Using Your Digital Camera

What makes one image more pleasing than another? By following A few simple steps about where to place elements within your pictures, you’d be surprised how much you can improve your photography.

Composition is the name given to the combination all the elements within the photo and their position in the scene. Compositional rules can be thought of as guides to help get better photos. Here are some key Techniques to keep up your sleeve.

Framing

Always fill the frame with your subject. If you are photographing a person, you can see them clearly and that they do not appear too small within the frame. The benefit of this is that you make the most use of all the pixels you have at your disposal. This is particularly important for digital cameras with lower resolution sensors.

Another framing tippers to use frames within frames. When taking a shot, don’t be afraid to use elements of your surroundings to frame a more distant part of the scene. Shooting through a window including the window frame is a good example, as is including overhanging branches or foliage.

Portrait or Landscape?

Like any other digital camera, yours can be used horizontally in its normal or landscape format. It can also be used upright in the vertical or portrait format.

While these names suggest the types of image you usually use each format to photograph, experiment to see which works best for a given shot. Often what Works one way might be made even better simply by turning the camera. 

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds also known as the golden section, can be used to add tension and a dynamic field to your photos by careful placement of the main elements. First, imagine your digital camera’s display is split into a grid of 9 equal squares with two lines running horizontally across it and two lines running vertically across it down it. Non your display depending upon your digital camera’s display may have the ability to present these composition lines.

using your digital camera - the rule of thirds - www.darkphotography.org

if you place the subject on any of these lines, positioning specific elements within a photo where the lines intersect the image can have more impact. Try placing the horizontal lines across the top or bottom rather than across the center of a shot. or place a person at one of the intersections when you want to put them in contacts with the background in a landscape style photo.

Bulls-eye Composition 

This is when the main subject of the shot is smack in the center of the frame, and should be avoided unless you have a specific reason for doing it. This type of images less pleasing to the eye and lacks dynamism. However, good uses for such composition might include an emphasis on circular subjects in macro work, for dynamic effect.

Balance

You can create images with either equal or unequal balance. The balance you have elements within the photo balancing each side of the image, for example, two buildings of the same size.

Where you choose to use an equal balance you would have one prominent subject with another element in the scene placed on the other side of the frame that’s either closer or further away, whichever is best for the composition.

Place a big tree on one side, then a small rock or bush or person on the other side. Although a subjective technique, it is one that can prove very successful when the elements are positioned carefully.

Experiment

The last rule but probably the most important is to simply experiment. Like so many rules, these simple techniques can be broken or bent and by mixing them up your quickly learn how to get the best from your digital camera and have lots of fun in the process. 

Focus

Getting your images sharply focused is just a matter of pointing the camera at the subject and pressing the button, isn’t it? The focus is critical to good photos, and today’s cameras usually have an autofocus system which quickly gets things sharp. However, not using this properly can ruin an otherwise perfect shot.

Most digital cameras have a central autofocus target, indicated by a small square on the color screen or in the viewfinder. Many use multiple focus points, which ensure off-center subjects stay sharp.

But how many times have you taken a picture of family members side-by-side with a gap between them and the camera is focused on the wall behind? As you continue on in this post you will explore ways to prevent such problems.

Don’t Rush the Shutter Button

All digital cameras that use autofocus have a dual pressure shutter button. A first half press and hold activates the focusing and the in camera systems. Pause, and then you’ll get some form of focus confirmation such as a green LED in the optical viewfinder, and or a green icon displaying in or a beep.

Completely depress the shutter release once you have these confirmations to take your shot. Trying to take a shot in one big press won’t give time for the camera to set itself properly, and you risk taking a blurred photo every time.

Portraits

In portraiture, your intention is to take a picture of a person. This usually means a head and shoulders shot, or tightly cropped face, so always focus on the subject’s eyes.

If your camera allows control over which autofocus points you can use, select the central autofocus point, or the face priority autofocus system where applicable, and use it to focus.

Remember, this is activated by a half press of the shutter button. Hold the shutter button down and recompose the shot. With the subject in focus, complete the process by pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the shot.

Landscapes

To get a good landscape you need to ensure sharp focus from the foreground to the far distance. Begin by autofocusing on a prominent object in the distance. Haziness can hamper autofocus; if your digital camera uses a wide autofocus system. You can overcome this by not setting the focus to something nearby or at an edge of the frame. Then keep your camera steady, using a tripod or monopod if necessary.

Try using the cameras landscape scene mode, if it has one, as this optimizes camera settings for landscape work, or select a small aperture if using manual settings.

Macro Shots

Digital cameras offer some of their best results in close up or macro work. Some digital cameras can focus to within 1 cm of the subject, ensuring frame-filling shots, or even tiny details. However, you need to ensure the correct part of this subject is sharply focused.

Use a single autofocus point and recompose once it’s in focus. Also use a tripod, which helps keep things stable if you are using slower shutter speeds. Remember, for close-up work you can use the camera’s macro mode, or select a small aperture if using manual settings.

Small Groups

The problem of the autofocus locking onto the wall behind a group shot can be overcome by moving the subjects to reduce any gaps between them, or focus on one person’s face and then recompose. This way, you’ll ensure that the group, and not the wall behind them, is sharp. Again, try to use the face priority autofocus system.

Tips On Avoiding Autofocus Problems

Some subjects always cause autofocus systems problems, so here are ways to avoid them.

Parallel lines and regular patterns – for the autofocus to key on, try tilting the camera from landscape to portrait and refocusing, then recompose for the shot.

The dark – unless your digital camera has an autofocus emitter, this shines a beam of light out to help focusing, darkness or dark subjects provide nothing for the camera to focus on. To overcome this, get more light on the scene by turning on a light or two. Once the subject is illuminated set your focus to ensure the subject is clear and sharp, turn autofocus off, and then return the lighting to its previous state.

Low contrast – haze, a predominantly white or black subject that doesn’t provide the autofocus anything to focus upon can all present problems. You cannot change in the weather, so try looking for an alternative but prominent element of the scene to focus upon. Also use the cameras landscape mode, which ensures a small aperture is used.

The manual focus solution – alternatively, to help prevent any of the above problems, try using your camera’s manual focus mode, if it has one. By taking control of the focusingf yourself (check your cameras manual for operating instructions), particularly if you have the time to work on the photo, this will provide find control and you can check the results on the LCD too.