Three Simple Tricks to Improve your Digital Photography

Why I Wrote This

January 21, 2008

After fooling around with my (unnamed) digital camera it occurred to me that many of the tricks I used with film cameras worked equally well with digital cameras. So why not write about it?

This image has strong back-lighting, but with fill-flash all the details are still visible.
This image has strong back-lighting, but with fill-flash all the details are still visible. | Source

Some simple tricks for improving yorur photos

In Camera: In photography any technique you use with the camera and only the camera to improve your photos or create effects is considered "in camera." In other words no "photo-shopping" is required.

All of the tricks I'm about to relate here are In Camera. All of these tricks will work with the worst or the best digital camera.

Subjects are Back Lit: It happens all the time. You want to photograph some friends or an object of interest and the background is brightly lit. You take the picture and your pals are silhouettes on top of that gorgeous background. And there are times you end up having to photograph into bright backgrounds; you just have no choice.

What to do? Turn on your flash. I know it's not dark out, but your subject(s) sure look that way. The flash will give you "fill in" to help balance out the bright light source behind them.

Now typically when you use a flash you are told to shoot from a maximum distance of ten to twelve feet and usually this is good advice, but in this situation you have quite a bit of light bouncing off of surfaces around you. So in a "fill flash" situation you can get away with nearly twenty feet of distance.

With your digital camera try this on a few test subjects. Try it with a sunset or just a bright lamp behind your subject. Take a few photos without the flash and then a few with the flash. With a bit of practice you'll be able to figure out just how far away you can be and still get a nice picture. You'll also be surprised at the difference.


Low Light Blurry Pictures: You know you don't have a case of the jitters or have had one too many Lattes, but no matter how hard you try you get blurry pictures. Worse there's too much distance for the flash to work.

So what's the problem? Unlike film cameras your digital camera is going to keep the shutter open as long as it wants to get enough light for an image. This is the typical factory default for this type of camera. You could switch it to the manual settings, but that's a lot of trouble and you need to know what you are doing. So what to do?

Most digital cameras have a "continuous frame" or "sports" setting. What this does is takes pictures at the rate of about two per second or more. This forces the camera to trip the shutter no matter what the light condition and it will certainly eliminate that "jitter blur." By now you are familiar with the delete feature so just delete the extra shots you don't want.

The trick here is to start pressing the shutter button just before the action takes place. It takes the camera a moment or two to adjust itself and start blazing away on the shots.

This is another one of those things you might want to practice.

Red Eye: I know I know, this is really easy to fix with software, but even the best photo editing tool in the world might miss "retinal reflection" which is what red-eye actually is.

True too there are quite a few cameras out there that shoot a red light into your subject's eyes or trip multiple flashes to get the retina to close. What I've found though is that I go through batteries faster than I fill memory cards. If I'm using alkaline batteries I feel like I'm just throwing them away after a few shots. With the rechargeable batteries I have to carry around four of five sets just to get through a shoot.


So try this. First, turn off the "red-eye" flash feature. It's in your camera somewhere and you can shut it off. Next, as in the case of your sunset shot have your subject(s) turn and look at the sunset for a few minutes. Let them know they don't have to stare right at the sun, but let them know to look at the sky around that area.

After a few minutes have them turn, face the camera, and take your shot. You can also have your subjects look at or near bright objects just prior to your posed shots. Or have them hang out in the bathroom (they'll love that) just before photographing them.

Both suggestions above will close the retina somewhat and go a long way toward preventing and or reducing red-eye.

Of course cats and people with bright blue eyes may still prove a problem.

As above be sure to try this technique out to become proficient.

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