The Beginner’s Guide To Getting Great Digital Photographs
Digital Photography Basics
1. The Beginner’s Guide To Getting Great Digital Photographs
How many times have you taken a photo and been excited to think that you’ve taken the most amazing shot in the world, only to discover that once you have seen the picture on your computer or in print, that everything is so dark that you can’t tell who is who? Or you find that all you can make out is a line of rather fuzzy things that could be people, or trees, or a piece of abstract art?
So what went wrong?
Modern cameras are getting smarter and smarter. They are able to do fantastic things when in automatic mode to help you and I get better pictures.
But sometimes putting the camera on automatic isn’t enough and we need to use and change some of the controls and settings in the camera’s help menus to get a better picture.
How does that make you feel? Are you confident changing the settings on your camera, or does the thought of changing anything fill you with terror because you’ve never even looked in the manual, never mind taken the camera off automatic and looked inside a menu?
So what is holding you back? Is it simply a lack of knowledge? Are you completely in the dark when it comes to your digital compact camera, can’t tell your ISO from your AF?
You’re not alone. Many, many people struggle to make sense of the principles involved in photography and the common controls used by all cameras, whether you use a compact camera or digital SLR.
Does that sound like you? Have you ever caught yourself asking something like:
- How can I capture better holiday memories?
- Why can I not get a good picture of the children?
- How can I start taking better pictures?
- How do I get a better understanding of the way my compact camera works when no-one seems to want to explain it in a simple, straight forward way?
- How do I get a solid foundation of photographic knowledge, one that is explained in simple layman’s terms that can be understood by young and mature alike?
- How can I get more creative with the pictures I take?
Basic principles aren’t difficult to understand IF they are explained simply and in a way that uses everyday language. But when you flick through many of the camera manuals, they can seem to be written in a foreign language.
Well now I have a solution for you. Over the coming weeks, I have a great series of articles and features for you, in which we take a look at some of the basic common controls found on most cameras, whether compact or DSLR.
In these articles, you will start to get an understanding of what each of the controls does, how they work, any disadvantages or draw backs to them and how to start getting better results from each control.
Using this understanding, you will be able to use each control to improve the
quality of the pictures you take, and get yourself ready to move on to more complex techniques and camera controls.
What’s even more exciting is that everything will be explained in a straight forward, easy to understand way. If any photographic term or jargon is used, I’ll be sure there is a clear, concise and understandable explanation of what it is.
Why don’t we start to build the foundations of your knowledge by going back to basics.
PHOTOGRAPHY 101 – To Begin At The Beginning
You need 3 fundamental things to take any ordinary photograph:-
- A subject
- A camera (recording device)
The subject – the subject of your picture – can be anything you choose; a landscape, a person, a building….. in fact anything that you see and want to capture an image of.
Light is something we take for granted. It’s all around us and is the reason we can see what is there. It lights up objects and can be produced by natural means – such as the sun or lightning, or by artificial mean – artificial lighting is something man made like street lights, fluorescent lights and light bulbs.
The camera is the tool you use to record your photograph with. Whilst many people buy a new compact camera every couple of years, and technology becomes better, the basic principles of photography are constant. The functions and tasks the cameras can perform may change, but light is light, a subject is a subject and the ultimate end result hoped for is a reasonable photograph.
The first step on the road to taking something even resembling a good picture is to know the camera you’re about to use – its strengths, its weaknesses and its limitations. How do you use any tool skillfully? Firstly, by getting to know fully how it works, and secondly by use – that means practicing with it to develop your skill.
There is always the option of turning to the manual. But when reading through a camera manual, it only outlines how to turn each function on and off. It doesn’t give you any understanding of the principle involved, or what is happening inside the camera. Because the terminology is unfamiliar to you, or because you don’t understand the concepts involved, the only option is to give up in frustration.
By going through some of the controls common to most cameras, especially compact cameras, (or ‘Point and Shoot’ cameras as they are sometimes known because that is how you use it when on automatic settings), and by explaining, in layman’s terms, their function and how and why they work, you will get a good, solid photographic knowledge of how to use them properly.
Armed with these fundamental principles, you will be able to not only understand why a picture may not turn out the way you had planned but also to begin to work around your camera’s specifications to produce consistently better photos.
Who knows, you may even be the next Annie Leibovitz or David Bailey!