Do you want to get creative with your digital camera and move beyond just point-and-shoot? Or maybe you want to be able to take artsy shots with your camera phone like your friends posted on Facebook. Whether you’re shopping for a new camera or just wanting to improve your skills with the one you’ve got, we’ve got the tips and hints you need to make your pictures shine.
- Pick Your Camera
These days, it’s hard to find a mobile phone that doesn’t have a camera attached. If you’re going to be a phone photographer, look for features such as manual controls to allow you to adjust exposure, image stabilization, and integrated flash.
A compact digital camera ups your game with its ability to zoom, larger sensors and greater storage capacity. If you’re shopping for a compact camera, pay attention to sensor size more than megapixels. Camera sensors take in the light, so the bigger the sensor, the crisper the shot. Megapixels contain the details of the picture, but if you don’t have enough light, all those details are lost.
For maximum versatility and control, a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera is the best choice. You can change lenses, shoot in every type of light, and you’ll generally have the largest sensor and most megapixels.
- Shine More Light
Your camera needs more light to “see” than your eyes do, but the light from your camera’s flash is harsh and can wash out your subject. Natural light produces the best shots, so if you’re shooting indoors, get near windows for maximum daylight. You can also improve indoor shots with a lamp into the right position. Be sure to check your camera’s view finder for odd shadows and adjust the lamp again if needed. Setting up a still life? Use white foam core board out of the frame of your picture to reflect light back on to your subject. Or, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can find plans online to make your own inexpensive light box.
- Get Closer
Photographer Robert Capa famously noted that “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.” While you can rely on your zoom, it’s even better to move yourself and your camera. If you’re shooting kids, get right into those popsicle-smeared faces. For nature photography, capturing a blossom or the shape of a leaf is more evocative than a photo of the whole plant. While it’s tempting to try to get the group shot from head to toe, it’s the faces that everyone wants to remember later, so it’s better to move closer to the crowd to focus on the faces.
- Shoot Like a Sharpshooter
This is the meditative part of this post: one of the best things you can do for clearer pictures is to breathe! While camera shutters are fast, they still take a millisecond or two to operate, during which time you need to hold the camera still. Photographer Dan Shepherd recommends holding still, breathing in, releasing the shutter, breathing out, and only then moving the camera out of the way. Your images will be sharper and crisper. A tripod is a worthy investment for still and portrait photography—keeping your camera perfectly still lets you play with exposure times and different light combinations. Some cameras work with wireless remotes so you don’t even have to touch the camera to take pictures.
- Set Up Backgrounds
No more prom photos with a lit-up exit sign in the corner of the shot—take a cue from the red carpet and set up a background for your people or objects. Throwing a party? Create a photo zone by hanging or taping a blanket or an interesting (but not busy) piece of fabric against a wall and arranging a lamp in a spot that will throw light on your guests but not create stark shadows. You can do the same for still shots—set up a couple of wooden cutting boards as a stage (one as a base, one as a “wall”) and take your photo close in so you only get the background.
- Don’t Forget to Print
What do professionals do that amateurs seem to skip? They print their photos. Why take all those great pictures, only to leave them on SD cards, hard drives, and the internet? And it’s not just glossy prints—your digital images can be printed on mugs, calendars, bags, even phone cases. Show off your new photography skills with a poster or a printed canvas.
Hot Summer Photography Deals
Looking for a great way to show off your photos? How about a free custom photo placemat? Want to see your photos on a mug or tote bag? Check out services such as as Shutterfly, Snapfish and CVS Photo.