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Photography at CH

Most digital cameras nowadays will do a decent job on most photographs under well-lit conditions.

Here are a few tips for the inexperienced photographer and experienced photographer alike that will help improve your pictures.


Try to form a good composition by framing your picture so that the center of interest-- often the face--  is at the top 1/3 of the picture (NOT the middle).

Most cameras require you to depress the shutter button part way to activate the auto-focus, iso settings, etc., before taking the picture.  Always try to give the camera a second or two to determine the settings before firing the button all the way for your shot.

What is the ISO?  You have probably never heard of the ISO setting.  You may want to get to know it.  If you have ever taken a picture in a dark situation and found the results grainy and ugly, you might wish you had adjusted the ISO.

ISO stands for "International Organization for Standardization".  It's purpose is to produce standards of measurement that can be adopted internationally.  In the world of photography, it refers most often to measures of light sensitivity.

So the "ISO setting" determines the light sensitivity of your camera.  The darker the subject, the more light sensitivity you need to get a recognizable picture.  The trade off-- and it is a significant trade-off-- is the resolution of the image: the darker it is, the higher the ISO you will need to get an image, and the grainier the image.  Most automatic cameras by default boost the ISO in low light conditions.  On better cameras, you can manually over-ride this setting and set the ISO to a fixed number.  This will make your photos darker, and will reduce potential shutter speed, but will reduce the graininess of the image.

To really maximize the quality of your pictures, you may need to take manual control.  Most cameras will let you choose an "A" setting which allows you to set the aperture, or a "S" setting which allows you to set the shutter speed.  The trouble is, if you choose a wide aperture-- say, 2.8-- the camera will compensate by automatically selecting a faster shutter speed.  If you choose a fast shutter speed-- say 1/200-- the camera will automatically open the aperture wider to compensate. 

Small apertures (like F22, or F16) give large depth of field while large apertures (F2.8 or F4) give shallow depth of field, with a pleasantly blurred background, sometimes known as "bookeh", if your camera has a large enough sensor (most DSLRs do).


Note the bookeh-- shot at f2.8.

Faster shutter speeds will freeze motion and give you a sharper picture (if it's bright out, or you use a flash); slower shutter speeds allow you to shoot in low light and your pictures are generally more saturated and softer, but may be blurred.

In general, any speed slower than 1/60th of a second will create the risk of a blurry image. 

Now, there may be situations where you do not want the camera to automatically boost the ISO.  For example, a birthday party with a cake with candles.  Without user intervention, most automatic cameras will boost the ISO to make up for the low light.  The dark areas will become lighter but also grainy and ugly.  The light of the candles will become blobs.  But if you control the camera manually, set the ISO to, for example, 200, and use a wide aperture at 1/60th of a second, the candles and face will be sharp, and the surrounding area will be black-- a much more pleasing result.

Illustration of Low Light with low ISO

This shot of a UPS under my desk illustrates how a picture can be well-saturated and evenly balanced by preventing the camera from automatically jacking up the ISO in low-light conditions.

Composition Tip

It's boring to have the subject in the middle of every picture!  Try this: focus your camera at the person of interest, hold the shutter part way down to lock focus, then pan the camera sideways so the object of interest is in the right or left side of the screen.

More Tips Coming!  Youtube also has lots of photography tutorials.




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