camera photography

THE ART OF TAKING GOOD PHOTOGRAPHS

How do you take a good photograph? Is what you see and want what you get after you've pressed the button?

Amateur photographers have a big learning curve, there is so much to learn, but with modern digital cameras doing most of the technical work for them the only real difficulty is composing the image.

Taking many photos over a period of time and then comparing them to professional ones, composition can be learnt by trial and error.

The camera will focus and take a good all round image which may or may not be pleasing to the eye. The colour will be adjusted in-camera, and in fact everything is automatic, except the composition.

Making a good image that is both pleasing and technically right can be a matter of chance to the amateur but to the professional only comes after years of trial and error, and learning from others and perhaps during a college education.

Sometimes a shot just happens naturally and there is no time for composition, but in the main it is best to see how much better a shot can be taken by moving into different positions, like moving closer, using a tripod, using a different lens or adjusting the camera for different light levels.

Joining a photography club would be of enormous benefit, not just for the tips and help other photographers are able to give but going on outings and expeditions where all shoot the same image, and by watching and emulating and asking questions.

THE RIGHT CAMERA IS IMPORTANT

There are many cameras on the market but small and relatively inexpensive cameras will be light and easy to use and can be carried in a pocket, but are slow to take spontaneous shots and usually come with a fixed lens. The cheaper DSLR cameras are good for many reasons: they are cheap so there is no need to worry too much about dropping one or getting it wet as you would with a more expensive one, although care should be take to keep it clean. This especially means the lens needs to be kept clean by wiping it with a special lens cloth.

It takes time to get to know which is the best lens or set of lenses.

One of the best all round lenses is the 18 to 200. It is not too big, can be left on the camera and will take most every kind of image from landscape, sports shots to close ups and portraits. This is probably one of the best all round lenses to use.

When starting out as a photographer, having a cheap DSLR with a medium to long lens would be the best starting out package to use until the camera techniques have been mastered and enough knowledge has been gained. Possibly a used camera would do the job for the first year or so.

Reading as much as possible helps you to learn how to set up the camera to take the shot you want. Some photographers leave the camera set a certain way and hardly ever change it. Professional photographers often use the automatic set up when there is no time to adjust the camera for the shot: point, compose, focus and shoot.

A decent new DSLR and the right lens could set you back up to $1500. You would also have to buy a quality memory card.

BE AWARE OF THE LIGHT

Light is very important. Bright sunny days can be harsh. Cloudy days will make everything washed out or too even and the images won't have the texture of shadow. Good times to take photos would be early or late in the day. These are the times when the light can give the best effects. If you can't get close enough to take the photo you want then a long lens will help you to get closer, but can be unsteady to hold with just your hands, so using a tripod, or bean bag set against a solid surface, like a wall, may be needed to hold the camera steady enough to take the shot.

Perhaps the most important thing is to have fun and take the shots when opportunity presents itself and not worry too much about being perfect as that will come in time.

Photography is a big subject and there are many technical terms to know. Most if not all digital cameras come with point and shoot mode which makes it easy for amateurs and professionals alike to take quick and easy shots. All modern DSLRs have metering modes that can be set to take the right shot at different times of the day.

Framing the shot is subjective and makes each person's perspective unique. Some say, the closer you get to the subject the better, but everyone tries for the image they see in their mind. The more photographs you take the better you get and by comparing the image you wanted to take with what actually comes out from the camera helps you to learn to use the camera and take the images you actually see and want.

FOCUSING AND ISO

This can be the most difficult part to learn but after much trial and error the camera becomes less formidable and easier to use and can lead on to wanting to know how it works and understanding how to take a better picture.

In point and shoot mode (automatic) the camera is set up to take evaluative metering using all of the focus points. The points of focus take an average meter of the scene through the lens and that which dominates the scene is going to be in focus. This can be changed in the operating system so that the point of focus is on the central dot (spot metering) making everything that dot is set on in focus. The metering also is set within this dot to the exclusion of the rest of the scene. This is the best way to take portrait photographs as the middle dot is the point of focus and by focusing on the eyes, pressing the shutter half way to hold the focus, (set to manual AF point selection) then composing your shot, will give the best depth of field for a portrait.

Setting the mode to aperture priority with central metering is the best set up on the camera for most still-life shots. If there is movement then the setting should be shutter priority.

It can seem daunting and complicated with all the modes and buttons and dials to learn and know how to use but with trial and error, in time they can be understood.

In general use the camera can be left in automatic and jpeg mode to give the best all-round image.

ISO sets the camera up for use when it is either too dark or too light but is used only in manual mode. Turning the dial so that the ISO number gets bigger helps the camera work when there is not enough light for a good shot, but that can increase noise; noise means losing definition. So if it is set to 100 ISO during the day, at twilight the exposure would need to be set higher, say: 200 ISO or 800 ISO to increase the sensitivity; anything more than that would make noise.

In automatic mode the ISO is automatically set by the camera itself.

 

PHOTOSHOP BRIEFLY

Photoshop is an incredible tool for digital photographs, but it can be daunting to use for the first time, and in fact can and usually does take years to find your way around it. The best way to begin is to get some tuition, maybe a night class.

Once you find your way around Photoshop it becomes a magic tool of endless possibilities.

So long as you have taken a good sharp photo, whatever clutter is in the background can be taken out in Photoshop. By cropping you hone in on what is most valuable about the photo. But the more you crop the more pixels you lose which can influence the enlargement to a great degree. If you crop too much and lose too many pixels then the photo won't be able to be enlarged too much before it becomes blurred. So it is always best to get in as close as you can and fill the frame only with what you really want to be there if you want to blow the picture up to a large size.

Photoshop is great for taking a person or thing out of one photo and putting it into another; in fact it is only your imagination that would set limits on the possibilities of Photoshop.

A word to the raw. On DSLRs there is jpeg and raw. Until you know better just stick to jpeg. Raw files have a lot of information and need the right software to open and use and then save to jpeg.

Jpeg is the file you would upload to a site that accepts photos. Raw files can and do make the best photos because they have so much information stored in them, but they do take up a lot of memory and are slow to use.

Learning the technical aspects of modern digital cameras can be fun and there is not much that can go wrong that can't be fixed, so have fun, point and shoot, and see what comes out, you never know but that the next shot could be the one to make your day.