By Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm,
Authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot,
Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures
Here are 10 easy ways to greatly improve your digital photographs and
avoid the pitfalls that are common with today's automatic cameras.
Professional photographers Michele and Tom Grimm offer these and many
more tips in their brand-new handbook, The Basic Book of Digital
1. Pay Attention to Composition.
Too often a picture lacks impact because your subjects seem too far
away. Move closer or zoom in to concentrate attention on your main
subject and to avoid unwanted elements that are distracting. Make
certain you see nothing in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen that
you don't want in the final picture. Be especially alert for cluttered
backgrounds. Finally, just before you shoot, check that the horizon
appears level in your camera's viewfinder or on the LCD screen.
2. Vary the Format of Your Pictures.
Cameras make pictures that are rectangular, not square, so you should
remember to turn your camera vertically for appropriate subjects, such
as portraits of people. In other words, don't be so lazy that you
always hold the camera horizontally. Appropriately, horizontal images
are in the format called landscape, while the format for vertical
shots is known as portrait.
3. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot.
If you used to shoot with a film camera, break the old habit of just
making one or two exposures. The memory cards that are substitutes for
film in digital cameras will hold hundreds of pictures and you can
easily erase the images you don't like. So shoot away until you get
the perfect picture. A big bonus is that you won't have to spend extra
time at your computer fixing up mediocre shots with image-editing
4. Press the Shutter Release Button . . . Don't Jab It.
More pictures are ruined because of camera shake than for any other
reason. The main offense is jabbing or snapping your finger down on
the shutter release (which jars the camera). It's easy to avoid
blurred pictures: Just remember to arch your shooting finger and
slowly press or squeeze the shutter button. Also, be sure to hold your
camera with two hands to help keep it steady.
5. Shoot with Flash Outdoors.
Pictures taken outdoors, especially of people and pets, are frequently
better when you use your camera's built-in flash. That's because
direct sunlight often causes annoying shadows on faces, particularly
around the eyes. Flash "fills in" those shadows to provide uniform
illumination and a more pleasing portrait. Also, to keep your subjects
from squinting in bright sunlight, ask them to turn their backs to the
sun. That puts their faces in shadow, which you'll then illuminate
with the flash.
6. Memorize the Shooting Range of Your Flash.
Although they are convenient, built-in flash units are not very
powerful and underexposed flash pictures in dark places are often the
result. To avoid underexposures (or overexposures) with your flash,
memorize its operating range. How distant (or close) can your subject
be for a proper exposure? The flash range of a point-and-shoot camera
may only be 3 to 12 feet. Caution: the flash range will change as you
adjust your camera's zoom lens; check the instruction manual.
7. Set a Higher ISO for Sharper, Non-blurred Images, and Greater Flash
Keep in mind that adjusting your camera's ISO to a higher number, such
as ISO 800 instead of ISO 100, automatically sets smaller lens
openings for more sharply focused images, as well as faster shutter
speeds for stop-action, non-blurry pictures. It also extends the
maximum distance range of a built-in or dedicated flash unit.
Unfortunately, a very high ISO, such as ISO 1600 or 3200 (if
available) may cause unwanted effects in digital images called
artifacts. Take some test pictures at different ISO settings to
compare the results.
8. Read and Reread Your Camera Manual (and our Digital Photo Book).
Most new camera owners look at the instructions only once or twice, if
at all. But modern digital cameras, whether point-and-shoot or SLR
(single lens reflex) models, are not as simple as their advertisements
suggest. Study the instruction booklet until you're familiar with all
of the camera's buttons, symbols, and picture possibilities. If you
lose the instructions or forget to bring them on a trip, log onto your
camera manufacturer's Web site and download a copy of the manual.
9. Compose Pictures with Your Viewfinder, Not the LCD.
Unless you're taking close-ups, it is easier, faster, and steadier to
compose pictures by using your camera's viewfinder (if available)
instead of the LCD screen. There is more support with the camera
pressed to your face as you look through the viewfinder instead of
trying to hold it steady at arm's length while composing subjects on
the LCD screen. Also, you won't be bothered by bright light that makes
it difficult to see images on the LCD.
10. Don't Let the Date and Time Deface Your Pictures.
Make sure your camera is not set to automatically print the time and
date of your shots on the front of your pictures; it will ruin their
appearance. Besides, you should be aware that the time and date are
embedded in every photo image file as hidden metadata that can be
viewed at anytime with image-editing software on your computer.
©2009 Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of
Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital
Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital
Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures,
are a husband-and-wife photojournalism team who have spent nearly four
decades traveling the globe; the couple has visited every continent
and more than 130 countries in search of the perfect photographic
image. Their photographs and articles have been published worldwide in
magazines and newspapers and on the Internet. The Grimms are authors
and illustrators of thirteen adult and children's books.
For more information, please visit http://www.TomGrimm.com and http://www.amazon.com.