20 Tips For Better Living Through Digital Photography

20 Tips For Better Living Through Digital Photography


We get in lots of conversations with retailers, manufacturers, distributors, pro photographers and consumers and we’re always hearing myriad tips and tricks for taking better pictures. We finally decided to begin gathering these little pearls of digital wisdom and packaging the best 20 for our Clique readers to perhaps pass along to their customers. We have organized them into four separate categories : General Tips; Typical Tips; People/Pets and Technical Difficulties.

As we often say – anything to keep folks clicking!

Tips for general use:

1. Hey, it’s a digital camera. No film to buy, to develop or even to refrigerate. That means that taking 150 pictures won’t cost you any more than taking one. So get wild – the more pictures you take, the better you will get at it. Of course, rechargeable batteries are a must here.

2. Who’s zooming who? Congratulations – you sprung for the digicam with the 10X optical zoom. Now that you have it, try not to use it. That’s right – wherever possible, let your legs do the zooming. You’ll get much better results when you fill the viewfinder (or LCD screen) by physically moving closer to the subject. The zoom is really there for getting closer to a subject when there is a real-world impediment that separates picture taker from subject – such as the edge of a cliff, an airplane window, or a police barricade.

3. It’s optical or nothing – Most digicam makers tack on something called digital zoom to optical zoom. Digital zoom is designed to give optical zoom a little extra range by using a software algorithm to “guess at” the additional image data in the stretched zoom area, sort of like putting a fake nose over a real nose. What digital zoom has in common with a rubber nose is that they both result in something that looks funny but not realistic. Only a real bozo uses digital zoom.

4. Play around with all of the specialized shooting modes built in to most digicams. You’ll find that while they generally are helpful, they sometimes can be used creatively for shooting conditions for which they were originally not intended.

5. Manual mode is not just for pros – go ahead, use it, it won’t bite you. Becoming comfortable with DIY digicam settings will expand your creative horizons and lead to a much fuller and more satisfying understanding of how cameras work.

People and pets, and how to tell them apart:

1. To paraphrase W.C. Fields, any man who photographs dogs and children can’t be all bad – unless he shoots from the wrong angle. Children and pets should be photographed at their eye level for best results, unless there is some artistic agenda involved. Yes, that means the photographer may have to stoop to their level. It’s not a hobby for the lazy, when you get right down to it. Photographing pets from either a low level or from a high angle can produce some fun or particularly poignant images, though.

2. Eyeing fish – When photographing fish in an aquarium, shoot through the glass at an angle to avoid flash bounceback. Don’t shoot fish in a barrel – it’s not very sportsmanlike.

3. Use your digicam’s movie mode to capture playful pet activity.

4. Here’s where your optical zoom can be used without guilt. Frequently, if you move too close to an animal, it will become fearful, playful or otherwise distracted and you will lose the composition of the shot. Some pet shots are better taken from a distance, with the subject none the wiser.

5. Getting that perfect dog or cat image will engender much trial and error. Stay patient, take your time and don’t stress out either the pet or yourself. Good thing it’s digital and you can take as many pictures as you want, eh?

Technical Difficulties:

1. Here comes the sun – when shooting in sunlight, keep the light at a forward angle to the subject, but not directly in front. The latter will produce some “glaring” errors. Do not shoot with the sun directly behind the subject, either, unless you’re simulating a solar eclipse.

2. Too much direct light produces hot spots and glare on the subject, while stealing depth-enhancing shadow and image detail. Try to shoot in reflected or otherwise indirect light for the best clarity and detail.

3. Much technological progress continues to be made, but most digicams are still challenged by low ambient light and nighttime shooting conditions. Unfortunately, most LCD viewing panels provide a false sense of security by making artificially lit nighttime images seem brighter and crisper than they will actually appear in the photo. Show your digicam the light by switching to manual mode and opting for a slow shutter speed and a wider aperture, enabling the digicam to take advantage of as much ambient light as it can. And as always, move as close to the light source as possible.

4. For capturing fast action such as a bird in flight or a politician talking out of both sides of his mouth at once, try your digicam’s burst mode. When instructed to do so, the digicam will take a rapid-fire sequence of images automatically (much faster than you could do yourself). You can then select from the resulting batch of images and keep the one that best “freezes” the action.

5. When shooting in low light, any amount of camera shake will produce painfully obvious results since slow shutter speeds are very unforgiving of unwanted camera movement. Another reason to check out image stabilization as a great new digicam feature.

Typical tips:

1- When traveling, bring along plenty of spare memory cards, your battery charger and disposable alkaline batteries just in case you get caught in between battery charges.

2. Diligently back up your images to your computer, then to either to CD or DVD disc. Invest in photo storage and archiving software (your digicam may include this, or there’s always Apple’s iPhoto or Windows’ My Pictures, both of which are built in to Macs and Windows PCs respectively.

3. If you choose to edit your images (cropping, re-sizing, color enhancement, etc), be sure to save the original image in its unedited form as a master copy. Your images by default are saved in JPG format (unless you set the digicam to save in a format called RAW). Each time you open, make changes and re-save a JPG image, the image loses data and after repeated re-saves, you will lose a noticeable amount of image quality.

4. The movie mode on the digicam is one of the most underrated and under-utilized features on a digicam. Make it a point to take the feature for a spin. Video and audio quality is rapidly improving with each generation of digicam. But better quality also uses more memory – all the more reason to pick up some more memory cards. They’re really cheap now, anyway.

5. Take off the lens cap. Don’t your fingers block the flash, the viewfinder and the lens. And that rope dangling in that otherwise beautiful picture is your digicam’s wrist strap. Remove it.