06-05-2009 04:33 PM
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera
Moving Away From Auto-Exposure
Auto-exposure mode on your camera does provide generally good photographs, but taking full advantage of the more advanced capabilities of your digital camera will provide even better results. Most modern camera’s have a number of preset exposure modes, and some more advanced cameras’ (especially DSLR’s) have two semi-manual exposure modes and full manual exposure control.
The most common preset is the portrait setting. This mode should have the flash on at all times in case it is needed for correct exposure, as well as isolating the subject in a way that the background and foreground are out of focus and only the subject is in focus.
Another common preset is the action setting. As the name implies this is a great setting to use if you are photographing sports, or any subject that is moving fast and you want to stop its action.
Landscape preset is also a common preset mode on modern cameras. This mode should have the flash off since the subject is most often outside and well lit, and this mode should also keep detail in the foreground and especially the background in focus.
For those of you that like taking images of small subjects (i.e. flowers) most digital cameras also have a preset called macro mode. Macro mode should have the flash on at all times since at higher magnifications even the slightest movement of the subject will blur the image. The flash not only effectively stops the movement of the subject but also evenly illuminates the subject.
Night mode as the name implies is a preset some camera’s have for taking photographs at night. This mode is generally the least useful preset due to the fact that nighttime photography is perhaps the most challenging photography there is. This mode will turn the flash off, and also turn what’s called noise reduction on. Noise reduction is a setting that helps eliminate the digital noise that is caused by low levels of light on digital camera sensors.
Most DSLR’s and some more advanced point and shoot cameras have two semi-manual modes and full manual mode. The semi-manual modes are aperture priority which generally controls what is in focus by adjusting the aperture (the size of the opening in the lens), and shutter priority controls how long the shutter is open which either will blur the image or stop action. The last mode is full manual which allows the user to control both the shutter and the aperture to get the correct exposure allowing the greatest creative control over your images, but requiring the most expertise.
Moving Away From Auto-Flash
Turn off your Auto-Flash
Most digital camera’s while set on auto-flash, especially point and shoot cameras, don’t allow the user to choose when the flash is on or off. This will usually produce adequately exposed images, but just because your subject is correctly exposed doesn’t mean it’s lighted how it should be. Controlling how you light your subject will make the difference between good images and great ones. To do this you should definitely consider moving away from auto-flash.
When shooting outdoors the camera might read that there is enough light and not fire the flash, but if your shooting a subject that is back lit or top lit a small amount of flash will light up your subject and provide superior results ( this is called fill flash ).
Red eye reduction
Another flash setting that most cameras provide is red eye reduction. This setting will fire a series of flashes at your subject to contract their pupils so the flash doesn’t reflect the red from their retinas back to the sensor. This mode works fairly well, but due to the time needed for the pre flashes your subject often will have changed by the time the image is actually taken.
More Photo-Taking Tips
Get extra memory cards
If more than one person will be using the same camera buy a separate memory card for each person; this way, everyone can keep their photos separate, and you don’t run the risk of deleting someone else’s pictures.
Memory cards for video
If you plan on taking a lot of video, it would be a good idea to use a memory card with a good amount of memory (at least 2GB) with a high write speed. With this being said most digital cameras do an average job of capturing video, but I would suggest getting a camcorder if video is a priority to you.
When photographing pets, I would suggest using as much natural light as possible. To avoid red/green eye reflection I would suggest not using a flash or at least using an off camera lighting source. Get down to the pets level when capturing your image (would you get onto a ladder to take a portrait of a person).
To eliminate lens flare, use a lens hood on your camera or curve your hand around the outside of the lens. If you want to read a more detailed post about lens flare you could click here.
The best natural light is the light right after sunrise and right before sunset, and this light typically lasts for about an hour. Magic hour is when the majority of professional natural light photographs are taken, and you will be very surprised how much better your images look when taken during Magic hour. When photographing sunsets don’t use a flash and mount your camera to a tripod.
Shooting through glass
When shooting objects through glass, don’t use a flash and use a polarizing lens filter if your camera is a DSLR. I would also suggest switching your camera to manual focus (if your camera has this option) since the autofocus system of your camera could easily be fooled into focusing on the glass (especially if the glass is dirty) and not your subject.
More Printing Tips
Most printers allow you to change its setup depending on what type of output you are going to be printing too, and what type of quality you want. I would suggest setting your printer to Photo Paper and the best quality setting before printing your photos.
Not all photo papers are created equal! I would suggest investing in a high quality photo paper before printing your images.
I would also suggest making sure you are using photo-quality inks. You will be astonished by how much better your prints look when printed with high quality photo inks.
Lastly I would make sure that the paper you are using is archival if you want your images to last your lifetime. I would also suggest always handling your prints by the edges since the oils from a person’s fingers can cause your images to fade and discolor over time. If your prints are intended to be framed or put in an album I would suggest getting a few pairs of white cotton gloves which can be purchased at most art stores.
Digital Photography Definitions
The combined use of aperture, shutter speed, and sensor sensitivity (ISO) to provide the correct amount of light to the sensor in order to produce image results that most closely resemble what you see in the viewfinder when you captured the photograph.
A camera’s Aperture is an adjustable, circular opening in the lens that both control the amount of light that the sensor receives and the depth of field of the photograph. A small aperture will produce a large depth of field but allow less light to hit the sensor, whereas a large aperture will produce a shallow depth of field, but allow a lot more light to reach the sensor.
A timed device that blocks light from reaching the sensor until the shutter button is depressed. Usually this device is mechanical, but some newer digital cameras have an electronic shutter, which means the sensor is simply turned on and off.
The amount of time the shutter allows light to reach the sensor, which is usually a fraction of a second. A faster shutter speed will be better at stopping fast moving subjects, while a slower shutter speed will allow for a smaller aperture, thus producing a larger depth of field.
An electronic device composed of a light-sensitive material that first converts light to an electric signal then to digital information which produces the image. These devices are either CCD (charged coupled device) or CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor).
Designated as the ISO, this controls the sensor's sensitivity to light. Keep in mind that the lower the sensitivity, the better image results you will generally get.
The camera’s white balance produces the most accurate color reproduction of the image being captured. Although the human eye automatically adjusts to different color temperatures, a sensor must be set to the appropriate color temperature. Most cameras are set by default to an Auto-White Balance setting which provides fairly good results; however, choosing the white balance manually should provide more accurate color rendition.
Depth of field
An image’s depth of field is the amount of the scene that is in focus from the extreme foreground to the most distant background. A large depth of field will render the closest objects to the most distant objects (infinity) sharp. A shallow depth of field will generally isolate the subject by leaving everything else in the image out of focus, which is sometimes advantageous in portraiture. Depth of field is controlled by the aperture.
Optical image stabilization is a feature of a camera lens that physically shifts the lens elements to compensate for movement caused by the photographer or the subject, which should produce sharper images. This feature is especially useful when taking images using a slow shutter speed or when using a telephoto lens. There is also electronic image stabilization on some camera bodies which actually moves the sensor to compensate for movement, but optical image stabilization usually produces much better results.
DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
A camera that diverts the light coming through the lens then records the image to the viewfinder until just before the image is captured so as to provide the most accurate viewing of your image. This is done by a 45° angle mirror which reflects the light up into a pentaprism and through the viewfinder.
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras
Quality of build
The main advantage of a DSLR over a standard point-and-shoot camera is its superior construction. DSLR cameras are made of higher quality materials and are tested extensively by the manufacturer before they are released for sale. With proper care, DSLR cameras can last a lifetime.
The biggest reason to use a DSLR, other than the quality of construction, is the control you have over your final image. Almost everything on these cameras can be customized to your own specific needs and shooting situations. At first this might seem overwhelming, but with a small investment in learning, you should reap a great reward of images that are far superior to ones you had before.
Most DSLR cameras have a dial to access standard settings or scene-mode settings. This is sometimes called the “PASM” dial as it generally includes a minimum of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and full-Manual modes. Other possible modes include full-auto, landscape, portrait, macro, night, and action.
DSLR cameras allow you to use interchangeable lenses, which are more versatile and give you the ability to upgrade over time. You can usually continue to use these lenses on new camera models from the same manufacturer, provided the mount on the unit stays the same. DSLR camera lenses, like the DSLR camera bodies, are constructed better and use higher-quality materials.
One main difference between a point-and-shoot digital camera and a DSLR is the reflex mechanism, which consists of a mirror set at a 45° angle inside the camera body that reflects the image up into the viewfinder until the image is taken. This result of viewing your images in this way is a more accurate and stable view.
A number of newer DSLR cameras come with a feature called live preview which allows the LCD to be used as a viewfinder in the same way as a point-and-shoot digital camera, although you cannot use both live preview and the optical viewfinder at the same time. Live preview is helpful in some situations where it is difficult to hold the camera to your eye. In bright sunlight it can be difficult to see what you’re shooting on the LCD screen; in this case, using the viewfinder would be advantageous.
The sensor on many DSLR cameras is at least twice the size of the sensor on a point-and-shoot camera. This means that a 6 mega-pixel DSLR will shoot at approximately the same resolution as a 12 mega-pixel point-and-shoot. Ultimately, this will give you a much sharper image.
With a DSLR camera, you can add an additional flash via hot-shoe. The use of a hot-shoe flash can help to eliminate red-eye in your subjects, and these flashes are usually a much stronger light source, meaning it can cover subjects that are much farther away.
A cameras buffer is a small amount of built in storage where your image data is temporarily placed while it is being written to your memory card. By having a larger buffer in their internal memory than standard digital cameras, DSLR cameras are able to take more images before they are written onto the memory card. This allows for more continuous shooting without interruption.
Due to the use of interchangeable lenses, dust has a greater chance of entering the camera body and adhering to the image sensor. When changing your lenses, you should always try to do it quickly and in a dust free environment. Never leave the camera body sitting around without a lens attached or a body cover on the camera. Some newer DSLR cameras come with a feature that automatically removes dust from the sensor.
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