Digital Camera and Photography Tips

By: Don Stephens

Digital cameras, characterized by their ability to take still photographs and store them on digital media, are commonplace today, but they began as a concept thought up by two men in two different decades. In 1961, Eugene F. Lally wrote a paper proposing that photosensors could be used to capture digital images of the stars and planets during space travel, which would help to record and determine astronauts' position. In 1972, Willis Adcock envisioned a similar type of technology, a photography device that would operate without film. But it would take a few more years for the idea of a digital camera to come to fruition. In 1975, Steven Sasson, who worked for Kodak, came up with an electronic (camera) that could transform a signal into a digital value to be stored on a memory device.

Sasson's invention paved the way for the digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR, one of the most popular types of camera today. But cameras aren't limited to just being cameras anymore. As technology has evolved, digital photography has become part of smartphones, creating a whole new generation of amateur shutterbugs.

Camera Features and Settings

If you're a beginner looking for the right camera to use, it's best to start off with a more basic model. Get one with a 18-55mm lens, which will cover a broad range of needs, from portraits to landscapes. It's also not a bad idea to buy a camera that offers automatic settings for some of the more complicated features, such as focus-tracking and exposure. For those confused by most of a camera's settings, having one that adjusts on its own can be quite helpful.

As you gain experience, you'll want to upgrade to equipment that gives you more control over settings such as the aperture, shutter speed, and focus. A more advanced DSLR camera should have the ability to customize your light sensitivity, depth of field, and image compression settings.

Taking Quality Pictures

With the powerful capabilities of a digital camera in hand, anyone can create polished, professional-looking shots. Learning how to configure some of your camera's features manually will help tremendously. First, consider the exposure setting. It's identified by a +/- button found on most cameras. Playing with the amount of light in a photo can create interesting effects, whether you're going for an angelic, whitewashed look or trying to capture a scene with little light. Another thing to keep in mind is the perspective you're taking your picture from. Most of the time, people take pictures from their eye level while standing up, but changing the perspective can make for a more interesting shot. Try getting down on the ground and shooting from that position, aiming the camera downward for a bird's-eye view, or getting very close to a subject to fill the frame. Remember that one of the biggest benefits of a digital camera is the ability to take many versions of a shot without wasting film. Play around with different techniques and ideas until you capture just the right image.

Photo Editing

Another advantage of digital technology is that photographers also have editing software at their disposal. Beginners should try out the free options available before splurging on the more expensive ones. Each one of these programs has many features built in that can help you add interesting effects to photos or just make minor tweaks. Sometimes, all you need is to make a photo brighter, add shadows and highlights, or increase the saturation of some colors to make an image more appealing. You can also crop pictures to draw the eye in on the subject and remove unwanted distractions. Feel free to play around with the capabilities of your software. There's always the "undo" option if you don't like the results.

Tutorials and More

For those looking to learn more about digital photography and improve their skills, many options are available, from college courses to helpful websites and online seminars. Whether you're a beginner or someone with more advanced skills, it's simple to find a tutorial to help you learn pretty much any aspect of photography.

General Photography Tips and Resources

One issue that many photography enthusiasts complain about is how difficult it can be to keep the camera still. Learning to hold your DSLR correctly can help fix this problem, but another tip is to use a tripod whenever possible. Once that's taken care of, remember to always keep the focal point of your photo in mind and make sure it's not being overshadowed by anything else in the frame. For instance, if you're shooting a portrait, use a simple backdrop to avoid drawing the eye away from the subject. As you become more involve in this hobby, you may also want to explore buying different types of lenses and filters. For instance, trying out a wide-angle or fish-eye lens can produce interesting results. And adding a polarizing filter to your lens can cut down on glare and cut through atmospheric haze.