5 Tips for Getting Great Shots with Your Digital Camera

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5 Tips for Getting Great Shots with Your Digital Camera
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5 Tips for Getting Great Shots with Your Digital Camera

Modern digital cameras have a wide range of features. Even the cheapest compact digital cameras have an impressive range of functions, many of which are never used and, in fact, never even discovered by many camera owners who just point and shoot and, later, transfer their snaps to their computer and share them online with friends. Many, however, are aware that their pictures are below par and would like to take pictures that are more impressive. Consider the following tips to improve the quality and impact of photographs taken with any digital camera.

1. Take Photographs, Not Snapshots.

Even with no knowledge at all of how cameras work, photos can be improved enormously by learning how to compose the scene. The mistake that many people make is that they look only at the subject, point the camera straight at it and, with no regard to the surroundings and background, take the shot. Unless they are lucky, there is a very good chance that they will be disappointed with the result. That is because they saw only the subject and ignored the picture as a whole. It is important to keep in mind whenever taking a picture that the photo is not just the subject. It is a rectangular image that contains the subject in the context of the whole scene. Don't place the subject dead-centre, and don't always go for the straight-ahead shot. Experiment with angles and side-views. If taking a horizon shot, don't have the horizon running across the centre. Keep it level, of course, but position it either a third or two thirds of the way up. Also, try to include interesting, but not distracting, background visual elements in key areas, such as halfway between the centre and any of the corners. These can be flowers, trees, buildings, or other. In other words, first make the picture, then take the picture.

2. Understand the Basic Principle of Photography

Despite the enormous progress made in digital camera technology over the last decade or so, the basic principle of photography, which is capturing, focusing, and recording light, has never changed. it is a simple principle, and a basic understanding of it means better decisions can be made regarding how to get the best possible shots. Every digital camera has a lens which is necessary for focusing, a shutter for controlling the amount of time light is allowed to pass through the lens, an aperture for controlling the amount of light that passes through, and a sensor for capturing and transforming the light into a digital format. Many so-called snapshooters are unaware of these basics. They keep their camera on full-auto setting, and let it work out the best exposure settings for the shutter, aperture, and sensitivity (ISO). Unfortunately, the camera's auto-setting sometimes gets it wrong. A typical example is a brilliant white snow scene in sunlight. The camera thinks the scene is far too bright and reduces the exposure, resulting in grey snow. It doesn't realise that it is snow and meant to be brilliant white. The following table describes these basic components and their functions.

Lens

The lens focuses light from the scene being photographed and projects it onto the camera's light-sensitive sensor

Compact and bridge digital cameras have a fixed, unchangeable lens, but zoom capability is usually provided as standard. DSLR and mirrorless compact system cameras have interchangeable lenses for different situations


Shutter

The shutter allows light to pass through for a specified length of time.

Slow shutter speeds can capture more light, which is useful in low-light situations, but if too slow, the camera can't be hand-held without camera-shake, causing blurring in the image. Fast shutter speeds can freeze fast action, but only if there's enough light available


Aperture

The aperture can be varied to allow more or less light to pass through the lens

The aperture, like the shutter, controls the amount of light coming through, Unlike the shutter, it also controls depth of field, which is the area of view in front of and behind the subject that will also be in focus. Minimum depth of field is ideal for portraits where the subject's face will be in sharp focus but all distracting background clutter will be out of focus. Maximum depth of field is needed in shots where it is important to have everything in focus.


Sensor

The sensor receives light and converts it to a digital form.

In situations where neither the shutter nor aperture in combination can capture the required amount of light for a correct exposure, the camera sensor's sensitivity (ISO) setting can be increased or decreased. This can produce good results, but too much increase can affect image quality and introduce unsightly effects called noise.


3. Use Light Effectively

This is where many disappointing shots are made. Many people assume that all that is required is enough light. That is only partly true. The direction and angle of light are also important. Early mornings and early evenings are great times for taking pictures in sunlight. The sun is low and casts longer but lighter shadows that bring out textures clearly. Also, because of atmospheric effects, it is a softer light. By contrast, at midday, sunlight is harsh and can cast ugly dark shadows. Built-in flash is also guilty of producing harsh and unflattering lighting. Partly, this is to do with the intensity of the light over short ranges, but also because of the angle of the light. Lighting the subject straight-on tends to eliminate all texture and produce flat, featureless results.

4. Keep the Camera Steady

Whenever a shot is taken with a hand-held camera, there is always a degree of unavoidable camera-shake. At high shutter speeds, camera-shake has no noticeable effect, but at slower speeds it can reduce the sharpness of the image and even cause severe blurring. Many digital cameras have image stabilisation features these days, which can be helpful, but the following old-fashioned methods can be far more effective.

Use a Tripod

A tripod is the recommended means of steadying the camera when taking landscape shots or important posed portrait shots. Even with a tripod, especially a less-expensive and less-robust tripod, pressing the shutter button can still cause the camera to move slightly. Two common ways to avoid this are to use a cable-release cord that enables the shutter button to be pressed remotely without touching the camera, or to use the camera's timer. Set the timer, compose the shot and take the picture. By the time the shutter fires, all vibrations caused by pressing it will have died down. In many other situations, however, a tripod isn't practical, but other methods can work.

Find a Flat Surface

If a tripod is unavailable or impractical, find a suitably-placed flat surface where the camera can be placed and the shot composed. Again, use a cable-release or the camera's timer to avoid touching it when the shot is taken.

Use a Fabric Support

Press the camera hard against some fabric such as a jacket, towel, or bag. Camera gadget bags are ideal for this. Compose and take the picture. The timer can be used, but don't use a cable release as both hands are needed to push the camera firmly against the fabric. When the shot is taken, any camera-shake will be absorbed by the fabric.

5. Take Multiple Shots

Whenever taking an important photo, don't take just a single shot and hope for the best. Take a few shots and make slight changes each time either to the camera's settings or to its position in relation to the scene. Bracket the exposures. That means take extra shots slightly above and below the exposure value that the camera thinks is the optimal setting. Many cameras offer automatic bracketing for exactly this purpose. Pressing the shutter once will result in three (or more) shots taken in rapid succession, each with a slightly different exposure setting. If using a zoom lens, try varying the focal length to ensure the best composition. Alternatively, take the shots from different positions.

How to Find a Digital Camera on eBay

With many thousands of digital cameras on eBay for sale or auction, they're not hard to find. Unsurprisingly, digital cameras have their own eBay category within the main Photography category and that is where most of them are to be found. However, even by navigating to the Digital Cameras category, the list is so large and varied that it is necessary to filter the list further in order to see exactly the type of camera required. The results can also be ordered according to the kind of sale, such as cameras being sold by auction or by direct sale, or listed as new, used, or manufacturer refurbished. Many other filtering options are offered, all conveniently located on the left-hand side of the listings page. Start the whole process off by entering the search term "digital camera" into the search box provided on any page of eBay UK.

Conclusion

It is not the camera, but the person behind it that matters. This is considered a cliché, but it is also widely acknowledged by photographers to contain a significant amount of truth. Just as an artist would never think that his or her latest painting was produced by the brushes and paint, photographers don't consider photos to be taken by the camera but by the photographer. The camera, like an artist's brush, is simply a tool. Keep that in mind when taking pictures, and remember that the photographer controls the camera and not the other way round.

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