Simple Digital Photo Tips


Photos taken near water (or snow) run the risk of underexposure. An underexposed image lacks contrast and looks grey and washed out. A camera’s light meter is thrown off by a highly reflective surface. Behave counter-intuitively; turn the flash On when taking your picture. Or leave it in automatic full power mode or in a “fill-flash” mode. The flash helps to neutralize the highly reflective surfaces, reducing backlight and underexposure problems. Another tip from an earlier column is to set the automatic camera exposure to “cloudy” when shooting on the beach in full sun. It will add a subtle pink cast to sand that would otherwise look grey.”


Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Ron Laytner is known for great people photos. His secret? Move your head to left or right of screen when taking your shot. Don’t take it when you’re looking directly into the viewfinder. The subject will turn their attention just enough for the photo to look natural. Another pro tip: Don’t return from that Paris trip with full views of the Eifel Tower or a monument and a barely recognizable spouse somewhere ‘out there.’ You’re shooting too far away from both spouse and monument. Stand far enough away to get the object and very close to your spouse. Then use a larger aperture setting such as 8 or higher. Both the person and the Eiffel Tower will appear sharp and you’ll have a far better photo.


Photos of people in front of sunsets often don’t work. Use the flash and the subject’s face will be overexposed. Don’t use the flash and although the sunset will look fine you can’t make out the face. The solution is to keep the flash but set your camera’s “flash exposure compensation” ”“(EV or a one-step button) to -1. The flash will then produce a more subtle light. This technique also works when you want visible puffy clouds in a blue sky, if subjects are fairly close to you in a dark room or to prevent white faces at a dinner table.


Digital “auto” users fear the Histogram. If you later auto-enhance or adjust tones, be brave, tweak it once and get better photos. A histogram can be very useful. It tells the best tonal recording and is usually centered, showing the majority of the information in the center of the scale. If you like to adjust, it’s better to slightly overexpose in the histogram for optimum tonal qualities. Viewing the histogram in your camera, the peak will be slighted weighted to the right (ETTR – “exposing to the right”). It means most of the data is recorded in the brighter spots. This prevents “posterization,” abrupt changes in tones and shading. The image will not look as good on the view screen; it will be a bit bright and lacking in contrast and saturation. The aim of ETTR is not for photos to look great in the camera but rather to produce files that will process better and give a superior end-result.


“Photographers keep alert for the perfect shot when wandering cities or traveling. You can’t afford to hesitate when you spot a child playing cat-toss in the middle of a colorful alley – just kidding…make it a ball. An unwanted flash or wrong film speed might interfere with the action or change the shadows. Before getting to this point, your camera should already be in “Program” mode. With Program, the camera will automatically set the aperture and shutter speed without the flash continuously popping up as it would in “Auto.” Manual adjustments are also faster. Change the mode afterwards for more creative control. But first get that spontaneous shot. It might be perfect as is, or can be touched-up later.


Did you know that a blue paint chip can turn an ordinary sunset photo into something spectacular? A digital camera’s automatic white balance works fine for most photos. But why does that great sunset look so disappointing once you see the photo? It’s because the camera’s white balance has done its job and taken some of the color out of the scene. If your camera has a daylight or cloudy setting, try using“ry using these to make your sunsets “pop.” Also use your camera’s custom white balance setting to trick the camera into bringing out more dramatic color. One excellent warming technique is to carry a pale blue piece of fabric or paint chip sample. White balance your camera against these instead of a white surface. This tricks the camera into taking the blue out, thus making the picture warmer. The color used to white balance your camera with is the color the camera will reduce or remove in the photo.


Try using two auto camera settings more often. Landscape Mode: Don’t limit “Landscape” to scenery such as mountains and ocean scenes. Use it to photograph large crowds and everyone will be in focus. Landscape makes everything in your photo equally sharp. Fill Flash Mode: This improves the lighting of daylight subjects that have shadows. It gives people an even, more natural appearance and makes colors more vibrant. Regular flash can be too much and cause a picture to look overexposed. Counter the over-exposure effect by holding a white tissue or coffee filter over the flash to lessen the light.


Your camera or photo chip comes with an automatic storage device inside labeled DCIM, for “Digital Camera Images.” This folder, also called the image root directory, keeps together the images captured with your camera. Take a photo and your camera automatically creates and names subfolders within the DCIM (like placing manila folders in a hanging folder). The first three characters in a folder’s name, called the directory number, are numbers between 100 and 999. The next five characters are known as free characters; any uppercase alphanumeric characters chosen by“chosen by the camera manufacturer. When an image is saved, the camera assigns it a filename and stores it in the current folder. Filenames have two parts, an 8-character filename and a 3-character extension. Think of them as first and last names. The name is unique to each file, and the extension, separated from the name by a period, identifies the file’s format. For example, a JPG extension means it’s a JPEG image file, TIF means it’s a TIFF image file. Remember one important thing after reading all this – it’s okay to DELETE the DCIM folder when clearing your storage card or chip. Your camera creates a new DCIM folder as you begin taking new photos. Don’t leave images in the folder or they’ll be deleted when you delete the folder.


The number of pixels a camera delivers matters with larger prints. Generally, the more pixels, the more details and sharper edges in a photo. Pixels are often referred to as “resolution” in digital photography. Pixels determine photo size limits. All things being equal (and oversimplified), the greater the resolution, the higher the number of pixels. The larger the photo, the more space between pixels; hence the more graininess, i.e. “pixelization.” Lower resolutions such as 640 x 480 are perfect for Web publishing, emails and small prints. Photo realistic enlargements“ over 5” x 7” need higher resolutions of 6 million pixels or more (multiply the two preceding numbers for total pixels, or Megapixels). Good prints need at least 200 pixels per inch. A good 10” x 8” print should have over 3 Megapixels, which is a 2000 x 1600 pixel image. Greater resolution means larger files. These require considerably more storage space. Worry about that later. Take extra photocards and always shoot in the finest, highest quality possible. Print a fine enlargement or lower the resolution later.”

DIGITAL PHOTO ORGANIZATION MADE EASY -- Attach Names And Sequential Numbers In A Single Step

“Change your photo card and you repeat a number sequence. It becomes a nightmare to remember and locate favorite shots.

There’s an easy solution. You can speed up the naming process and at the same time ORGANIZE AND LOCATE your photos with this simple sequential naming technique. First, select and block out a group of photos that deal with the same subject or place. For example, select all your Venice photos. Then, move your cursor back to the first photo in the group and right click on “Rename.” Replace the current number ID under the photo with “Venice.” (Remember – this whole time the entire group of photos must still be blocked out.) Hit “Enter” after naming; the first photo of the group will be named “Venice,” the second photo “Venice (2),” the third photo “Venice (3),” etc. Your computer will automatically attach the name and add the sequential numbers to the rest of the block.

Move on to the next place, such as “France,” and repeat the process. Each place you visited will now have photos with the topic name plus sequential numbering. An added plus is that if you print your photos at the local photo shop, the“the back of the photos will also be printed with the name and sequential number as it appeared in your file.”


Digital photography makes it almost too easy to shoot hundreds of photos. The downside is in finding a particular photo or remembering a place that looks like other photos. If you’ve deleted photos in the camera, the order may be scrambled. The easy way to sort your photos is to organize them by number sequence, size or date. Go to the top TOOLBAR and click LIST under the thumbnail icon. Click DETAILS, then choose any of the four choices at the top of the photo layout; name, size, type, or date. The photos will be rearranged numerically or your preferred choice. The sequence choice can be changed at any time. Add titles and coordinate the numbering anew after deleting the bad photos”


Think your digital camera set on “auto” is good enough? There’s room for improvement. Why shoot a hundred extra photos just to be safe and then spend the next month sorting out the best ones? Shoot smarter, then enjoy your free time.
Overexposure is better (your photos, not your outfits): Given a choice between a slightly too-light (overexposing) or too dark (underexposing) photo, stick to overexposing. Darkening a photo later will produce less “noise” than lightening a photo. Whether you do it on your computer or at the photo store, touchup results are better from overexposed photos. (This only refers to digital photography).
Batteries: Digital batteries don’t last as long in cold weather. Shooting snow? Then bring a backup battery or your photo session will be shorter than planned.
One Leg Up on Tripods: Tripods have three legs. Make sure only one leg faces you when setting up your tripod. If you’re on an incline and the camera starts to tip, the single leg will act like an anchor and keep it from falling. In other words, putting the two-legged side on the ground with a single leg on a rock or hillside (not where you are), will usually cause the camera to tip over in the direction of the grounded legs.


Most of us have great digital cameras that do a least 50 things. But life is short so we usually use the “Automatic” setting. Delays caused by resetting the camera can loose the moment. Although it’s important to have the correct white balance setting, you can get more impressive color with a little cheating. One way is to change your camera white balance setting from “sunny” to “cloudy” the next time you’re shooting outside. The ‘Cloudy” setting adds deeper shades of red and yellow to your color photos. This, in turn, warms up the resultant colors, making areas such as grey sand more attractive, greens more intense, and skies more impressive. You can also get a more colorful picture by boosting your contrast and saturation. Many digital cameras have a “vivid” in-camera control that does this. However, you’re better off boosting color later using the simplest version of Photoshop (Adjust Color, Hue/Saturation, etc). Adding too much color and saturation at the time of capture can sacrifice important details that can’t be recovered later, such as peeling “paint, skin shade differences or the middle tones of grey.


Ever wonder why you see these ‘blinking areas’ when you look into that camera viewfinder? These “blinkies” are highlight alerts (also called highlight warnings). They’re actually showing exactly which parts of your photos have been overexposed. Overexposure means you’ll lose highlights in that area. Lose highlights and you lose the details. This isn’t always a bad thing as long as you get the parts of the photo that are important to you. But it could mean a really boring landscape photo, or a ticked off white-faced relative in the corner of your frame. This is an easy fix called “exposure compensation.” (Many cameras have a single button you can fix it with). Lower the exposure to get rid of the blinking area. That means lowering your “F” stop. Just remember, the BIGGER the “F” stop number, such as F11, the SMALLER the “F” stop. Another easy way to do this is to turn your “F stop” dial a little bit at a time and repeat the shot or keep your eye on the blink until it stops.”


Many digital cameras have a stabilizer to prevent “camera shake,” but it’s not always enough. This could be due to a very lightweight camera that’s hard to keep still in the wind, too low light or because you’re trying for too long a telephoto shot on “auto.” You may not even notice until you’ve enlarged the photo. The way to prevent blurs before you take the photo is to INCREASE THE FILM SPEED (also called ISO). Change the film speed to an ISO of 800 or higher. You won’t regret it. It’s better to have a noisy image that’s sharp than a “soft,” or blurred image. Noise can be more easily fixed later than a too-soft image.


Are you still using that “instant” digital camera outdoors? Does your DSLR Nikon or Cannon intimidate you? Pro photographers use a zoom lens set in “Aperture Priority” for showpiece results. Aperture Priority reads as “A” or AV” on your camera dial. It’s easy to use if you memorize three basic points. Suppose you’re shooting a parrot with a telephoto lens. You decide you want the parrot in the foreground) to be in focus and the trees and leaves (the background), out of focus. Set your aperture to the smallest number your lens will allow (such as f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, etc.) and then focus on the parrot. The camera will do the rest. You’ll have a wonderful parrot photo with the artistic effect you were looking for. What if you want both parrot and trees to be in focus? Move your aperture to either f/8 or f/11. This will shoot the scene closer to what your eyes actually see (with only the really far things out of focus.) Finally, if you want everything (foreground, middle and background) in focus, use the highest number your lens will allow (f/22, f/36 etc.) What all this means is that the smaller F-stop numbers will give you a more concentrated area of focus.


“One of the problems with taking photos in a roomful of people dancing or in your kid’s martial arts class is that you’ll probably need a flash. This usually freezes the movement, resulting in a still photo of people in awkward positions. Cameras don’t capture movement unless you tell them to. Aren’t you impressed by magazine photos with blurs of movement circling a single clear subject in the center? How often do National Geographic photos show roomful of living mannequins in weird positions? Instead you’ll see a bride and groom dancing with a blur of figures moving around them. Following the motion of one subject (person, bicycle, whatever) is called panning. This effect is hard to achieve on auto but can be easily done without special photo skills. SLOW YOUR SHUTTER SPEED. Then keep your eye and camera on the subject you want and just keep shooting. The subject will be in focus with a lively motion blur around them.”

Better Macro Shots with Point & Shoot Cameras

Anyone can take a macro shot by turning the dial on your point & shoot camera. Good enough to frame is another matter. Try these quick tips for better pictures. The macro mode tells your camera to choose a large aperture (small number) so that your subject is in focus but the background is not. Avoiding camera-shake with this setting is hard; the best choice is to use a tripod. If you hate to schlep around extra weight, use the self timer. Set it at the smallest time setting. This will avoid movement of the camera from pressing the shutter. Light is also extremely important. Without enough surrounding light, a flash may be necessary; but a flash upclose can be too bright. See if your camera allows you to pull back the flash level, or else diffuse it by covering the flash with a tissue or cellotape. Finally, the Rule of Thirds is a basic rule of composition. Make sure your image has a main point of interest and place that focal point in a smart enough position to draw the eye of the viewer. Don’t have a cluttered background t“that will compete with the main subject.

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Excerpt From: JK McCrea. “Painless Digital Photography Tips.” iBooks.