Photo: Crab spider on yellow flower

Photograph by Rob Sheppard

By Rob Sheppard & Bob Martin, August 2007

From Photography Field Guide: Digital Media and Ultimate Field Guide to Photography

Keep these tips from photographers Rob Sheppard and Bob Martin in mind as you're taking photos with your digital camera.

  • When researching equipment, visit your local camera store first. Read reviews in photography magazines and on special Web sites. Each source can bring you closer to an informed, solid choice that's appropriate for you.
  • Most point-and-shoot digital cameras have a limited-range optical zoom with the ability to further zoom in electronically. This merely crops your picture and uses only a small section of your sensor. Switch off this facility and use only the optical zoom if this is possible on your camera, since you can always crop the picture at a later stage.
  • A disposable waterproof camera might be a good option when photographing kids at the pool.
  • Image quality depends on more than a sensor. It is also affected by lens quality and the image processing done inside the camera.
  • To compare digital camera lenses, look for the 35mm equivalent size. The actual focal length can be misleading because sensor sizes are different.
  • Never buy a digital camera based on features alone. How it handles and how you react to the controls vary enough to strongly influence how much you will like and use the camera.

Digital Photography

  • Regardless of camera type, the photograph is ultimately the most important thing. From photojournalism to family photos, digital photography is still photography.
  • Good photography is always about recognizing and responding to the subject, not about the computer. That means shooting the right way from the start, no matter what camera you use.
  • Get close. Check out your lens. See what it can do by stepping in closer and placing something in the foreground. What happens to the background? Is it fuzzy or sharp?
  • Shoot a lot of pictures. Remember, it's digital, so you can!
  • Low light will increase digital grain. Use a flash or other added light if grain could be a problem and must be kept to a minimum.
  • Being perfectly still is the first step to making better pictures.
  • Get used to your camera's delay. That way you can avoid near misses such as a child jumping out of focal range.
  • A different vantage point can be refreshing when photographing kids and animals.
  • Try different angles with a flash unit to eliminate unwanted shadows.
  • White balance is more than a color correction tool. Use it creatively to get the colors you want in your scene.
  • The sensor sensitivity (commonly referred to as ISO) is simply a measure of the sensor's sensitivity to light. If you are setting the ISO manually, here is a basic guide: 100 ISO in bright, bright sunlight; 400 ISO on a dull, dreary day; 800 or 1600 ISO for indoors under floodlights; generally speaking, the higher the ISO, the lower the picture quality.
  • If there are too many colors and bad light, switch to black and white so that the content of the picture dominates rather than the clash of colors.
  • Black-and-white photography has many possibilities with digital cameras. A scene can be shot directly in black and white with the camera or it can be captured in color and later changed in the digital darkroom.

Transferring and Storing Images in the Digital Darkroom

  • Protect your images from hard drive crashes by backing them up outside your computer.
  • Both Mac and Windows computers work very well for photographers. Image quality is not affected.
  • Buy the largest memory card that you can.
  • If you intend to store, print, and edit your pictures on a computer, a really good accessory is a card reader, rather than connecting your whole camera to the computer with a cable.
  • JPEG is a great shooting format, but you should not use it as a working format in the computer. Always resave your images in TIFF or in your image processor's file formats.
  • Buy the better CD/DVD recordable disks for your photos. Look for the mention of long life or archival life to ensure the image data will remain stable.
  • Use an image browser that lets you see all of the photos as thumbnails for quick and easy sorting of digital images. The photos can be quickly deleted, copied, or renamed as needed.
  • Testing was an important part of the traditional darkroom, and it can make s

Photo Tips Videos

  • White Balance

    Learn how simply turning off your camera's automatic white balance can turn drab, lifeless photos into amazing shots.

  • Image Resolution

    See how a few tips on image resolution will keep your photos crisp and clear.

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