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Digital Photography - Learn the Basics for Better Pictures

How many times have you seen someone else's photographs and wondered why they are so much better than yours are, even though you may even have a better camera? The simple fact is that it's not usually the camera, but how it's used that makes a great photo. By learning about your camera and practicing basic photography techniques, you can dramatically improve your digital photography in a short amount of time. The following pointers will help you see noticeable improvement in your photos.

Understand how your camera operates.

Although almost all cameras come with a "Point and Shoot" or "Auto" mode, when you depend on this to make your settings, you are seriously restricting your ability to take excellent pictures. Almost all cameras have many modes, and by taking a moment to evaluate the conditions of the shot and selecting the proper mode, you will easily create better photographys. Modes most often found are: "Portrait" use this when taking people shots if you wish to keep the subject in focus and the background (if it's distant) somewhat indistinct; "Action" when shooting quickly moving subjects, or if you are in a low-light situation and don't want to use the flash, use this setting to have the camera pick a fast shutter speed, which will stop the motion; "Scenery" ideal for panorama or far-off subjects; "Nighttime" use this for low-light situations if you have a tripod, since it uses a slow shutter speed to capture the greatest possible light; "Macro" excellent for extreme close-ups, great for photographing nature, such as insects or flowers. When you choose the proper mode, the camera works with you to depict your subject in the most excellent way possible. It may be that you have manual settings available on your camera, but these are for advanced photographers, and beyond the scope of this article.

Compose your picture with care.

Generally, when shooting a picture, people look only at the object in the middle and then are astonished when they look at the picture and see a flagpole emerging from their mother's hat! You can dramatically increase the quality of your photos simply by imagining what the camera sees - the entire shot. Are there some ugly wires across the sky, any annoying objects in the background, and if so, try to alter the shot to eliminate these things. When taking shots of people, consider having them fill most of the shot. Faces are interesting, usually more so than whole bodies, for the most part. Chose what the point of the picture is, and then take the shot with that as your goal. Taking care in the preliminary phase will be more than amply rewarded.

Be aware of your camera angle.

In some movies, youll often find that when an evil character is filmed, it is often from a lower angle looking up, which distorts the bad guy and makes him look frightening. When taking still photographs, it is a fact that an angled camera will produce a distortion, creating a point of view, often not one you had in mind. Take care that you are even with your subject unless you wish to form a precise effect. This is an especially powerful way to improve photographs of children and pets. When you become level with them, you correct the usual distortion that happens when taking the shot from above. For these subjects, lying on the floor usually helps to take better photos.

Rely on natural lighting whenever you possibly can.

Use of flash, in particular the standard on-camera flash, lends itself to issues for your photos, in such ways as unforgiving shadows, color washout, red-eye, and over- and under-exposure. Sometimes you absolutely have to use a flash, like at an indoor party where everyone is moving about, but you will almost always get the best results by using natural light, including indoor lighting. You can take striking indoor portraits by setting up lamps around your subject, being sure to illuminate one side of your subject more brightly than the other, creating soft, attractive shadows. Try different lighting - you'll be amazed at the attractiveness of shots taken this way.

Hold your camera steady.

Not much needs to be said on this point. If you move the camera while shooting, the resulting photo will be blurry. Squeeze the shutter button rather than push it. In dim lighting, be sure to use a tripod or some other form of support.

Take lots of pictures.

Now that we have the digital camera, being miserly with your picture-taking doesnt make any sense. There's no film, no processing, and you don't have to print anything you don't like, so go ahead and take loads of shots. Professional photographers take many shots of each scene, since they know that each one is at least a tiny bit different, and taking more improves the chance of a great shot. Experiment with lighting, angles and composition. If youre taking moving subjects, you should use the "Burst" setting if your camera has one, to take many pictures in quick succession. When the session is over, you'll find you have many more "keepers".

Take batteries and a spare memory card with you.

There's nothing more frustrating than getting ready to take the critical shot of the day, and finding that your battery has just given out. Think like the pros and be prepared. Have a spare charged battery, or a pack if your camera uses alkaline batteries, and take a spare empty memory card. Someday you'll be glad you did.

The distinction between a snapshot taker and a photographer lies not so much in the camera, but in how the camera is employed. Apply the fundamentals described here, and you will be using the techniques of professional photographers - knowing how your camera operates and choosing settings for the suitable circumstances, carefully composing the shot, taking notice of your camera angle, using flash sparingly and with care, properly supporting the camera, taking an abundance of pictures, and being properly equipped.

So, spend a little time getting to know your camera, and go out and take pictures. Soon you will be shooting photographs that you can proudly keep for a lifetime.

About the Author: At you can find lots of ways to perk up your photography, even if you're just {beginning|starting to "go digital".

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