1. Basic Composition
The position of different elements in the picture frame, known as the picture composition, is the heart of any photo. Professional photographers learn what is known as the Rule of Thirds, which has the photographer dividing the frame into nine equal squares, with two horizontal and two vertical lines running through the picture. Attempt to place the subjects in the picture along those lines, imagining the image divided among the nine squares. By using the Rule of Thirds, pictures are more dramatic than simply placing a subject in the center of the lens. Some newer digital cameras have a Rule of Thirds overlay that can be activated while taking the picture.
2. Adjust Exposure Compensation
Most digital camera users allow the camera to make decisions regarding the exposure, or lightness and darkness, of a shot. Basing exposure on an 18-percent gray card, the camera looks at the scene and determines what the appropriate exposure is for that shot. Many digital cameras have special scene modes for snow because most cameras will try to turn white snow gray. Most modern point-and-shoot cameras have a button that will allow you to slightly adjust exposure, and that button is usually identified with a +/- symbol, with a default setting at zero. If the exposure is too dark, move the scale above zero, and if it is too dark, move the scale down below zero, until you achieve the exposure you want.
3. Mode Selection
Digital cameras often have multiple modes for shooting that range from fully automatic to specific scene modes. Smaller point and shoot cameras have specific modes for shooting sports, low-light, landscape, twilight or other settings that cater to certain typical activities. Advanced cameras offer additional settings, including shutter priority (S Mode) that increases the speed at which a photo is taken. An S Mode of 1/125 second or faster helps freeze the action. Shooting in lower light, choose the Aperture (A Mode) to be sure enough light enters the lens.
4. White Balance
Cameras try to set white balance based on the type of lighting in which you are shooting. Usually, the camera will automatically detect and adjust the white balance so that the photo looks natural, but if you are shooting in mixed lighting, or the camera is having difficulty choosing the right lighting, many cameras allow you to set the white balance manually. D-SLRs often have a button dedicated to white balance, labeled “WB” while on smaller point-and-shoot cameras you may have to search through the shooting menu. Although color correction is possible later through iPhoto or Picasso, photos have a better look if the white balance is correct from the beginning.
5. Importance of Lighting
Be aware of where the lighting is in the photo before you shoot. When shooting pictures outside, be sure that the sun is not at the back of the subject. However, in times when you must shoot a photo with the sun at the back of the subject, manually activate the flash to fill in shadows.
6. Be Aware of the Flash
If people appear bleached out in photos, you may be too close when you take them with a flash. Back up from the subject if you must use the flash on the camera, and zoom in to frame the picture properly. If the photo is too bright or too dark, see if your camera allows for flash compensation, an adjustment that allows you to change the power of the flash, giving your photo better balance. Add more light to fill in shadows and make the photo more natural looking.
7. Try Adding a Flash Diffuser
If your camera does not allow you to lower the flash power, try using a simple flash diffuser. If you are using a small point-and-shoot camera, tape a small piece of wax paper over the flash to soften it. D-SLR users can use an old milky white 35mm film canister that is cut to fit snugly over the flash. Diffusers are also available for purchase if you want a more professional look.
8. Tripods and Monopods
Tripods allow you the extra time you need to set up framing, keep the camera steady, and take the family shot at the amusement park with the entire group in the photo. Many department stores carry inexpensive tripods, but for those with higher-end cameras, or with heavy lenses, choose a tripod that can handle the weight of the camera. A monopod, which is simply a tripod with one leg, is designed to fit between your legs to add stability, and is often less difficult to set up and take down than a tripod.
9. Upload Selectively
Digital cameras make it easy to take hundreds of photos quickly, but be selective when uploading them to social media or sending to family members via email. Post a few dozen great photos rather than hundreds of not-so-good ones.
10. Edit as Necessary
Although getting the photo right in the camera is the ultimate goal, using iPhoto or Picasso to edit photos later is perfectly acceptable. Editing software allows you to crop, correct color, fix exposure problems, remove red-eye and other editing tasks which can improve the quality of a photo tremendously.
These tips can help even the newest photographer take great pictures. Whether you are using a simple, point-and-shoot or an elaborate digital with multiple lenses, following these suggestions will provide you with quality photos you will be glad to share with family and friends.