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Photo Tips (basic for compact cameras)

 

Tips for better digital photos while travelling

Here are some tips for getting some great travel shots from your point-and-shoot camera.

  1. Take a step back
    Not all point-and-shoot cameras have ultra-wide-angle lenses like Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FX36 or Samsung's NV24HD. While these two cameras offer the convenience of capturing wide expanses of the scenery, you, too, can achieve that. Take a couple of steps back and you should be able to get more view in your frame, even if you are using a point-and-shoot camera with a conventional 35mm lens.
  2. Rule of thirds
    Position your subjects off center to create a more aesthetically appealing picture. When snapping landscapes, try to place the horizon slightly to the top or bottom of the frame. This is to prevent splicing the image into two, and also to disrupt the symmetry of the picture which will provide a more visually interesting image.
  3. White balance
    Setting the camera's white balance to "Auto" is not a bad idea, but sometimes it can be fooled by tricky lighting. When capturing scenes of sunrise or sunset, set the white balance to daylight to achieve a warmer tone for the picture.
  4. Using scene modes
    Most point and shoot cameras now have scene modes that can automatically optimize the exposure settings to help you capture the best shot. Don't hesitate to use them--sometimes they can produce exceptional results.
  5. Find interesting angles
    Don't just frame your subject from a straight angle.  What's at your eye level may look interesting, but sometimes getting down on your knees or going up that extra flight of stairs can show a new perspective.

How to avoid fuzzy photos

f you get fuzzy pictures when zooming in from a distance with your digital camera, the fuzziness is probably caused by one of two things:

  1. One is that you’re moving the camera when taking the shot. Any movement is exaggerated when you’re zoomed in, so try using a tripod or stand very still, take a deep breath, hold it, take the photo and then breathe out.
  2. The other problem is that you might be using digital zoom, which isn’t a true zoom, and the results are more likely to be fuzzy simply because the camera is enlarging the pixels to make the images bigger, rather than really zooming in on the subject. I always turn off digital zoom, and doing that might help. You won’t be able to zoom in so close, but you might get clearer shots,

As for photographing moving people: Try following them with the camera so you actually move the camera with them. Take the shot as you move and keep moving until it’s all done. That way you should get the person nicely sharp and the background nicely blurred.

Six great photo tips

Naming photo files: In general, when you use numbers you can automatically sort the files in order, where dates written out won’t sort.

 

Photographing moving people: Try following them with the camera so you actually move the camera with them. Take the shot as you move and keep moving until it’s all done. That way you should get the person nicely sharp and the background nicely blurred.


Be wary of deleting images in the camera. Something that looks like it’s a terrible shot in the camera, when opened may have some artistic merit. If you’re interested in the artistic possibilities, I’d wait and cull on the larger computer screen where you can more accurately assess what sort of shot you have.

 

View pictures, don’t save: Every time you save a file as a JPEG format image, you permanently lose some quality. Just opening and viewing it doesn’t do that, but saving will compromise quality.

 

Best size for e-mailing photos: For e-mailing, I suggest 800 x 600 is the best maximum size. For printing, you need a lot more image. I like to resize the image to a resolution of 300 dpi and then adjust the size in inches to the final print size. Your photo software will have a tool for resizing images.

 

Photo backups: When you downsize a photo you’re going to permanently lose that data so consider using CDs or DVDs to back up your photos. When you do that, make a couple of copies to CD or DVD just in case a disk fails. Also, buy good quality disks from a reputable manufacturer.

Remove red eye from digital photos

If you notice something strange about pictures of your friends, don't call the exorcist just yet. Some people--and lighting conditions--are perfect breeding grounds for devilish red-eye. Wide-open pupils, whether by nature or stimulated by low light conditions, allow the camera's flash to bounce off the blood vessels at the back of the eye and leave your friends looking like they're possessed.

Rather than wearing garlic around your neck and carrying a wooden stake, these tips should help bring your friends back from the dark side.

  1. Use your camera's red-eye-reduction flash setting. Scroll through the flash settings until you find an icon that looks like an eye. This will tell the camera to emit a preflash that will cause your subjects' pupils to constrict and help prevent the light from bouncing off the blood vessels at the back of the eyes.

  2. Turn up the lights. Bright lights have the same effect on your subject's pupils as your camera's red-eye-reduction setting and with the pupils less dilated, red-eye should be reduced.

  3. Shoot at an angle. If you angle your camera so that the flash doesn't project directly onto your friends' eyes, there's no light to bounce back, and if the flash is pointed in the right direction, there's no red-eye. Of course, if you have an off-camera flash, that's even better since it sits higher above the lens than do most onboard light sources. Your friends will be relieved and so will you.

  4. Clean it up in software. If none of the other methods work to eliminate your friends' demon eyes, there's still hope. All image-editing programs have a red-eye-removal feature that provides one-click fixes. Generally, all you have to do is select the red-eye tool, click on the center of your subject's eye, and before you can say Rosemary's baby, the red is gone.

Remove red-eye from your digital pictures with IrfanView

IrfanView is a popular free image-editing program that lets you make a number of useful edits to your digital photographs.  Although it's nowhere near as powerful as Photoshop, it's still a handy tool for simple photo editing tasks.  One of its great features is red-eye reduction.  If you have an image where your subject has glowing red eyes, here's how you can fix it:

1) Launch IrfanView
2) Under the File menu, choose Open and open the file you want to edit
3) Move the scroll bars on the right and bottom of the IrfanView window to find the red eyes you wish to correct
4) Draw a small box around the red eye with your cursor  
5) Under the Image menu, choose "Red eye reduction" (or simply hit CONTROL-Y)
6) Repeat steps 3-5 to correct any other red eyes in the image
7) Under the File menu, choose "Save As...", give the file a new name, and then hit OK

WARNING: In step 7 do not hit "Save" -- be sure to hit "Save As..." -- that way you won't permanently change your original image file -- instead you'll create a new file.   That way you can always go back to the original image if you decide later that you're dissatisfied with the modified image.

Tricks for close-up photography

Getting extreme close-ups -- also called macro photography -- can provide amazing results, especially since many digital cameras feature a macro shooting mode that allows you to focus within inches of your subject.

It may sound easy to snap these close-ups, but there are several factors which could ruin your picture. We took these into consideration and came up with a list of tips for shooting great macro shots with your point-and-shoot.

1) Check your focus
A good close-up shot should be detailed and sharp to show the elements of the subject. So check the user manual of your shooter for the minimal focusing distance of the lens in Macro mode. Some point-and-shoots will give an indication on the LCD via a red box if your shooter cannot focus on the subject.

However, your best bet would be to zoom in on the image while in Playback mode and check if the area you focused on is sharp. It would be disastrous to find all the shots are out of focus when you view them on the PC's display.

2) Hold your breath!
Unless you're shooting in a controlled environment like a studio or room, otherwise you are pretty much at the mercy of nature when out in the field snapping macro shots. Gusts of wind or breathing too hard can make your tiny subject sway, causing motion blur. While there is no way you can stop Mother Nature, you can place your bag or ask your friend to help block and minimize the effect of the wind. For good measure, hold your breath while snapping the shot.

3) A flash of brilliance
Sometimes the weather gets cranky--one moment it's bright and sunny, then just before you press the shutter, the clouds decide to come out and play. Flip the switch and activate the in-built flash, or if you are using a dSLR, attach your hotshoe strobe for better effects. Check your shot and take appropriate action like exposure compensation to reduce the harshness of the light.  Alternatively, wait for a sunny day and clear skies to shoot. Natural light provides the best illumination.

4) Clear up the mess
Try to keep the foreground and background clutter to a minimal because they might steal the focus of your shot. Human eyes are naturally attracted to bright colors, so shift your shooting angles or remove any objects to keep your snaps clean. If you're snapping in a park or nature reserve, remember not to pluck or remove any flora.

5) Keep the ISO low, use a tripod
Besides keeping physical clutter to a minimum, you should also reduce digital artifacts which can be distracting. The color on a flower petal should appear as it is, and not littered with spots of noise. Use the lowest ISO sensitivity available in your shooter and pair it up with a tripod to counter the slow shutter speed. To further reduce handshake, use the self-timer mode.

Talking about resolution

Here's a lingo tip about resolution. Although images can have a resolution from 1 to more than 2,000 ppi, when it comes to talking resolution, there are three basic resolutions that are pretty common. Low-res (short for resolution) is normally 72 ppi, and low-res images are primarily used for onscreen viewing (such as the Web, slide presentations, digital video, etc.). Medium-res is generally 150 ppi and is commonly used for printing to inkjet and laser printers. When people use the term high-res, it's almost always referring to 300 ppi, which is more than sufficient resolution for printing to a printing press. Anything above 300 ppi is still considered high-res, but you'd say it like this: "I made a 600-ppi high-res scan." Which resolution is right for you? Nice try. That's a whole book unto itself.

Create an e-mailable image in IrfanView

When sending photos to friends and family via e-mail, don't send them the files straight from your digital camera, because they're too big (in terms of file size) for most peoples' inboxes. UNLESS THEY WANT TO PRINT THEM AT THE BEST QUALITY.  Each image file produced by a digital camera is usually one megabyte in size or more.  While files that big can technically be attached to e-mails, some recipients' e-mail boxes may get overloaded by such files, and others might reject these large attachments outright.

So before e-mailing a photo, it's a good idea to reduce its file size.  Here's how to do this using IrfanView.

1) Launch IrfanView and open the image you want to e-mail.
2) If you wish to crop the image to remove unwanted background material, draw a box around the area you want to keep and then select "crop selection" which is under the Edit menu.
3) Under the Image menu, select "Resize/resample..."
4) On the left side of the Resize/resample window, change the 'width' to a value 600 - 800 pixels, and hit OK.
5) Under the View menu, choose Display Options, and then "Fit image to Window (1:1, recommended)" -- this lets you view your image at its new size.  If you don't like the new size, undo the change (CRTL-Z) and repeat step 4 with a different width value.  Note that many people can't view an image that's larger than 800 pixels on their screen, so it's a good idea to keep the image on the smaller side.
6) When you're satisfied with the reduced image, go to the File menu and choose "Save As.."  WARNING: do NOT choose "Save" or you'll overwrite your original image!
7) Give the image a different name -- for instance if the original image is called "birthday," name the file "email-birthday."  This way you'll know which file to e-mail-- and more importantly, you won't overwrite your original image file.
8) Below the filename, change "Save as type" to: JPG - JPEG files
9) A JPG/GIF save options window will appear.  Change the "Save Quality" slider to 75.
10) Hit Save.

Now you have a reduced-size image suitable for e-mailing.  If you want to check the size, right-click on your new file and choose Properties.  Ideally the file should be 100K or smaller.  

While it's true that the reduced size image is not the same quality as the original, it will still look quite good, and people will thank you for not bombing their inboxes with giant files!

Better portraits with your point-and-shoot camera

It is one thing to take a picture of a person, and another to snap a portrait. A good portrait has the ability to convey the subjects' state of emotion, and possibly even reveal a hint about their thoughts. Here are five simple tips for better portraits, so gather your friends and family members for a fun shoot.

1) Depth of field
If your camera has manual controls for setting aperture, adjust it to about F3.5 or below. This creates a shallow depth of field which causes blur background while keeping the subject sharp. This focuses the viewer's attention straight to the subject. If your camera doesn't have manual controls, try scrolling through the scene modes--generally there will be a portrait mode which optimizes the camera's settings for taking pictures of people.
2) It's all about the communication
If your subject is too tense, the picture will probably reflect it. Unless that is the effect you want, you'll have to talk to the person in front of your lens and loosen them up. Crack a joke or talk about the weather. If you know the person well, chat about things that interest him/her. They will start to relax and that's the moment you start snapping.
3) Level it
Get to the eye level of your subject. For children, squat down to take pictures of them. If your adult subject is sitting down, then you need to sit or kneel in order to his/her eye level, too. This makes them more relaxed since they don't have to raise or lower their head to look at you, which may look unnatural (and make  your subject uncomfortable).
4) It's in your eyes
They say the window to a person's soul is through the eyes, and this is especially true for portraiture. Try to fix your camera's focus on the subjects' eyes as this creates a more appealing picture than focusing on their noses or ears. If your point-and-shoot has only one focus point, frame the eyes within the focusing box, half-press the shutter to focus (don't remove your finger yet) and then reframe your shot before pressing the shutter button down fully.
5) Environment
If your subject lives in an interesting environment, use wide-angle lens to capture the surroundings in your shot. This will give your viewers a better understanding of the subject and create a more visually interesting picture as well. But don't try to cram every item available into the shot--this may clutter the image and draw attention away from the person you want to portray.