This page is dedicated the advancement of the art of photography. So whether you're taking a few snapshots of the kids at a birthday party or leaving on a photographic safari to the Australian Outback we'd like to help you get the shot you really want. Remember, it's not the camera that takes good pictures...it's the person using it. :-)
This months tip: Using Your Digital Camera...The right way.
Holding your camera...you've seen them...you may even be one of them...holding your camera at semi-arms length trying to compose the image in the little video screen in the back. Okay...wait a tick. You do realize this is the MOST unnatural way to hold your camera, uses up your battery 40% faster and makes getting critical composition at the time of exposure all but impossible...right? Hold your camera up to your eye (the little video screen is for REVIEW not PREVIEW), the first thing we teach in our workshops is how to hold your camera. Now granted some little pocket cameras don't have a view finder other than the video screen but then I wouldn't recommend you buy one of those for that reason. Set your video screen to come on for 2 seconds after the shot so you can see if you got what you were after, this will give you instant review and make your battery last twice as long. Finally, holding your camera to your eye and squeezing the shutter instead of pushing it will keep the camera from tilting to one side at the most critical moment...exposure.
My camera is so slow I always miss the shot I want...most if not all digital cameras have a built in program that keeps you from taking the photograph before the camera is in focus. This is why your camera is keeping the shot from being taken...it's still focusing. The difference between consumer, prosumer and professional cameras is not mega pixels, it's the quality of the glass in the lens and the speed of the little servo motors that focus it. Pro cameras focus in a fraction of a second, while the prosumer camera you buy at the big box stores may take a second and a half and the popular pocket cameras may take up to 3 seconds to focus. Don't even get me started on bit depth (or why I would spend 3-4 times more for a camera with the same mega pixels as the one you see at the store). So what's the fix? Easy...if you know the action is going to take place at a certain point (let's say a birth day cake), go ahead and PRE-FOCUS on the middle of the cake by pointing your camera in the right direction (holding it to your eye) and press the shutter button half way down. This will let the camera focus but not make the exposure yet. Now when tiny Tim blows the candles out, you press the button the rest of the way and viola you've caught the peak of the action. Great shot!
My pictures are fuzzy...a lot of things can cause this, not the least of which is holding your camera wrong or camera movement at the time of exposure (but then you don't do that anymore right?). The two most common causes beyond camera movement are the camera focusing in the wrong place (see above paragraph to fix a lot of this) and the second is too small a file size. It's sure great to get 670 pictures on one little card...the down side is they're all fuzzy, not because they're out of focus but because the file is too small.. Always shoot with your camera set at the largest file size with the highest quality JPEG compression (or the least amount of compression). You can always make the file smaller later but when you make it bigger, your asking the computer to put pixels in that aren't the...it's basically guessing. And that's how you get fuzzy pictures. SD, CF and Memory Stick cards are CHEAP...my first 320 megabyte card was actually a mini-hard drive and cost nearly $400...now you can get a card for your camera in the 2-4 gigabyte range for under $30...usually under $20. Have one in the camera and a spare with you for important events and you'll never miss a shot.
Keeping it safe...finally you've taken some great shots and then your computer crashes and you lose them all. Not if you follow a few simple steps. First, down load your images at the end of an event (birthday, vacation, etc). Put them in a folder on your computer named what the event was and the date. Now before you pass go or collect $200, burn a copy of that folder to a CD or DVD and put it in a case and store it in the upright position (like a book). Now the files exist in 3 places...on your card, on your computer and on a disk on your shelf. You'll probably format your card (do it in the camera for best results), but you'll still have files on your computer and on disk. Now when your computer starts to get full, before you take those files off, buy a little pocket drive ($99) and back up your picture files to the little drive...now you'll always have your most important pictures...even if your computer crashes. Remember it's not a matter of if...it's a matter of when.
If you have questions...e-mail me at email@example.com and if we get the same questions from enough people it will be our question of the month. If you'd like a personal response just mention it and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Have fun!
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