eating my way around the world

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” --St. Augustine

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Location: Chicago, IL, United States

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17 September 2009

Digital Photography & Camera Tips

Digital Camera Selection

This guide is generally intended for those looking to buy a point & shoot or automatic camera and who are unsure which features are important. Some may be swayed into buying an entry-level SLR, and as such, I've included some tidbits on SLR's as well.

Can your point & shoot digital camera do this? Nikon Coolpix Examples

How to get shots like this? These shots were taken by a friend of mine with her new Nikon Coolpix - I don't list the model anymore since a new one comes out seemingly every 5 seconds, and you'd spin your wheels looking for this one. She'd just gotten it out of the box a couple of days before. Far from being a serious photographer, she's always said she's "not a picture taker" and knows nothing about photography. The right camera can make all the difference, but to get the most out of any camera, you must know all the features inside and out.

Note: To get shots like this, you must have a camera with the Vibration Reduction (VR) or Image Stabilization (IS) feature and an ISO capability of up to at least 1600. The higher the better - 3200, 6400, yay. That's not all you need to know, however. Do your homework. Some cameras' noise/grain levels at high ISO's are much lower than others. An old camera without VR/IS and a max ISO of 400 has no chance in hell of making these shots.

Additional settings: Flash turned OFF. ISO set to Auto (only because this camera is pretty low on noise, otherwise set it to 200 and use a tripod). White Balance set to CLOUDY. Timer turned ON (to eliminate shake from pressing the shutter button). Not every shot will come out perfectly sharp, so do like the pros do: shoot several and pick the best one later. Did you know? It takes about 300 shots to get one magazine cover.

Which camera to buy? Picture-taking styles are as varied as individuals, so I can't tell you which is the best camera for you. Cameras are not one-size-fits-all. Decide what's important to you (e.g., camera size, weight, thickness, overall image quality, large zoom vs. no zoom), how you will display your images (e.g., web, large prints, standard snapshot size), and what type of photographer you are (e.g., prolific, all subjects, children, social settings, infrequent vacations, sports). Then go read some reviews. I did weeks of research before I made most of my purchases, so don't get frustrated if you can't decide between camera models in a day.

I love shooting cityscapes or buildings at night, so light sensitivity and speed important to me. I need to shoot with an ultra-wide-angle lens and manually set my aperture, exposure and white balance for every single shot, so I have to use an SLR and wouldn't be able to get my shots with an automatic point & shoot camera. You may love doing portraits, so these may not matter. You might like shooting sports in daylight, so speed may be most important. Buy the wrong camera, and what's great for someone else may suck for your purposes. That's one reason you often see mixed reviews on the same model.

I like For some more serious (SLR, lens) equipment, Ken Rockwell is my guide. Once you read this blog, you'll know everything I look for to choose one, so your research will be just as good as mine. The advice given here is general to the common complaints I most hear out of people about their cameras. While a pro can get an excellent shot out of the cheapest camera, the rest of us need some help - a better camera can help a total novice take better shots - if and only if he/she knows the settings and how to best use them. So - (1) get the best camera you can, and (2) read up on how to use it.

Whatever your brand preference (I stick with what the pros use - and that's Nikon, Sony or Canon), you get what you pay for. Many point & shoot digital cameras are terrible at taking pictures in low light or of fast-moving objects. Blur city. Whatever you do, get a camera with Vibration Reduction (VR, Nikon) or Image Stabilization (IS, Sony or Canon). Let me repeat - Whatever you do, get a camera with Vibration Reduction (VR, Nikon) or Image Stabilization (IS, Sony or Canon). Nikon and the other manufacturers are always releasing new models, so check their websites for latest models: Nikon, Canon, Sony.

Found some cameras you like but are unsure how they stack up? I compare them at, and I am comparing a few key factors as a minimum:

  • For point & shoots, does the camera have VR/IS? (Note: This feature is typically not included on SLR bodies, and generally only on some lenses.)

  • What's the max ISO? ISO is a measure of light sensitivity. (It should be at least 1600, preferably 3200, some SLRs will get you a staggering 6400!) Read up on the models to make sure that the noise levels are acceptable at these higher ISO's. Unless I'm shooting handheld and speed is critical, I usually set my ISO low (200 usually suffices) and steady the camera with a tripod or other surface. Lower ISO = less noise. Higher ISO = higher speed but more noise.

  • Rechargeable battery and charger included? (A non-negotiable, or whatever you saved on the price of the camera, you'll waste on buying batteries)

  • Optical zoom (if you care about this, the higher the better)

  • Max burst / continuous shooting rate? (The faster, the better. This is how many shots your cam can take in quick succession. Has to do with image processing and card-writing speed as well.)

  • LCD size? (2.5" at a minimum, preferably 3.0"), the bigger the better for previewing image quality

  • Wifi-capable? (not that prevalent on SLRs but increasingly more common on point & shoots)

  • More advanced features, such as manual modes, GPS tagging, face detection, exposure bracketing, etc. of course add value to the camera
  • Notice that megapixel count is one of the last things I'd look at. If the camera can't produce quality images, who cares how large the image is? Images from a 6-megapixel camera with better-quality optics, image-processing software and a larger sensor could far surpass those from an inferior 10-MP camera.

Any point & shoot I would personally consider buying would have to have these as a minimum:

  • Reputable brand (in order of preference): For SLR's, I like Nikon, Sony and Canon. Personally, I shoot solely with Nikons now. These are the fastest on the market, have the best sensors & optics, and generally the strongest set of capabilities and largest array of lenses and accessories. Olympus and some speciality brands (such as Leica) are also terrific. The Panasonic Lumix line with the Leica optics is a fine choice. HP, Kodak and Casio are usually the slowest and may lose detail at the edges of an image. Fine for everyday shooting, but there is a noticeable quality difference between say, Nikon's best and Casio's best. I would not consider a very low-end cam from any brand (e.g., those without features like VR/IS).

  • Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilization. A necessity for a point & shoot. (Not necessary on an SLR body, as you'll likely be using tripods, fast lenses or lenses with VR/IS built in.) From the three brands above, you can be assured the VR/IS is a true optical image stabilization system, and not some after-the-fact digital image edit, such as those faked with other brands such as Casio.

  • Optical zoom (at least 3x for me). No need for digital zoom, and I wouldn't use it if it had it.

  • Rechargeable battery / charger. Not AA sized, either. A real camera battery and a real charger. Don't be fooled by "cheaper" cameras that will make you end up forking over $30+ for a set of rechargeable batts and a charger anyway.

  • An ISO (light sensitivity) rating up to 1600 at the least. This is where Nikon and Sony usually beat Canon. Note: While it's preferred to have an ISO capability of 1600, 3200 or even 6400 (this is indicative of an extremely light-sensitive sensor), your best results may come from setting the the ISO as low as possible. Compare camera models with resources such as Popular Photography magazine to determine which camera has the lowest noise level at the same high ISO. Just because two models are both capable of ISO 3200 does not mean they will both have the same level of noise. Don't be swayed by a camera that boasts something crazy like ISO 32,000 - this may be unacceotably noisy.

  • Large LCD. At least 3.0" for me. While it seems superfluous, sometimes you think you've got the shot from what you see on the LCD, and then later when you get home and import the image full-size to a computer, you notice it's a blurry mess. It helps to have a large preview screen.

Useless features:

  • Digital zoom. Will make a picture grainy. It's a software trick to "blow up" your image.
  • In-camera crop. Don't do it. This often makes the image less sharp than if you cropped on the computer.
  • High MP if the camera brand or features are not up to par. Who needs a really gigantic, crappy photo? Not me.
  • Be wary of gimmicky features that don't really add anything to the camera in the area of making quality images

What is VR or IS and why is it important?
This feature (vibration reduction or image stabilization) is going to virtually double the number of good shots you have in low light or of moving subjects (pets, kids, objects out the window of a moving vehicle). Fewer "crappy" shots you'll have to delete. Fewer memories missed because your camera just couldn't take the shot in time. Not only is VR/IS helpful in low-light settings, it will make the camera more responsive in all light (possibly around 3 shutter stops faster) since it doesn't have to "think" about sharpening/focusing on the subject as long as other models.

If you've ever tried to take pictures of moving toddlers or puppies and had them come out blurry, you need this feature. What is it? It's an electronic feature that predicts the movement or "shake" of your hands and counteracts it as the image as recorded. When you snap a pic in low lighting, the shutter has to stay open longer to allow in enough light to record the image. The longer the shutter is open, the more movement is recorded to the image. VR will help reduce the blur in low-light settings, and it will also help you take faster shots in bright-light settings, as the camera can focus more quickly. Note: I'm referring to a point & shoot camera with this feature. For SLR users, I'd just recommend custom-setting your aperture and selecting the fastest suitable lens in your collection.

Why do I prefer Nikon over Canon? A debate as old a time, similar to Ford vs. Chevy. If you're shopping for a point & shoot, the two brands are very comparable, but I personally think Nikon often has the edge in the main thing I care about - light sensitivity. Two of my favorite National Geographic photographers use Nikons, and if they're good enough for them, they're good enough for me. They're both fine choices.

Personal preference, but if you're going to go with an SLR, realize that your lenses are specific to your brand of camera body, and they're with you for life. In the SLR range, Canon has a fully capable line used by many pros worldwide, so there it's just a matter of preference and which features are critical to you. If you're looking at SLR's, I'd recommend Nikon or Canon, simply because there are many times more lenses and accessories out there on the market for these two brands than for others such as Sony, Olympus or Pentax.

Picking a brand. A novice may not recognize the difference in image quality and performance between a cheaper Casio and a top-flight Nikon, but many of your friends might. Optics are always better, and other details (such as start-up and consecutive-shot speed) may be greatly improved in a "professional" brand (e.g., Nikon, Sony, Canon) over an "amateur" brand such as Kodak or Casio. While these brands may produce functional images, the overall shutter, startup and consecutive-shot speeds usually lag far behind.

You get what you pay for. Some companies cut corners on lenses and internal features of the camera. Not to be elitist, but I refuse to answer questions such as, "What's the best digital camera I can get for $150?" ;) I'd rather get a top-of-the-line model from two years ago with fewer megapixels than the newest bottom-of-the-line model today. They're probably the same price.

What about Olympus, Pentax and other "pro" brands? I'm certainly not Steven Meisel, but now that I'm into SLR photography, I prefer to have the maximum number of choices on lenses and accessories. A quick perusal through any photography magazine or catalog will show you that far more accessories exist for Nikon and Canon than for any other brand. Choices.

Do not buy a digital camera because it's "cute". It's a piece of electronic equipment. You wouldn't buy a surround sound stereo system just because it's cute; you'd want the best performance you can afford. I'd rather have a boring black camera that takes amazing images than a pink one everyone ooh's and ahh's over that produces utter crap.

Again, someone that has used few digicams may not notice the differences in quality, but over time, to anyone that cares about making good images, these little cut corners will be maddening. "It works great, I love it" doesn't equal "this produces stunning images that I'll cherish for the rest of my life." Yes, I take my photography seriously. They're memories, and anything worth doing is doing to the best of your (monetary) ability.

Not all megapixels are created equal. Don't be romanced by the camera with the highest megapixels. Unless you plan on doing lots & lots of cropping, 6-7MP will suit most people who will either display the images online or maaaaybe print them at 5x7" (if not at the smaller default size of 4x6"). Megapixel quality is what matters - and that comes with good optics, a top-notch sensor, and low noise. Better to get a camera with great optics, fast speeds and high light sensitivity than to be seduced by whichever model has the highest MP. Who needs a lot of pixels if they're all crappy? See Ken Rockwell's excellent article on the topic here.

Digital zoom don't mean shite. You want optical zoom. That's a real lens inside the camera zooming in on an object. A digital zoom is software inside the camera trying to process pixels to make the image appear larger. I don't need this, and I don't want it. It almost always makes the image less sharp.

Why an SLR over a point & shoot? A six-MP SLR professional camera is going to produce images that blow images out of the water from a 10-MP point & shoot. Why? Optics. The sensor on an SLR may be 10-20x larger than that on the point & shoot. The lens (or lenses) will invariably be better. Lenses will also give you creative control over an image. Affordable DSLRs (e.g., the Nikon D40, D60) may not be that much more than a high-end point & shoot. Unless weight and space are critical to you, and you can afford it, go SLR. A good eye can tell the difference between pics from a point & shoot and pics from an SLR 9 times out of 10.

So you want an SLR now. What's important? I don't mind hauling around a heavy magnesium-alloy body for 12+ hours a day, but you might. The pro bodies are generally sturdier, weather-sealed, heavier and pricier. They generally have faster shooting times, more light sensitivity, are faster to focus and in general have more bells & whistles. You might not care. If you want to have more creative control over your photos than a point & shoot allows, there are several camera lines positioned between point & shoots and SLR's but I find that most people that buy these intermediate cameras become quickly frustrated and end up going with an SLR eventually.

Again, decide what type of shooter you are and look for equipment tailored to that. If you want something lightweight and don't need a whole stable of lenses, an entry-level SLR model such as the Nikon D60 might be for you. If you want a few more features and wouldn't mind a larger camera body, check out the D90, which can handle lenses that don't have their own internal autofocus motors (unlike the D60). Still an amateur but more serious about your photography? Don't need the automatic-mode training wheels that the D90 provides and want still more features? Check out the D300s. For amateurs that are willing to invest in full-frame (read: pricier) lenses, check out the D700. Pros likely wouldn't be reading this blog, but the next step up is a tank - the formidable, fully professional D3 line.

As for lenses, if you shoot mostly landscapes and architecture like me, a wide angle is important. That's where the millimeter # will come in. The lower the #, the wider the angle of view. The higher the #, the more of a telephoto it is. My favorite wide-angle lens is 11mm at it's widest. My telephoto lens goes out to 200mm. If you want to shoot a lot of portraits, you might look for something anywhere between 35mm and 105mm. The higher the #, the further away from you your subject will appear to be and need to be, so pick accordingly.

Don't neglect the f/#. These may ne confusing to newbies, but think of it this way - the smaller the # (example: f/1.4) the faster the lens. An f/1.4 lens is blazingly fast. You'll pay out the nose for fast glass. An f/3.5-5.6 is pretty typical of a longer lens. The numbers you see labeled on the lenses are generally the lowest settings (widest apertures) the lens is capable of. You can dial in a smaller aperture (usually up to f/22) on your camera's manual settings. My wide-angle lens is f/2.8, which is still pretty fast. Fast lenses allow you to operate in lower-light settings and snap quick captures of moving objects without blur. In addition, the smaller f/# translates into a wider aperture (f/1.8 is a huuuge aperture, leading to a larger quantity of light let in to the sensor, and consequently to a faster image capture).

This shallow "depth of field" will also allow you to focus on your subject and blur the background, since this depth of field can be thought of as a sliver of focus area. A nice feature for protraiture, but it has to be carefully controlled so that everything you want to be in focus will be in focus. A larger aperture, such as f/22, would render a slower image capture but a virtually infinite focus area - both your foreground and background could be in sharp focus. I'd rather have fast glass than a slower lens with VR/IS any day. Both have their place. VR/IS is good for long/telephoto lenses, where you may have to track a faraway moving object, such as a bird in flight.

Those are the two main things you need to know about lenses. Read some lens reviews online before you branch out from your kit lens. Realize that lenses come in various mounts, so you won't get a nasty shock when the Canon-mount lens you ordered doesn't work with your Nikon body. Third-party lensmakers also can produce some fine products, so don't overlook Tokina, Sigma and the like. Some lenses will be better than others, so again, find out what type of shooting you tend to do, then do your homework on the type of lenses that would be best for that type of photography.

Finally, which model to pick? Shooting styles are as varied as people. I can't tell you which model to pick, but the above tips should have given you some input on good choices to make. To some people, a compact camera is critical. Others don't care. To some, a huge zoom is critical. Some people will snap their babies and puppies inside the house. Others love to take close-up photos of flowers. Still others love taking pictures of buildings and vaation landscapes at night. Figure out what is important to you and the way you usually shoot pictures. Then do your homework and find the camera that matches this.

You wouldn't go buy a car without researching it first, and the camera may be with you just as long, so read up on models. Compare them, see what you need. While I'd love to help you pick a model, I may get several requests per day of "please help me pick between these models", but you've got everything here you need to help you pick the one that's right for you! If you do your homework, you should be fine.

Just remember - to get the best out of any camera, know its features well, know the owner's manual, and don't rely on automatic modes to get you the best shots - they often won't. Know all the modes, and try them out to see what gives you the best effects. While not all shots/effects are possible with all cameras, a photographer that has good technique can produce great images with an inexpensive camera.

Some of you have asked about my gear. Here's the list:

  • Nikon D300 Digital SLR
  • Nikon D70s Digital SLR
  • Nikon Coolpix s7c point & shoot
  • Canon SD20 Digital Elph backup point & shoot now in the custody of Dad
  • Various vintage WWII-era film cameras from eBay ;)

  • Nikon Capture NX Image Editing Software
  • Nikon PictureProject Image Editing Software
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2 Image Editing Software
  • Paint Shop Pro X2 Image Editing Software
  • Adobe Lightroom 2

  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro Super Wide Angle Lens (my fave)
  • Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom Nikkor Lens
  • Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Wide Angle Lens
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor Macro Lens
  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S Nikkor Macro Lens
  • Nikon SB-600 Speedlight
  • Nikon Wireless ML-L3 Remote Control
  • Bogen/Manfrotto Digi 725B Tripod - I use this for everything
  • Canon Lens Blower
  • Nikon Lens Pen
  • SanDisk 8Gb CompactFlash Extreme IV Memory Card, SanDisk 4Gb CompactFlash Ultra II Memory Card, 1Gb CompactFlash Ultra II Memory Card, 512-Mb SD Card, two 256-Mb SD Cards
  • 80 Gb Digital Card Reader / Storage Media
  • Hoya 52mm CPL filter
  • Hoya 67mm CPL filter
  • Quantaray 72mm CPL filter
  • Hoya 77mm CPL filter
  • Hoya 67mm NDx8 filter
  • Tiffen 72mm 812 warming filter
  • Tiffen 77mm 812 warming filter
  • Tiffen 72mm 0.6 graduated neutral density (GND) filter
  • Tiffen 77mm 0.6 graduated neutral density (GND) filter

  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6g ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Telephoto Lens
  • Leica anything
  • Hasselblad anything *pipe dream*

  • Nikon School of Photography course
  • Nikon Next Steps in Digital Photography course
  • Rice University Continuing Education

Now that you have the camera you want, how to make the best of your shots?

Digital Photography Tips & Tricks

KNOW YOUR CAMERA. Some have told me they've returned a perfectly good camera because they couldn't get the kind of shots they see above. =:O
A camera doesn't do all the thinking, and often, "automatic" modes are the worst way to get a good shot. Read your owner's manual, know all the features and settings inside & out. If you can't figure out how to get a good shot, ask around. Many times, a change in one or two settings is all that's needed to get your blurry or too-dark photos looking picture perfect.

Focusing and blurring. All modern cameras must focus before they take the shot. If your object is moving, practice "tracking" it - follow the object with your head in a steady motion. If your camera has a setting for AF-C (continuous autofocusing), try that for objects in motion, as opposed to AF-S (stationary autofocus). If it's dark, realize that any camera (even the SLRs that cost thousands of dollars) will need to leave the shutter open longer to allow enough light in to form the image. The darker it is, the longer this generally takes, and the more your object (or your camera) will move.

SLR photographers often use this effect to their advantage and let long shutter speeds "blur" passersby out of their shots at night, so realize that trying to snap a pic of your running dog in the backyard at night is going to be blurry - and that's not the camera's fault. Getting a sharp image of a moving object requires good motion tracking (a function of you + the camera) and light.

Turn your flash off unless you reallly need it. This sounds crazy, but I try not to use a flash unless I really have to (for example, to light up faces in a dark setting, or when the sun is at someone's back). I prefer to use natural or ambient lighting to capture more of the background. Especially in a dark setting, when you use the flash to light your subjects in the foreground, often the background scenery will be obliterated. This isn't as much of a problem with an SLR since those pricier models have a better dynamic range (allowing them to differentiate between light & dark subjects better), but with a point & shoot, you really have to watch it.

See how natural this image looks without a flash? This was taken with the Nikon s7c point & shoot. I wouldn't try this using a point & shoot that did not have vibration reduction (or at least a mini-tripod). Not using a flash maintains the warmth of the setting. So, I repeat: Get a camera with VS/IR. It will open up a whole other world of possible shots for you.

White Balance. Even cheaper point & shoots have a white balance setting. Play with this and learn how to use it. Just changing the settings a bit can add warmth to a setting that needs it or remove a yellow cast from a setting that needs to show vivid whites. Experiment. You can always delete the shot.

ISO. Keep this as low as possible - usually 200 works well for daylight. Night shots may require 1600 or even 3200. If your camera has several settings, it's usually best to leave it on Auto. This will allow your camera to produce the sharpest image allowed by the ambient lighting. A high ISO may be more light sensitive allowing you to snap in dark conditions, but it will also increase the "noise" or graininess of the image. If you can, get a camera that is capable of at least ISO 1600 (some digicams come with a pitiful capability of only ISO 400). While you may not use the highest ISO setting, it's indicative of the sensor quality. A good sensor captures a lot of light. it's like being able to see in the dark.

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting. Avoid shooting with harsh light behind your subject. The bright light will overwhelm the sensor and blot your subject out. Likewise, sun in their face will make them squint, distorting their expression. Don't be afraid to move around your subject to get the best lighting. No matter how good the camera, it doesn't distinguish between light and dark as well as the human eye, so give it some help. No digital camera is as good as the human eye - point & shoot or SLR - this is called dynamic range. Don't be afraid to retake a shot if the lighting isn't great.

Too dark is always better than too light. At least from a digital photography standpoint. If your image is overexposed, you've "blown out" the detail, and it's gone for good. While it's a great way to make your skin look flawless (hint!) it's generally frowned upon. No way to get back those clouds in the sky, those features on your friend's face, those details on a landscape. Likewise, if the image is too dark, lots of detail may be hidden in those "black" areas. If you have Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, learn to use the Levels, Exposure or Histogram tools to bring out those details. Better yet, practice with your camera and learn which settings work in which conditions.

Shooting scenery at night. For this, I cannot strongly enough recommend a camera with VR or IS features (see blog above). You will see a world of difference. Cameras without this feature are usually worthless in night settings. First of all, steady your camera. If you intend to do some serious shooting, pick up a mini tripod (usually 5 bucks or so). If your camera is more brick-shaped you might just be able to sit it down somewhere. The point is to not shake it even a bit.

Again, steady your camera. Since the camera has to keep the shutter open longer to allow more light in to form the image in dark conditions, every tiny shake you make in these milliseconds will register on the image. I have been known to brace my camera against a tree, a wall, on the back of a park bench, anything I can do to keep it from moving. You also might want to use the timer. Sometimes even if the camera is braced by a tripod, the mere action of your finger pressing the shutter is enough to "shake" the sharpness right out of the image.

This image came from the Nikon s7c point & shoot (with Vibration Reduction) - note the sharpness and capture of light. While it may be no match for an image shot with an SLR using a tripod, this is light years better than what you'd get with a point & shoot with no VR/IS:

By contrast, Canon SD600 point & shoot with no IS/VR:

SLR image (Nikon D70s with tripod, wide-open aperture). Note the sharpness and detail on the water ripples:

How to take a great night shot:

  1. Turn your flash off. It's not needed for landscape shots, and using it may illuminate dust and particles in the area, making your photo look spotty at night. Those orbs aren't ghosts, they're particles ;)

  2. Turn ON your self-timer. Even if you are holding the camera, turn on your self-timer, press the shutter and wait. Your shot will be steadier since your finger isn't jostling the button when the picture is taken.

  3. Brace the camera. If you don't have a mini-tripod, use a tree, a wall, the back of a chair, anything. If you don't have anything, just stand really still and hold your breath and take a dozen shots. One will come out good. ;)

Here it is - the #1 mistake I see people do with vacation shots. *Drum roll . . . *
Standing too far from your subject! If you are taking a picture of someone in front of scenery, make sure the person stands no more than about 8 feet away from you. If your subject starts backing up too far away from you, stop him/her or move yourself closer! Nobody really cares what their feet look like, and if they're so far from you that their entire body is in the shot, chances are you have lost any detail on their face. Also, most flashes don't have a range of much more than 6 feet.

Your images will come out much better if you cut them off in the middle of their body so their facial expressions are still a significant portion of the image. If they start backing way far away from you, stop them and have them come closer to you. Better to have their actual face in the shot in front of that pic of the Colosseum than to have some spec that you think is your friend lost in the crowd 20 feet away.

This goes double for taking a photo of a large table of people. The flash isn't going to hit those at the far end of the table. Better to take pics of 3-4 people at a time and capture their expressions than to take a pic of the entire table and leave those at the end as tiny expressionless, unlit faces.

Don't be afraid to stoop, kneel or tilt your camera or otherwise move around to get interesting angles on your subjects. Not everything is best shot at eye level.

Now go forth and experiment


Blogger Jessie said...

Thanks for the tips! I've been debating nonstop between Nikon and Canon for both point and shoot and SLR.

7/09/2009 4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some very good tips. I totally agree on purchasing an older top-of-the line than a current bottom-of-line camera. A D70 or D70s will always be better than a D90, D90x or D60. Even if its older.

The camera I currently use is the D80, which is a good camera for the XX series of Nikon cameras, and for the price you can pick one up today, worth it unless your going to step up to the high end hundreds series.

My only addition to DSLR buyers is that VR/IS is good, but if you can spend your money on higher quality & faster glass than slower lenses with VR.

8/23/2009 9:46 PM  

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