Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Take the picture!

One of the biggest advantages of shooting digital cameras is that there is no film, and no developing cost for each photograph. After purchasing the camera and memory card(s) it costs the same whether you shoot 3 photographs or 300. So, take more photos! Take a few from in front, move to the side and shoot some more. Move again and shoot some more. Change the camera from landscape to portrait. Tilt the camera a little and try a different angle. When you get home and down load the shots, so what if 95 out of 100 aren't awesome. Just delete the dogs, and enjoy the 5 you probably wouldn't have taken with a film camera.

Now for a two fer tip:

When you look through your days photos, if you have some dogs, delete them! They won't get better with age. Just delete the ones that are badly focused, catching someone with their eyes closed or mouth full, poorly lit, blurry or whatever. Just delete them! This is going to save you from sorting through thousands of them later on. Don't ask me how I know!

Having a way to deal with your photos from beginning to end is going to make you life a lot easier. I'll write about how I deal with that next time.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How to beat shutter lag

The biggest thing I hear folks complaining about with their new point and shoot cameras is the time between when they push the shutter button and when the picture is actually taken. That effect is called shutter lag. Lag doesn't affect DSLRs, that's a major reason why folks want the DSLRs!

Shutter lag is not your friend! If people are moving around and they're trying to capture a shot, it's blurred. Even if they are still it can be an issue. The key to understanding shutter lag , and working around it, is to understand what happens when you press down the shutter button. In the point and shoots, when you look at the screen, then press the button here's what happens (roughly). First, there is the travel time for you to push the button down (which should be the same as a DSLR). Then when the button reaches the half way point, the camera starts to "hunt" for a focus point, then focuses on that point, then the actual shutter is triggered and the image is collected. This can take from 1/5th of a second to much larger lag times, depending on the lighting and the camera itself. Dark areas take longer to focus than well lit areas. The solution lies in eliminating the hunting and focusing time. If you are taking a photo of a group, focus on them by pushing the button half way down, you'll see the camera lock on to your subject (hopefully). Now tell them to look your way and get the shot by finishing pushing the button down. Since the camera doesn't have to focus, the shot is taken right away. You can do the same thing with an action shot. Figure out where the action is going to be, pre-focus before the subject gets into the action zone, then continue to hold the button half way down till the subject gets to your preselected spot, then push the button all the way. Voila` in-focus pics!

If there is nothing to focus on that is at the point the action is going to occur, you need to pre-focus on a nearby point the same distance away from you with similar lighting, keep the button pressed down and then aim the camera at the focus point you like. Finish pressing the shutter down when the subject walks, floats, flys or stumbles into the prefocused point, then take the shot!
For example, say you are on a parade route with an empty street in front of you, and you know the float is going to make a great shot, but you don't want it blurred. If you point to the empty street, there is nothing to pre-focus on. Find a phone pole or crowd member that is the same distance from you as your predicted float spot. Pre-focus by pressing the shutter half way, keep it pre-focused by holding the button down, now pre-aim the camera where you wanted to take the shot, then wait for the float to enter the shot, and take it. Easy peasy!

Give it a shot, and report back if this tip helped you out!


Monday, December 3, 2007


Get them! The books on the sidebar are all good sources of information that I have and highly recommend. They'll help shorten your learning curve and get you to better pictures, faster. The Magic Lantern books are great books that are guides to using the specific model you have. They fill in for the gaps in the user manual. Get the guide for your camera.

Those books are all going to help you with technique. Technique is half the battle. You have to know what you want to shoot, and how it will look after you get the shot. The photos I like the best are the ones that match what I saw before I even pushed the shutter. For vision, I recommend checking out the local library. There are some great books there to see how it's was done in the past. I also like going to the book store bargain aisle and buying the discounted books on photography that are sitting there. Its a great way to look at the photos, see what other photographers have done and try to figure out how they were taken if it's not already described. I like to buy any other photo guides at a discount too. There's usually a few good tips, even if the book was written 20 years ago. Good photography is good, no matter when it was written. Don't just look at photo books, look at the painting books too. The rules for paintings are often applicable to photography too.