CHALLENGES IN PHOTOGRAPHY

dewThese challenges in photography are your worst enemies in photography basics, such as sand, sticky fingers,ambient light and battery charge. The first two you can control, the others are not so easy.

Dirt, Salt Spray, and Mud

Dirt, sand and mud are among a photographer’s continual challenges that you need to be aware of. Greasy and sticky fingers also apply. You may be romping through the country side or be at a BBQ but cleanliness is essential in photography. Carry a handy-wipe with you for cleaning.

  • at a beach, dropping the camera into the sand OR wind driven sand can get into your lens mechanism and stop your lens from moving. It’s unlikely that warranty will cover that occurrence.

TIP – unless it’s obvious that the camera has been dropped, the only way you’ll be aware of a sand issue is hearing the crunchy sound of the lens operation. DON’T FORCE the mechanism! Brush off your camera with a lens brush or a make-up brush. There is sure guarantee!

  • salt water spray in the air, at ocean side, is equally damaging to the entire camera.

TIP – it will be obvious from the sticky salt coating on the camera body that salt is a problem. DON”T DRY WIPE the lens system; use a clean moistened handkerchief, not paper tissue, to clean the lens front and gently wipe the entire camera body.

For each of these conditions including mud, get yourself a waterproof camera such as the OLYMPUS TG610. It’s shockproof, waterproof and can simply be washed under running water, towel dried & you’re good to go. I’ve done it & it works!

  • sticky fingers from chocolate, ice cream, or BBQ ribs don’t help your camera. Avoid these if you want to enjoy photography.

TIP – it will be obvious to you. Again, with a clean moistened cloth wipe the entire camera body GENTLY! And let it dry.

Some views of the beautiful Canary Islands.

Ambient or Outside Light

Basically, sunlight is the issue causing overexposed shots.

  • when shooting in AUTOMATIC mode, avoid directing your lens view into the sun.
  • when shooting a contrasting scene, i.e. dark foreground with bright sunlight in the background decide which of the two you want. Unless you have a reasonable DSLR camera and photo editing software, you won’t be able to compensate for the lighting differences.
  • there is a correction you can try, switching your Function from AUTO to PROGRAM (P) mode and decreasing your aperture lens opening. In addition, use the highest available ISO setting of 1600 or 3200, take a shot & see if that helped.

TIP – Since your point-and-shoot camera won’t have a lens hood as with DSLR cameras, shield the camera lens with your hand or hold a hat over it. That’s only good for sunlight. Contrasting scenes still require some manual compensation on your part.

If that didn’t do it, adjust your camera function and take the dark scene, and then the brighter scene. With Photoshop you can then blend the two scenes & create a good shot. That takes practice!

Both of the above shots are from Watkins Glen, NY. Notice the high contrast in the scenes. The left, waterfall, could have been retaken from a different angle to avoid the strong daylight. It wasn’t obvious at the time in the view finder that the light intensity was so severe. That’s what these photography TIPS make you aware of.

The scene on the right, I adjusted the aperture in PROGRAM mode & was able to compensate for shooting up from dark bottom of canyon into bright sunlight.

BEGINNER’S PHOTOGRAPHY

Beginner’s photography is for everyone, and every beginner is an amateur. You may have thought of a career in photography but haven’t made a decision or you’re a traveler and just want to track your adventures with pictures.

I introduce enough material that you can have some idea of what lies ahead of you in terms of equipment cost, time investment, and maintaining your level of achievement. Before you decide whether photography is a short-term, occasional interest or long-term venture, take a first step.

For what age group? Well, my youngest grand-daughter started beginners photography at age 10 and took it up like a duck takes to water. And up to ‘how old’? When you shake too much and can’t hold the camera steady or indulge in too much coffee, it’s time to park the camera. Get busy gaining expertise with photography ‘post production’ techniques which I’ll cover later.

beginners-guide

At one time the Polaroid instant camera was king. Guess what, film has disappeared, and the digital era rules. However, horses still thrive, Tack Shops flourish, cowboy shirts and boots cost a fortune, and custom classics are costly hobbies. Aren’t you glad you’re learning about cameras? That’s why you’re on my site!

ENTRY LEVEL CAMERA CONSIDERATION:

  • Consider models between $75 to $200 for beginners photography. Anything cheaper will encourage you to take up another hobby. Like everything else, you get what you pay for. These suggestions cover current ‘point-and-shoot’ cameras of most major brands available at Best Buy, Staples, and WalMart. I only mention these from experience. Watch for sales and special promotions. Of my three shown here, only the red waterproof camera does panorama shots.
  • The above cameras are some of my point-and-shoot cameras suitable for beginners photography. Each one has different features. The Sony on the left is the more basic while the red Olympus on the right is a more advanced camera especially for under water photography. Each is a joy to use! The middle, Canon SD1400 is a REAL shirt-pocket camera & what a photography power house – a lot of ‘wow’ in a small package.
  • In the upper price range ($200+), the following camera types may also be worth considering in addition to the ‘point-and-shoot’ types such as Waterproof, Ultra Zoom, or Advanced Compact. Prices are dropping all the time.

Digital cameras use AA-Alkaline, AA-rechargeable or rechargeable battery packs. Only my older Canon A610 uses AA batteries; however, current Ultra-zoom cameras with up to 40x optical zoom also use them for moving that long lens in-and-out. By the time you insert 4-AA batteries, the camera weight comes close to that of a current DSLR.

  • Megapixel resolution. The higher the megapixel value, the finer the ‘dot or pixel’ in your snapshot, and the sharper the picture. Anything over 7 Megapixels is fine, typically 12 to 14 megapixels is tops. You may be able to get a good deal on a top quality brand camera of 10 Megapixels like a Canon or Nikon as opposed to the cost for a higher resolution camera in a lower quality brand.
  • Steady-shot feature or anti-shake is a must for beginners photography, especially if the camera is for a child or you’re traveling. In this area not all cameras are satisfactory – it’s something you’ll have try out.
  • Latency or ‘camera refresh’ is critical. Some cameras take several seconds before they can take the next shot. By that time, the ‘window of opportunity’ may have passed.
  • Storage medium, typically SD cards, are used by most popular camera brands. To start, I recommend 1 to 2 Gigabyte (GB) cards until you find out whether you’re taking just pictures or getting into video shots because they’re quickly uploaded into a laptop computer for storage and photo-editing. These cost around $2 each on sale.

If you’re planning a day-trip, use 2 to 4 GB cards. I have a range of different SD-cards at 4, 8, 16 GB for my point-and-shoot cameras, and a 32 GB card for my DLSR. My Canon A610 only takes 2 GB cards. To upload your SD-card files into your computer can take a LONG time, especially if it’s a PC.

TIP – check your camera model for the proper size SD card capacity that you can use. They’re not all the same.

ACCESSORIES:

A camera case is a MUST regardless of whether it’s a shoulder bag, belt-loop, or wrist-strap case. Make sure it has a soft cloth interior liner to keep scratching to a minimum.

Have a lens cleaning cloth available, from an Optometrist (better value and larger than from a camera store). DO NOT DRY-WIPE your camera lens! Use an eye-glass spray cleaner applied to your cloth, not directly on your camera lens.

A lens air-blower is necessary if you’re in a dusty environment – use it before you use the lens cloth. DO NOT DRY- WIPE your LCD viewing screen! Use eye-glass spray cleaner applied to your cloth.

A monopod, tripod or mini-tripod is essential for non-blurred shots. An inexpensive 4″ to 6″ mini-tripod is satisfactory and can fit into a shirt pocket. A better unit, extendable up to 54″ and luggable in a back pack, should have metal head parts – no plastic! Better yet, is one that’s liquid-filled (viscose) and weighs in at less than 1.5 lbs. for around $50. Plastic tripods tend to be too jerky – not a good investment even for beginners (my opinion).

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DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY BASICS

Digital photography basics and digital camera settings go hand in hand. You’re using a new piece of equipment and need to learn the ‘how-to’ basics of ‘getting ready’ to take a good shot.

basics

Camera Set Up

Follow the User’s Guide or Owner’s Manual instructions on your CD which many in beginners photography or first timers tend to ignore. Perhaps you don’t have a laptop or desktop computer to play the CD; most manufacturers do not include a paper copy manual any more.

To help you, I’ve provided some basic steps below, including some do’s and don’ts that will get you going in digital photography.

Beginners photography and digital photography basics are inseparable. Like most new hobbies, with basic good tools and solid techniques, you’ll enjoy your new direction. You’re using a new piece of equipment and need to acquire some essential skills for taking a good shot.

Digital camera settings involve getting a feel for the camera you’ll be using.

Familiarize yourself with the various controls of your camera by following the instructions of your User Manual or the short cuts given below.

  • Where is the camera ON-OFF switch.
  • Check the camera battery compartment.
  • There’s a right and wrong way to insert the battery or battery pack. Line the battery terminals up with the contacts inside the compartment cavity. Insert the battery gently DO NOT FORCE IT. Kids may need help with this. This is why Digital Photography Basics are so important!
  • Insert the SD storage card. Again there’s a right and wrong way for insertion. Check the beveled angle on the card, DO NOT FORCE IT. Kids may need help with this.
  • Unless you drop your camera, and keep it out of sand and water, it’s essentially indestructible. And don’t let it bake in direct sunlight.

Digital Camera MENU Settings

When you’ve taken a few camera shots, explore the various options of the MENU function to make ‘beginning photography’ more enjoyable .

A list of typical available settings is given below, again; names on your camera may be different, and more extensive :

  • RED EYE – to remove the typical red-eye colour of face shots
  • AF-assist – Auto Focus feature which sends out a red beam allowing the camera to focus
  • DIGITAL ZOOM – extends the optical zoom range electronically
  • REVIEW – allows you to look at your shot for a preset time value that you select
  • MUTE – silences the volume camera feature when in movie mode
  • VOLUME – adjusts the audio level on movie playback
  • GRID LINES – (as shown on right) produces a 3×3 grid layout in your viewfinder to help you to compose your shot
  • POWER SAVINGS – a battery saving feature that shuts off camera power after an given idle period
  • DATE/TIME – essential to track the date and time of your shots
  • FILE NUMBERS – these are identification numbers the camera assigns to each snapshot taken, like giving each of your children a name
  • THEME – optional if you like a jazzy screen when your camera powers up
  • OPERATION SOUND – some users like a CHIRP sound when the shutter is pressed
  • SELF TIMER SOUND – handy to hear when the self timer is active
  • SHUTTER SOUND – some users like an SLR camera sound when they trip the shutter
  • AUTO ROTATE – adjusts a vertical picture position to horizontal to reduce having to tilt your head when looking at the pictures
  • DISTANCE UNITS – select Metric or English units, ok, mm or feet
  • LANGUAGE – use English as default unless you like a different language. CAUTION: if you have to reset your camera and it’s in non-English, it can be a problem!
  • VIDEO SYSTEM – all North American video modes are in NTSC while Europeans use PAL. CAUTION: when playing back videos on your computer in Canada or USA and you have PAL videos, your computer will default to PAL and may prevent you playing NTSC in future – check this out for your computer before you do it. There is free file conversion software available, which if it’s installed will safeguard your computer from this possible problem.

Your camera may have more or fewer options from those listed here. Again, you can’t destroy your camera by trying various menu options – if you can’t backtrack, do a RESET! If you’re an adult, give the camera to a kid, they’ll figure it out.

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DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES

Wherever you are, digital photography techniques will help you to see what’s worthwhile to shoot – looking through your camera lens of course!

Light can be a help or maybe not. A real challenge for sure. In AUTO mode it’s hard to gauge exposure. The only way is to try it out and see what it looks like. In each of the two shots above, I had to do some editing to make it look good

Beginners in photography have not only their new camera to master but also what they want to capture thru the camera lens.

cameragirl

Keep in mind, what the human eye sees is NOT what the camera allows you to see.

However, several viewing options are available, such as:

  • Normal (Standard View), as in the above shots
  • perhaps Distance (Telephoto) as on the right. This rock formation (Green Bridge of Wales, UK) jutting out from the mainland into the Irish Sea is most spectacular – our visit in 2011. Shot from ridge to rock formation, a distance of several hundred feet. Coastline shrouded in salt-sea mist. I didn’t crop the horizon across the top just to show distance.
  • maybe Underwater
  • what about Aerial views?
  • for Close Up and Macro photography

TIP – MACRO mode, I recommend using a tripod just to keep the camera still.

Focus changes within fractions of an inch or millimeters.

I recommend taking several shots of the same scene just to get the best focus.

What seems good in the camera view finder, does not mean it’s ok when viewed on a HD-TV or computer monitor.

Here’s a patch of yellow daisies growing in our garden. I used MACRO for this.

  • or fast ACTION shots? Be on the lookout for Unique snapshots!
    Fast action is a personal opinion. On the right, it was overcast and had just finished raining; not a good lighting situation.

That’s me, Andy, and you’re on my site – fast action? My wife thought so. After this ball return attempt, I ran into the light standard on the court in Veradero, Cuba. – no, no picture of that.

Maybe there’s a lesson here: one is NEVER too old to learn new things.

A hint from my wife – get out of those grandpa clothes! And look what she got; a still-shot of a ‘blur on the court’ caught by her on camera.

Whether a trip out to the backyard, to the harbour, on vacation, or in a plane, capture the moment with a camera, any camera. Perhaps you have a DIGITAL point-and-shoot or a DSLR with interchangeable lenses.

You’ll enjoy more than just traditional photography methods. Picasso wasn’t a traditionalist; he was unusual and that’s where you’ll stand out – you’ll see what no one else sees.

Digital photography techniques apply to everyone. The neat thing about taking your shots:

  • delete whatever doesn’t suit you
  • avoid missing an opportunity (carry spare batteries)
  • go where no one else has gone before, stand underneath a leaf or in a puddle – OK, that’s not original, but kids love it. Those pretty blue boots on the right? My granddaughter, Alana, whose taken over this website. That’s her sloshing through the puddle.

Aside from the camera of your choice, make sure you have sufficient Gigabyte storage capacity on your digital camera medium such as SD cards, etc. I’ll come back to this in another session.

For the moment, the higher your camera pixel rating the larger your file size becomes, and the fewer the number of shots you’re able to store.

Digital photography is fun! If as a kid, drawing a stick-figure was an accomplishment, wait ’till your first picture – you will get better and that’s where these digital photography techniques will help.

Even though your camera has an Automatic feature, you still have to practice. Your car may be an automatic, but you still have to operate all the controls – it won’t drive itself. Notice the difference in colours found in outdoor lighting on this page; post editing can’t eliminate all the shortcomings but it can make a beauty out of a beast.

TIP – The only way to really fix the lighting problem in the yellow custom car above is with Photo-editing software on a fast computer. iPhoto (Mac), GIMP or Picasa are free photo editors on the internet. I’ll show it later touched up with photo editing – you’ll be amazed! I left this photo untouched to show the effect of insufficient lighting and shooting into the sun.

There is no short cut! You start at OK, become good, then get better, and keep improving.

Your first car was likely not a classic, but taking a very good digital photograph of one is within your reach.

TIP – Photography is affordable! Photo editing, printing, and framing will be covered later. Keep your dreams alive with pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words. Beyond the basic point-and-shoot camera you’ll NOT require any accessories. BUT what fisherman has only one hook, line, and sinke? Most end up with a tackle box!

My first camera was an SLR, with all the lenses, case, tripod, and used film. I quickly found out that not every shot was good, all because I lacked photography experience and developing was too expensive!. Disillusioned, I stored my stuff. Thirty-five years later, digital cameras became affordable. Through trial and error, I developed these photography tips and have become a solid camera fan.

I’m glad you’re on my digital photography techniques site and trust you’ll come to enjoy digital photography with all these various TIPS too. Check out the rest of my pages under the Opa’s Tips tab on the left.

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BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

digital-photographyKid’s Point of View

A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Photography is best looked at from a kid’s point of view. If a young child can operate a camera without a mountain-climbing learning curve, then it’s a good start. The object of beginners photography is for enjoyment. The harder the learning concepts, the less enjoyable the hobby.

TIP – A beginner’s camera should have a large viewing screen. Like a kid’s picture book, bigger is better. Something over 2 1/2” is great. The Beginners Guide to Digital Photography lists basic camera requirements when considering your first camera purchase, things to look for.

Keeping it Simple

Think of basic photography tips as a guide to selecting a point-and-shoot camera to a single-shot Derringer in your pocket ready at a moments opportunity. By contrast, beginners photography at entry level with a DSLR camera and all the necessary equipment is like hauling around a cannon on a gun-carriage, not very inspiring.

Digital camera settings for a DSLR camera are too complicated unless you’ve mastered some basic photography tips; not impossible, just time consuming. Like everything else, once you know how, it’s easy.

Easy to Use

Below, I show two lower level megapixel resolution pocket cameras that have a manual dial camera settings selector. Because the dial-selectors are so good, they’re found on higher end Ultra Zoom and DSLR cameras. By contrast, today’s point-and-shoot cameras have virtually all screen-menu-selection (cost saving).

TIP – my granddaughters use manual function dial setting cameras of 7.2 MP and 8.1 MP – easy to use and learn. Look around your photography stores – I’ve found eBay to be too expensive for that camera vintage.

If kids can enjoy a basic photography shoot, then you’ve achieved something great for yourself as well.

Let’s consider some basic digital camera’s features based on

  • Where will most of the shots likely be taken.
  • Ease-of-operation principle (easy is more enjoyable).
  • Reviews for the digital camera purchase.
  • Panoramic shots capability (more about that later). In my collection of digital ‘point-and-shoot’ cameras only 3 do excellent Panoramic shots, Canon A610 (5 MP), Kodak M763 (7.2 MP) and my new Olympus TG610 (14 MP) Underwater camera which I absolutely love -it’s just a super function-filled workhorse.
  • Manual function selector switch as opposed to digital screen-menu selection (hard to see in bright sunlight).
  • A 3x optical zoom minimum with additional digital zoom. Avoid using ‘all-digital’ zoom cameras.
  • Can the flash can be disabled or will it always operate? If flash is always ON, the battery charge will not last long.
  • Quick successive shot capability without waiting for the camera to ‘get ready’ for the next shot (called latency). You’ll have to try this feature out – there’s no telling before you buy whether it’ll be an issue.

And last of all, can the camera be returned for a refund if it’s not satisfactory. I have to give WalMart, Staples, and BestBuy top marks for that.

Batteries

Do consider a digital camera with AA-Alkaline batteries. It makes the digital camera a bit heavier but access to fresh batteries is usually good, especially if you carry some spares; usually good for 12 months or more.

TIP – I’ve also used rechargeable AA, 2000mAh batteries simply because I can recharge them in my car and didn’t want to pay premium prices for Alkaline types; look for sales at WalMart and BestBuy. We also use AA-rechargeables in our Wii remotes.

My Kodak M763, battery pack is still outstanding after many years of use. Compared to my other more recent digital battery packs, it’s like an Energizer Bunny that just goes-and-goes-and… You won’t know how good your rechargeable battery is until you try it out.

In this Beginners Guide to Digital Photography, my little Kodak is now serving in my workshop to take pictures under the car or riding mower before I take things apart, visits to the lumber yard, and in other not-so-nice-to-camera locations.

It’s like having a digital photographic scratch pad.

Let’s look at some considerations

  • My older digital ‘pocket’ cameras, Canon A610, and Sony W150 have an optical viewfinder, really good on sunny days. I can always focus my shot, well, almost!
  • The downside of most digital ‘point-and-shoot’ cameras is their inability to let you see what’s in the LCD viewer on bright sunny days. Unless they have a screen brightness-adjustment. I always try to wear a baseball cap with a really big brim.
  • Most digital cameras have a SCENE function selector which allows you to select camera settings for Fireworks, Animals, Kids, Faces, Museum, Text, etc.
  • If you plan to take ‘close-up’ or Macro shots, look for that feature. Only my Canon SD1400 takes Autofocus shots in Macro-mode. All the others have a manual setting in which you have to judge from the viewer what’s in focus – not always successful, even with my Olympus TG610. More on that later.
  • Not all ‘point-and’shoot’ cameras have ‘steady-shot’ or ‘anti-shake’ operation which can be a problem for ‘heavy-finger’ button pushers, and deep breathers. Don’t let that stop you. Hold your breath or use a tripod.
    I’ve bought most of my camera cases at WalMart because they’ve had the best prices, typically under $12, and good quality too.
  • All cameras come with a CD which contains an owner’s manual and computer picture editing software. Still, the best way to learn to operate your camera is use it and if you really mess things up, press RESET.

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