Five years ago if someone had told me that I would be using a mobile phone for photography I would have laughed at them. Today I take photographs, almost on a daily basis, with my mobile phone. Because of the very small sensor size and average lens quality, the quality limits the applications. However mobile phones have three key advantages. Firstly, you almost always have your camera with you. Secondly, the mobile phone is more socially acceptable than conventional cameras. Thirdly, the image can be shared on social media or sent anywhere in the world in seconds.
These cameras typically produce images around 10 megapixels. However, the sensor size is extremely small and therefore the picture quality is limited. They are characterised by a limited range of controls, small size, and mediocre lens quality. Their main advantage is size and weight so they can be easily slipped into a packet or handbag. Their main disadvantage is that they have a lengthy and complicated array of features and often suffer from shutter lag. These cameras are best left on Auto.
These cameras typically produce images between 10 and 15 megapixels. Importantly, the sensor size will be larger than for a budget camera and will provide the photographer with some creative control over the image. These cameras have bodies that are more durable and better quality lenses. They will normally have a better zoom range and, a wider range of adjustments than the budget cameras. They are often configured as DSLRs but do not have interchangeable lenses.
These cameras typically produce images between 15 and 20 megapixels. Importantly, the sensor size will be larger than for mid-price cameras and will often have high-quality interchangeable lens and image stabilization. Such cameras will often have a complete range of Manual settings (PASM) found in professional cameras. These cameras have become popular in the last two years. They are smaller, lighter and quieter than DSLRs. In some cases their image quality is as good as, or better, than DSLRs.
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. There are now more than 50 cameras in this category. These cameras are at the upper end of the price range. They offer all the creative controls of a film SLR in digital format. The photographer can change lenses and has complete independent control over aperture, shutter speed and ISO. DSLRs are regularly used for professional and commercial applications. There are two important considerations when buying a DSLR. Firstly, should you be buying a camera with an APS sized sensor or a full frame sensor? Secondly, what is the reliability and track record of the make and model you are considering?
If you‘re confused by the advertising and the range of digital cameras, here’s a strategy that will help you to find a better camera. Well designed cameras have good intuitive logic and can change functions using a minimum number of key strokes. Changing a function in THREE key strokes or less indicates a well designed camera; five strokes I would question; seven or more – forget it! In the camera shop ask the sales person to show you how to:
Keep a check on the number of key strokes required for each function. The better designed cameras have more functions available as external buttons on the camera instead of having to go through the Menu on the LCD screen.
Treat your camera with TLC!
Do this! ♥ Turn camera on its back and look at your lens. Twist and turn the camera body so that the room lights reflect in the lens. Is the lens perfectly clean? Can you see dust or finger marks or smears on the surface? Any blemish on the lens will result in deterioration in image quality.
Camera Mode is for taking pictures.
Review Mode is for looking at the pictures you have taken.
Find the On/Off switch and switch the camera on. In Camera mode (sometimes calledTaking mode)you can view the picture that you are going to take, either through the viewfinder or on the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). The camera will switch itself off automatically after a predetermined time to save battery power. On many cameras, you can alter this time.
In Review mode, you can view the photographs previously taken and stored on your memory card. Review mode is sometimes called Play.
Important: You can only adjust camera functions while you are in Camera mode.
External controls are those found on the outside of the camera body. These are usually the most commonly used controls such as P,A,S,M, ISO, flash, review and macro.
Internal controls are those found through the Menu and Function buttons. In some cases, you may have to pick your way through a maze of sub-menus to find a particular control. Too many internal controls are symptomatic of poor camera design.
Generally speaking, the more external controls a camera has, the better the design and the more user-friendly its operation.
Most cameras that have a separate viewfinder will also have a viewfinder adjuster. It adjusts the viewing optics to suit your viewing eye. The adjuster is a small wheel or slider immediately alongside the viewfinder.
To adjust, focus camera on a subject that contains bright detail (e.g. street advertising). Now adjust the wheel or slider so that the image is at maximum sharpness. The camera is now adjusted for YOURviewing eye. It may now look blurry to another user.
Note: This adjustment has absolutely NO effect on final image sharpness.
Photographers love playing with their zooms (and it’s not just a boy-thing)!
Zooming in: Zooming in is using the telephotoend of your zoom lens. It narrows the angle of view and increases magnification. It also increases the risk of camera shake, which results in blurry images.
Zooming out: Zooming out is using the wide-angle end of your zoom lens. It increases the angle of view and reduces the magnification. It also decreases the risk of camera shake.
Make a circle with your thumb and index finger. Extend your arm and look at a distant object through the circle. Try to hold the circle absolutely steady. This is how zooming in works.
Now bring your circle back and rest it on your eyebrow.
Notice how much steadier your image is now. This is how zooming out works.
Examine all the numbers printed on your lens. If you add them all up, that’s probably how much you paid for the camera! One number refers to the telephoto end of your lens and another number refers to the wide-angle.
Telephoto fl* = ____mm Wide-angle fl = _____mm Zoom Magnification = ____X
* fl = focal length
Review Mode and Digital Zoom
Switch camera to Review Mode (sometimes called Play Mode). On most cameras, Review is a right-pointing arrow. The Review Mode is an external button on the back of the camera or on the master control knob on the top of the camera.
The Digital Zoom allows you to magnify the photograph and examine the fine detail. On most compact cameras, the Digital Zoom control is the same as the Optical Zoom control. On DSLRs, the Digital Zoom is usually designated by a magnifying glass.
Examine the two portraits you took. If you can count the eyelashes on the subject, you have a sharp photograph! If not, sorry! Your photograph isn’t really sharp.
Deleting and Formatting
Using ‘delete’ can delete a single image or all images. However, when you ‘format’ your MSD (memory storage device) you not only delete all images but you spring clean the MSD by deleting hidden files and folders. You should format your card at least once every fourth or fifth time you fill the MSD. Personally, I format my MSD just before each shoot.
To format your MSD check your instruction manual. You normally go through the ‘Menu’ or ‘Function’ to format. Sometimes it is referred to as Card Set-up or will have an icon of a memory card. It is virtually impossible to format a card accidentally as there are several checks along the way. However, I have had one student who managed to delete his entire photographic journey through Russia and China in 2.5 seconds!
*If images are lost or the MSD is corrupted, don’t despair! Images can normally be recovered using image recovery software available at good photo stores.
© Mark Morris 2009 Dale; hands on teaching
Search for your Format function and format your card. (If your card has the sole record of your wedding anniversary or your daughter winning the 100m race, it might be an idea to miss the last step!)
“Dale makes the complex seem simple and the simple seem like fun.” Molly Immerzeel, Brunei, 2004
Secrets to Sharpness 1 - Focus and Focus Lock
Shooting an exceptionally sharp image not only separates your shot from the rest of the pack, but also enables you to enlarge your image to mural size. Images nearly always look sharp on the small LCD on the back of your camera, but enlarge that small image to even 20x25cm, and closer examination may reveal that the image is somewhat blurry.
The first step to obtaining sharp images is to make sure that your subject is in focus. Many cameras these days have multiple focusing points and numerous functions to get you sharp images of what the camera thinks is the subject. However, it is more important for the camera to focus on what the photographer knows is the subject.
The first thing to do is to turn off multiple focusing points (most Canons refer to AiFF). This is normally done through the Menu but with most Nikon DSLRs it is an external button on the top of the camera.
Tara 2010 Wall art, Beaconsfield
Focus lock is achieved by pointing the focusing rectangle or gun sight crosshairs on the subject, half pressing (and holding) the shutter button, reframing and then firing the shutter.
Focus lock has added advantages, particularly in less expensive cameras. When the shutter button is half pressed, the camera not only locks focus but the camera also calculates shutter speed, aperture and white balance. As a result, when you press the shutter, the shutter lag is reduced and you avoid that embarrassing digital delay.
Try doing a focus lock on an object in the centre of your viewfinder. Now, while holding your finger halfway down on the shutter button, reframe and place the object in a corner of your frame and shoot. When the camera ‘locks on’, the centre rectangle may change colour, a steady green or orange light may show and/or you may hear an audible ‘beep’.
Secrets to Sharpness 2 – Steadying the Camera
Probably the biggest single difference between amateur and professional photographers is that professional photographers use tripods. Human beings shake and, no matter how effective your image stabilization function is, and how steady you think you are, most shots will have an element of camera shake (which is really human shake). Here are a few tips to reduce camera shake:
Have a shooting duel with another photographer. Face another photographer from about 2 metres away. Observe them very closely as they shoot. If there is no movement whatsoever in their camera, award them 10/10. If they look as though they are chopping wood, award them a zero! Now it’s your turn – you shoot and
your partner will give you a score.
Using Natural Light - Turn the Flash Off
In nearly all digital cameras the inbuilt flash is ineffective in lighting subjects more than three metres away. The flash is equally ineffective at lighting subjects that are of unequal distance from the camera. For example, a subject three metres away receives only 1/9 the amount of light from a flash than a subject one metre away! Combine these two flash disadvantages with harsh shadows, red eye and blown-out highlights and you may understand why I am not a fan of inbuilt flashes.
Once the flash is turned off, the camera will automatically calculate the exposure required for a natural light photograph.
To turn the flash off:
Switch your flash off and practice shooting in subdued light. Don’t worry if your shots are a little blurry at this stage, or if a little red hand waves at you indicating that you need to use flash. Rest elbows on tabletop and practice holding camera as steady as possible. Check the eyelashes!
Increasing Sensitivity - ISO
One of the best ways to getting sharper photographs in natural light is to increase the sensitivity of the sensor. This is achieved by increasing the electrical current passing through the sensor. The result can be a faster shutter speed and therefore a sharper photograph.
The original term for sensitivity was ASA (American Standards Association). ASA has been replaced by ISO (International Standards Organisation).
Bright sunny days; subject not moving e.g. Architecture
Bright sunny days; people and places
Sunny with a few clouds; people and places
Overcast, open shade; action, sport, indoor portrait
Sport at night or low light. Stage or fashion.
Very low light conditions
Most extreme light conditions.
Harbour Race, Fremantle 2003
Choosing a high ISO does have a down side. With some cameras, choosing ISO 400 or higher will result in visual noise. This appears as increased ‘grain’ or texture or like mutant pixels in the image. It is usually not at a level that will cause you great concern. There is a considerable difference in the ways the various brands of camera handle ‘noise’.
To locate ISO, look under Menu or Function buttons. On better cameras ISO will be a separate external button. Adjust ISO to 400 ready for your next project. (On a small number of cameras no ISO adjustment is possible).
Now complete Project 2.
Flat batteries are a common cause of picture failure with digital cameras. I’ve taught approximately 400 classes on digital photography and rarely have a class without at least one flat battery. (My record is nine flat batteries from 20 students in the first hour!)
To avoid embarrassment and ensure that you get your shot:
When buying a new camera, check the technical specifications for the battery. Some camera batteries only provide 120 shots from a full charge. Other cameras allow you to take more than 800 shots from a full charge. This is an important consideration when buying a camera.
Switch camera off. Locate the battery compartment. Remove the battery. Check the size and power. Wipe terminals clean. Put the battery back in carefully. Switch camera on and check all is OK.
Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Sabah 2011
Macro (Close up)
Macro is one of the most popular and fascinating aspects of photography. Strictly speaking, a close-up only becomes macro when the magnification is 1:1 or bigger. However, I will refer to macro and close-up as the same. The most popular applications for macro are:
© Wayne Seow 2008 King’s Park
To set your camera up for macro:
* A quick, cost-effective method to adapt a DSLR for Macro is to purchase a set of three supplementary close-up lenses, commonly called +1, +2, +3 dioptre lenses.
Focus Tip for Macro: The focusing system needs contrast in order to focus. If you try to focus on a plain, single colour surface the camera will ‘hunt’ for focus and produce a blurred image.
Now complete Project 3
White Balance (also called Colour Balance)
Digital cameras can be adjusted to prevent colour castes. Colour castes occur when you use your camera with household globes (tungsten or fluoro), or on cloudy days or in open shade. Digital cameras allow you to ‘dial in’ a range of electronic colour-correcting filters.
You can also use white balance creatively by intentionally dialling in an incorrect colour correction filter, e.g. if you dial in the correction filter for fluoro lighting (fluoro light is green) the camera will introduce a warm orange-red filter for correction. This can have a dramatic effect on sunsets!
Scroll through the white balance menu and select the icon that best matches the light in the room where you are now.
Phynia, FACEZ Studio 2013
Your camera stores your photographs in a memory storage device (MSD), commonly referred to as a memory card. There are four basic types:
The capacity of your card is written on the card, expressed as GB (Gigabytes). Typically card sizes are as follows:
Better quality memory cards will have the write speed printed on the card in terms of MB per second (MB/s), e.g. a 60MB/s card is faster than a 30MB/s card.
The cost of buying memory cards has dropped dramatically. In 2004 memory cost approximately $1000 per GB. Today 4GB of memory will cost less than $20.
Because memory is so affordable, it’s a good idea to set your camera to take optimum quality images. Your camera directly controls two factors:
Firstly, look at your LCD and write down the number of images remaining to be shot. Now, go to your Menu or Function controls and adjust images size (number of pixels), so that you are recording the maximum number.
Now check the compression (image quality) to see that it is set on three stars, fine or superfine. (Every manufacturer has a different way of describing compression!!!)
Finally, check your LCD again and compare the number of images left to be shot with the number you first wrote down. (Note: This exercise is based on the assumption that you are shooting in JPEG).
A corrupt card occurs when the card seizes up. You are unable to download any images or take any images on that card. It is effectively frozen. Don’t despair, all is not lost. Remove the card from the camera and place in an envelope. On return home, go to a good camera shop and ask them to retrieve the data. For a fee of approx $100 they should be able to retrieve all your images and repair the card.
What causes memory cards to become corrupted?
Back up – how much memory for your next big holiday?
The number of megabytes or gigabytes of memory you require will depend on:
I suggest you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. If you calculate that you need 20GB of memory, I’d recommend 5x4GB cards or 1x8GB card & 3x4GB cards. That way, if you have a card breakdown or loss, you can still continue shooting.
Each night you download the images from your cards to a device and start fresh the next day. Some of these devices include:
Switch your camera off. Carefully remove your MSD from the camera and check the brand, type and capacity. Carefully replace the card. Switch camera on and ensure all is OK.
Exposure Adjustment, the +/- button
This exposure adjustment allows you to fine-tune your camera on a shot-by-shot basis to obtain even more precise exposures. Professional photographers have traditionally used ‘bracketing’ to guarantee exposure accuracy.
On many cameras the +/- button is external and easy to locate. On others, you use the Menu, Function or Left/Right arrows (Olympus) to adjust. On one or two cameras the +/- button is so efficiently hidden away (Sony) that it is almost impossible to locate!
Try a bracket of three exposures on a subject of your choice. The first is at the metered exposure, the second at + 1.0 stop and the third at
–1.0 stop. (On different cameras the order of shots will vary.)
“Saturate yourself with your subject
and your camera will all but take you
by the hand”
Fill Flash (sometimes called Forced Flash)
In this workshop I’ve emphasised the benefits of turning your flash off. However, there are certain occasions when the flash does not want to fire and it would be beneficial if it did. To do this, you need to override the auto-flash system and switch on fill flash represented by a single bolt of lightning or the words Flash On.
Olive Farmer, Chapman Valley
If your camera looks at a well-lit scene it will automatically decide not to use flash. This occurs even if the foreground is in shadow. The result is an underexposed foreground. Example: A scene in Thompson’s Bay, Rottnest will show a beautiful bay with white boats basking in sunlight. However, your half dozen friends enjoying coffee at a table overlooking Thomson’s Bay, may be little more than black blobs. By turning on the fill-flash both background and foreground will be evenly lit.
I recommend using fill flash where the subject:
To engage fill flash :
Now complete Project 5
Glossary of Terms
This is the speed at which the camera can shoot one image after another and then get ready to take the next shot.
A Charged Couple Device replaces film. A CCD is smaller than film, so focal lengths for lenses are shorter. A CCD actually forms the image. The image is then processed and sent to the MSD.
Compact Flash card. This is a popular media storage device. This is where your images are stored in your camera.
To use your digital images you need to transfer them to a computer. This can be done via:
USB – Universal Serial Bus
SCSI – Small Computer Systems Interface
Digital Zoom is different to Optical Zoom. Digital zoom is performed electronically and although it produces an enlarged image does not improve image quality.
Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPEG is a very efficient method of file compression. It enables large file sizes to be made smaller for storage and emailing. Some quality is lost in the process.
Liquid Crystal Display. The LCD is your viewing screen. It enables you to see your image and menus. The LCD is a heavy user of power and drains your battery quickly.
Each pixel is a unit of information. A megapixel is one million pixels. If an image is described as 1200x1800 it means it is 1200 pixels wide and 1800 pixels high. If you multiply these two figures together:
1200 x 1800 = 2,160,000 pixels.
(This is a 2 million pixel image or a 2 megapixel image).
This is the time it takes from the moment you press the shutter and the actual moment when the shutter opens. On many digital cameras this seems to take an eternity and can be quite annoying. On better quality cameras the problem is virtually non-existent.
Tagged Image File Format. TIFF files are uncompressed and generally of higher quality than JPEG but they take up much more space. TIFF can also slow your camera down as you wait for the camera to ‘process’ your image.
Project 1 – Portrait on Auto
Turn your camera on. Set the command dial to ‘Auto’. Take three shots of your subject.
Shot 1: Full length
Shot 2: Head and shoulders portrait
Shot 3: Close-up of their face.
Tips: No tips here. The camera is in charge. Just point and shoot.
Project 2 – Portrait in P (Program) Mode
Photographing people is fun! Capturing the personality and energy of an individual rewards both the photographer and the subject. Your task here is to achieve four shots
– full length, head and shoulders, close-up of the face only and an iconic shot.
Project 3 – Macro
Choose a very small item such as a flower, postage stamp, coin, watch face etc. Activate the macro setting on your camera (usually symbolised by a small flower). Some cameras will not focus closer than 20 cms while others can go as close as 2 cms! Check the focus by depressing the shutter button half way. Ensure the flash is turned off and get as much sunlight onto the subject as possible. Do not try to hold the subject in your hand – it needs to be stable. Use a tripod for the camera or try to stabilize the camera as much as possible. Tips:
Project 4 – Sunset using +/-
How many times has your favourite sunset shot been disappointing because the sky is washed out? Here are some tips for shooting a landscape that will result in a rich, colour-saturated sky.
Project 5 - Fill flash
Find a partner and place them so that the sun is almost directly behind their head and face. Subjects with lots of fluffy hair are likely to have interesting highlights backlighting their hair but their faces will be in deep shade. Firstly, do a shot with no adjustments and no fill flash. Now, engage fill flash and repeat the shot. Examine the difference.
Tips: Be very careful that the sunlight does not directly hit the lens on your camera. Use a shadow or shading
If you have a +/- adjustment on your flash, try decreasing your flash output by approximately 0.3 stop. This gives a more natural, balanced look to the photograph.
Project 6 - Flash off
Most flash units are only effective up to about 3 or 4 metres. Therefore, you will achieve far better exposure and tonal values by turning the flash off and using a tripod.
The ‘flash off’ mode is achieved differently in different camera makes. Usually you cycle through flash modes until you achieve a lightning flash in a circle with a slash across it. Or it may say ‘flash off’. In some makes you simply do not release the pop-up flash.
‘Flash Off’ is recommended where you have large areas of ambient light example inside a church, city street at dusk, sporting stadiums indoors.
To complete this project choose a darkish, large interior where your camera would normally fire the flash automatically.
Tip: Although a tripod is best, if you don’t have one try using a window ledge or tabletop. Alternatively, carry a small beanbag filled with wheat and nuzzle your camera into that. Use this setting in combination with time delay for optimum results.
Project 7 – Architecture
Photographing buildings and bridges gives you a great opportunity to demonstrate your composition and design skills. Architectural shots should be sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel! Full sunlight is preferable to overcast skies and try to show two sides of the building. You are required to produce a sharp, dramatic shot of an interesting building.
Tip: Try to eliminate as many distracting elements as possible such as poles, bins, cars and the like. Simplify the image. Make it bold. Use strong lines in composition.
Project 8 - Architecture detail
Your architectural detail shot requires you to study the building and select one element that represents the architectural style of the building. Example: a door, window, part of the roof, brick or stonework etc. Two shots required.
Tip: The image needs to be very sharp. Choose a flattish surface to allow you to use a larger aperture and a faster shutter speed.
Project 9 - Selective focus
This is a technique to make the subject pin-sharp and have the background and foreground out of focus. It is achieved by using the biggest aperture (smallest number) and your zoom on maximum telephoto.
Tip: An interesting application is to have a hand, finger or small item in sharp focus and a face out of focus behind.