Digital Photography 101: Tips & Tricks for Amazing Pics
Today’s digital cameras have gotten smaller, lighter and come loaded with more features than ever before. And whether your camera cost under $100 or more than $1000, knowing a few tips and tricks will help you get the most out of your point-and-shoot, compact system, or DSLR camera before you take it out into the world.
When you unravel all the plastic and Styrofoam that houses your shiny new camera, be sure to see what other accessories, manuals, and other goodies it came with. If your camera hasn’t come with a memory card or carrying case, you’ll have to purchase them separately.
The basic contents of your camera package might include:
- Battery and charger – this will either be alkaline batteries, or a rechargeable battery + charging device to stay powered up
- USB cable – to transfer your photos and videos to your computer, or charge your camera’s battery
- Strap – to be attached to your camera so it’s easy to hook onto your hand or wrist for easy portability
- Memory card – some models will include a memory card to get you started, but in most cases it will have very little capacity, so you’ll want to pick up a larger-capacity card
- A manual – offers general camera guidelines and tips to activating special functions; it might also include photo software that’s optimized for your device
Taking Great Photos
When you look into the viewfinder of your camera, how you decide you want your photo to look is typically referred to as composition. It’s the visual process of organizing elements and details in your scene into an arrangement that you find the most pleasing.
There are technically no rules for composing shots. How good a picture looks is all about personal taste. Still, there are a few composition tips that will help you shoot like a pro.
The Rule of Thirds
Imagine for a moment that your photo is divided into a tic-tac-toe grid. The rule of thirds suggests that the subject in your photo should be positioned along these vertical and horizontal lines, or where they intersect, to make it look more interesting.
Working with Light
Daylight can create unwanted shadows in portrait and macro shots when you’re outdoors. To improve them, use the flash to make dark areas brighter. For landscape shots, try snapping pics early or late in the day when the light is low.
Lock your Focus
Most cameras with an auto focus function will automatically choose whatever is in the centre of the viewfinder. If your subject is off-centre, first lock them in the middle of your picture and then recompose it so your subject is away from the middle. This will help ensure you get a great shot with a subject that’s always in focus.
Change your Point of View
Hold your camera at your subject’s eye level, get up high, or get super close to crop out other items in your shot that don’t need to be there. Changing your positioning will help you capture more unique and personalized photos.
Use a Plain Background
To give your subject more impact, try snapping shots with a plain background. A cluttered background might be distracting and your subject could get lost within it.
Using Tripods, Lenses, and Filters
You don’t have to be a pro to snap professional-looking shots. Adding a tripod to your point-and-shoot or DSLR camera kit will help ensure that you get crisp and clear shots at night, during a fireworks show, for landscapes, or anywhere else hand-holding your camera might produce blurry results.
If you’re working with a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera, a lens is a must. They give you more creative control with a design that’s best suited to your shooting environment, and allow you to manually adjust the focal length, aperture, zoom, and more.
Lens Hoods & Caps
When you’re snapping shots with your DSLR out in the sun, a lens hood can help reduce the glare and flare that’s caused when light hits the front of your lens. By preventing this light, you’ll enjoy pictures with richer colours and deeper saturation. And when you’re done shooting for the day, a lens cap will keep your lens safe from dust, nicks and scratches.
Lens Adapters & Converter
To add artistic flare to your photos or extend the range of your existing lens, a lens adapter is an easy and inexpensive way to do it without spending hundreds on a new lens. Common models include telephoto, wide-angle, and fisheye adapters.
Just like lens adapters, adding a lens converter to your DSLR kit lets you do more with your existing lens. Most models can be mounted directly onto your camera or lens, so you can get closer to your subject or fit more into the frame in every shot.
If you own a DSLR or compact system camera, you might want to add a filter to your collection of lenses. Filters work to protect your lens from scratches and dust, and can also help improve your photos depending on your environment.
Common filters include:
||Common Subject Matter
|Linear and Circular Polarizers
||Reduce glare and improve saturation
||Sky, water, and foliage in landscape photos
|Neutral Density (ND)
||Extend exposure time
||Waterfalls and rivers under bright light
|Graduated Neutral Density (GND)
||Control strong light gradients and reduce vignetting
||Dramatically lit landscapes
|UV / Haze
||Improve clarity with film and provide general lens protection
|Warming / Cooling
||Change white balance
||Landscapes, underwater, and special lighting
Digital Memory Cards
Choosing a memory card for your digital camera will come down to two things: format and storage capacity. Check your camera’s manual to see which format your camera is compatible with: Secure Digital (SD, SDHC, and SDXC), Memory Stick, CompactFlash, or xD.
Typically measured in gigabytes (GB), the storage capacity lets you know how much your card can hold. Higher megapixel shots and HD videos will need more space, so you’ll want to choose a card with at least 8GB to make sure you’ve got enough room for them all.
||File size (MB)
Battery and Charger
Carrying an extra battery with your camera will ensure that you’ve got enough power to keep shooting for the whole day. Additionally, a handy charger will ensure that while you’re working with one battery, you can recharge the other one.
Case and Bag
A camera case is designed to fit snugly around your digital camera to offer protection from scratches, dust, and light drops. However, if you’re looking to carry a variety of camera accessories with you, a camera bag is ideal. Most designs give you a snug spot to hold your camera, as well as pockets for additional lenses, memory cards, cables, and more.
Editing, Printing, and Sharing Your Photos
Once you’ve snapped all the shots you want, you might want to consider editing, printing, or even sharing your favourite pics.
There are plenty of photo editing software suites to choose from that will help you enhance (or fix) all the shots you’ve snapped with just a few clicks of your mouse. Most versions are a cinch to use and will allow you to:
- Make standard edits including red eye removal, rotate, flip, resize, crop, adjust lighting and colours, and make use of drawing tools and shapes.
- Touch up facial blemishes and scratches; it might also be called cloning tool, or could be an automatic function in your software
- Correct lighting problems in your photo where it might be too dark or too bright
- Add text by typing directly on your image
- Convert your colour image to black and white
- Add borders and other fun designs to give your image a personalized look
- Create a panoramic effect by merging two photos to look like one
When you want to frame and display your photos, there are a couple of ways to print them.
- A photo printer is the perfect at-home companion for your digital camera. Most models let you connect directly to your computer so you can easily print off your favourite pics. Choose a model with an LCD screen, and you’ll be able to print directly from your camera or a memory card without ever turning on your computer.
- Find a store that offers photo printing. If your local store offered film photo printing before, chances are they now offer digital photo printing. Simply bring in your digital photos on a memory card or disc and they’ll help you choose the size, quantity, and type of photos you want.