lots of copies of) your ‘intimate’ shots with your wife – just upload them. Keep them on your computer… Privacy!
- You can doctor almost any digital image (using image editing software) into something at least acceptable.
What’s bad about digital:
- Familiarity breeds contempt. Who said that? Is it true? Do people no longer care what pix you take because they have a camera on their cell phone?
- Before you take an overdose check out our photo composition page… You can get people’s attention if you compose your pictures well.
- It’s sooo easy… Almost too easy, so people get lazy and don’t even think of making the image something arresting or stimulating.
- A good photograph can say so many things that when all it says is ‘I was five feet in front of this person or thing’ or ‘this is my friend who has a head with all the usual facial features…’ the magic of this very creative form of communication is being totally missed.
- Digital has limitations. Compare an LP to a CD of the same recording. The LP has a wider sound spectrum, especially in the high and low ranges. The same is true with digital. Highlights in digital can ‘white-out’ (no detail) and deep shadow lacks detail that might have been captured by film, but frankly, unless you’re shooting archival quality images you probably won’t notice.
A Bit Of History…
Once upon a time (BD = Before Digital), photography was mainly done in B&W because a photographer could produce prints in a dark room (bathroom, basement, dedicated space) using a system of light sensitive films, papers and chemicals, as opposed to color prints which were a lot of work, and a commercial lab gave better results.
The basis of non-digital photography involved the use of silver nitrate. Silver discolors (darkens) in light and stops or shades light. So pre-digital photographic images were ‘negatives’ created by exposing (to light) a sheet of transparent film treated with an emulsion of silver nitrate.
Then washing off the unexposed or unaffected silver particles, and then printing a ‘positive’ of the image by shining a light through the negative onto paper coated with more silver particles (silver bromide).Later, the silver particles were applied to the film in three dyed layers – cyan, yellow and magenta (you can make any color from combinations of these) – and special papers and processes produced color prints or slides from these negatives by separating each layer using colored filters and printing it.
Okay, enough history. All you want to know is how to take cool digital pix. Right?
Here are some useful digital photography tips:
1. Know your camera. The shiny round bit is the lens and you should aim it away from you at whatever you want to photograph, unless you’re doing a self-portrait…Really, you should read the manual that came with the camera – at least twice. These are written by people with college degrees who do their best to make the information simple.
It’s important to read the booklet with a dictionary beside you and the camera in front of you. Use the dictionary, don’t guess at the meanings of words. Don’t hurry past the first pages.
Touch the camera and all its parts. Turn it on and off. Then read on. Work through the settings. Take lots of test shots. Try out everything. Then take some shots and read up on what you had a problem with.
2. What ISO setting should you use? First up what does ISO mean? It just means International Standards Organization. This is a private organization that decided it would give numbers to things like the light sensitivity qualities of things.
Films used to be rated according to ASA (American Standards Association) – they changed their name about the same time as the world’s silver prices crashed when digital hit. Low light means you want more sensitivity (high ISO setting), bright light means you need less (low ISO setting). But you can immediately forget all this blather, the auto setting is usually fine.
3. Auto focus versus manual focus. Most cameras have a good auto-focus system that only gets confused if you have a number of subjects at different distances from the camera. Then you can hear it going quietly insane while it keeps jumping from one to the other…whirr…whirr-whirrr…whirr…
If you want to focus on a specific object in a scene, or you want something in the foreground in focus but the background out of focus just do this. Aim the camera at the thing you want to be in focus and depress the shutter button half-way.
This locks the focus so you can then frame the shot while keeping the shutter button half depressed.
When you have the composition right you can then shoot by depressing the shutter button all the way. Or switch the auto-focus off and manually focus.
4. Auto Exposure versus Manual Exposure. Most cameras read the light in the middle bottom half of the scene because usually that’s where the land mass is (or where the sky isn’t). You can do the same with auto-focus, depress the shutter to lock that exposure, or use the little button on the camera. What little button? Read the manual!
5. The display screen. This is NOT there to look at while you compose and take the shot. Real photographers use the viewfinder because it’s more direct, accurate and intimate and doesn’t look as dumb and as ostentatious as standing there with your arms outstretched.
This screen is there for checking your shots (although it’s better to do that through the viewfinder if you can), reviewing what you’ve taken, deleting duds, and changing settings. If you want to run down your battery fast, keep using the display screen for composing the shots.
6. The shutter button. It’s around there somewhere… Most cameras have a half-depressed shutter position for checking focus, exposure, shutter speed. It’s a good idea if you are watching a scene, or shooting action, to keep the shutter half-depressed so the moment doesn’t escape because you fumbled.
7. Anti Shake. Auto Exposure systems work by alternating the aperture (the hole the light passes through) and the shutter speed (how long the light is let shine on the recording surface). Bright light means the aperture closes down and gets smaller, and the shutter speed increases. Low light the opposite happens.
This won’t matter much until you’re in low light when the shutter speed can slow down below 1/60th of a second. From here on down you will get camera movement, blurring when you depress the shutter. Some digital cameras have anti-shake systems that help solve this.
Remember our first digital photography tip and still probably the only one that matters:
BLAZE AWAY! TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS.
If you really want to learn how to take great photos and get good at this stuff we highly recommend The 123 of Digital Imaging as resource.
It covers everything you need to know from beginner to pro in an interactive format you can study or refer to at your own pace and at your level of experience.