January 17, 2005
Q: I got a new digital camera and love it, but I seem to be taking more bad pictures than good. Can you give me some tips on turning that around? — Jan
A: Digital cameras provide a lot of convenience for documenting the wonderful moments in our lives, but there are many differences between digital and film cameras.
The biggest mistake that most new users make is treating digital cameras like film cameras in the way pictures are taken.
First of all, they don’t respond the same as film cameras when you snap the image. Digital cameras typically have a slight delay between the press of the button and the actual capture of the image. This delay can easily translate into photos in which the object is off center or blurry from movement, or they have a variety of lighting issues.
Here are some tips:
• Hold still for at least two seconds after you press the button.
Another common problem is the distance between the camera and the object being shot. Too far and the subjects are not very sharp; too close and the image is blurry. Learn what distances are best for your particular camera by playing around with it before those special moments.
• Keep subjects between four and six feet from the camera, especially for photos of people.
Lighting is another big gotcha, because most users just let the camera decide when the flash is necessary. By now, we should all know that electronic devices that "guess" on our behalf are often times guessing wrong.
Don’t be afraid to turn on your flash, even on outdoor pictures. The extra lighting can make a world of difference on the subject. (Why do you think Hollywood spends so much time and money on lighting?)
Consider sometimes turning off the flash when the camera thinks that it is needed. The nice thing about digital photography is that you can take two or three versions of the same shot without worrying about wasting film.
• Turn your flash on, especially when the background is bright.
Aren’t those LCD viewers on the back of the camera great? Well, yes and no. Yes because you get some general idea of how the image looks, but no because the true detail of the image is not apparent.
Many times, what looks great on the little screen is out of focus or blurry when you view it on your computer’s screen. Don’t believe what you see on the little screen, and always take multiple shots of an important picture.
• Check the image by zooming in on the LCD viewer, especially for those important shots.
The zoom option for taking pictures can also be your worst enemy. There is an optical zoom and a digital zoom on most cameras. Optical is an actual lens-based zoom, while digital is simply an electronic enhancement of the image, which can cause a degradation in the image.
• Turn off the digital zoom so you don’t accidentally use it.
The final tip that will be most helpful for all users is to visit the manufacturer’s Web site for camera specific tips and, by all means, read the manual.