The thing about digital cameras is that they are so easy to use. Everything from the most basic point and shoot to the most advanced D-SLRs have an “auto” function where the camera does everything except actually pushing the shutter button. But this is not always the best way to get great photos. In the end it’s not what the camera sees but what the photographer tells it to see that counts. So here are a few tips on getting great photos with your digital camera.
• Do many of your pictures come out with colors that are “cooler” that what they should be? For example, is the warm orange in a pile of autumn leaves somehow lost? The auto white balance is at fault. It’s fine for most photos, but it can often lose the overall warmth. When shooting in sunny outdoor conditions one way of overcoming this is changing the settings from “auto” to “cloudy” if your camera only has limited white balance control. It may seem odd, but it has an effect on the colors like putting a filter on the lens. It increases the richness of oranges, reds and yellows, making the photo seem warmer.
• If you do a lot of landscape photography you need a polarizing filter. This will reduce glare and unwanted reflections in you photos and result in not just crisper colors but in much deeper saturation, especially of the blue sky. This in turn will enhance the textures of the image. Since the polarizing effect of the filter is most effective when the light hits the subject head on (a 90 degree angle), the best results are obtained when the sun is over your shoulder.
• Experiment with using the flash outdoors, even in the sun. When the flash mode is set, the camera calculates the background exposure and then adds enough flash to fill in the foreground and compensates for any difference in light. To get more natural flesh tones for portraits, try placing the subject in the shade and using the flash on the subject. Not only will the tones improve and be in better balance with the background, but the subject will not have to squint into the sun.
• The Digital camera’s “macro” mode is often underutilized or improperly used. With this mode you can take great extreme close ups. All you have to do is set the mode and get as close to your subject as you can – obviously there are limits on how close you can get to a butterfly before you frighten it away. But once you do get close, don’t rush the shot. Be sure that the confirmation lights are on before you shoot- people are often scared their live subject will run away and shoot in haste, thereby ruining what could have been a great photo. Remember too that in this mode you have a very limited depth of field, so focus on that part of the subject that is of interest and don’t worry about the rest of the composition. It will often be soft, but that usually serves to highlight the subject of the macro picture.
• While the LCD monitors in digital camera are useful for capturing group shots and candid photos, keeping a level horizon with them is often a problem. It usually much better to use the viewfinder when doing landscape photography. And if your camera has the viewfinder grid, turn it on. It should help you keep your horizons what they are – horizontal.