Julie Adair King (Indianapolis, IN), has been covering digital cameras and photography for over a decade. Along with all editions of Digital Photography For Dummies, Julie has also written For Dummies guides covering specific Nikon and Canon digital SLR cameras. She also works one-on-one with beginning digital photographers in the classroom at the Palm Beach Photographic Centre.
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Books by Julie Adair King
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi/450D For Dummies®
Whether you’re shooting with a top-of-the line digital SLR camera or a simple point-and-shoot model, you can improve your pictures by remembering these five easy tips!
- Use the right shutter-button technique to get the best autofocus and autoexposure results. Press the shutter button halfway to kick the exposure and focusing mechanisms into gear, and wait until the camera signals you that exposure and focus are locked—usually with a beep or a light in the viewfinder or near the monitor. Then gently press—don’t jab—the button down the rest of the way. If you don’t use this two-stage button-press technique, the camera won’t have time to properly set focus and exposure.
- For outdoor portraits during the daytime, add flash to better illuminate your subject’s face. The flash helps eliminate shadowing on the face, which can occur because the light source (the sun) is coming from above your subject. The same tip also applies when you’re shooting flowers and other small subjects. Depending on your camera, you may have to switch to a specific exposure mode in order to use the flash in bright light, however, so check your camera manual. Note that this technique usually gives colors a slightly warmer tone as well. If you’re not happy with that effect, try adjusting the white balance setting, which is a feature designed to neutralize color casts.
- To create a nice, softly focused background for your subject, choose a low f-stop setting. The f-stop, or aperture setting, is an exposure control that is usually stated with the letter f plus a number, as in f/2, f/4, f/11, and so on. In addition to affecting exposure, the f-stop helps determine depth of field—the distance over which objects appear sharply focused. A low f-stop number produces a shallow depth of field, so your subject appears sharp but the background is blurry. The lower the f-stop setting, the more the background blurs. The two photos here offer an example: Notice that the background trees in the f/5.6 version are blurrier than in shot taken at f/11.
On some cameras, you can specify the f-stop when you shoot in aperture-priority exposure mode; the camera then chooses the other settings needed to properly expose the photo. You also may be able to use manual exposure mode, in which case you’re responsible for all the exposure settings. If your camera doesn’t offer that level of control, try using Portrait mode, which selects the lowest possible f-stop setting automatically.
- When you want a large area of the frame to be sharply focused, use a high f-stop number or Landscape mode. For example, if you’re shooting a cityscape and you want both near and distant buildings to appear sharp, you need a large depth of field, which requires a high f-stop number. Again, you can dial in the right setting in aperture-priority mode or manual mode, if available on your camera. If not, choose Landscape mode, which selects the highest possible f-stop setting for you.
- Use EV Compensation to adjust exposure in automatic shooting modes. This control, usually marked with a little plus/minus sign, enables you to override the camera’s automatic exposure decisions. (The EV stands for exposure value.) If you want a brighter picture than the camera produced, raise the EV value and retake the picture; for a darker picture, dial in a lower EV value. For example, at EV 0.0—that is, with no adjustment applied—the palm tree in this example appears too dark. Raising the value to EV +1.0 delivered a better exposure. Just keep adjusting the setting between shots until you get a result you like.