Better Photos With Your Point And Shoot Before Buying SLR
We live in a culture obsessed with better stuff. We are reliant on the purchase of technological advances to better our lives. From a marketing perspective, this is perfect business in action for big companies; the lazier consumers get, the more stuff they get to sell us.
One of these 'niches' is digital camera photography, as many consumers chase camera features, such as the size of megapixels, over learning the actual skills to improving their photography skills. Sure, we all know that size matters; Columbia University's 'Alice' has already clarifed that. Question is, is the extra £500-£1000 price tag on an SLR or fancy camera worth the upgrade?
Now the instinctive answer is 'yes'. You get what you pay for. And SLR cameras are awesome, especially if you got enough bankroll to bag yourself a Canon 5D MKII (and if you do, you can stop reading this already). But for those of us with skint pockets, the best option to improve our pics may be to better our skills instead of being sucked into the Megapixel Myth.
For the modern day 'prosumer', here are a few things you may or may not know already about making the most out of your photos with your existing point and shoot:
1.Remember the rule of thirds. This is a simple compositional technique that differentiates the amateurs from the pros. It's easy to implement immediately. You simply divide the image into 9 imaginary parts, and simply place your subject at the intersection splitting the picture into 1/3 and 2/3 dimensions (a more detailed explanation on Wikipedia, and here). Most cameras have grids that make this super easy, which you have to manually switch on. Remember to refocus on your subject before centering the camera (unless you have one of those fancy 'face recognition' cameras that actually work).
2. Software. Most of us have Photoshop, Picasa, or a variety of the standard consumer photo editing software. But if you enjoy applying modern technology to photography, you're missing out if you've never tried HDR. Never heard of HDR (high dynamic range) photography? Check out this link to 35 Fantastic HDR Picture from Smashing Magazine. It takes some practice to get right (initially you may find that your photos appear somewhat 'fake'). Free HDR software help speed up the learning curve. Photomatix, in my opinion, is one of the better ones.
3. Hardware. Most of us watch Bond, but not all of us can affording ditching the instructions before we point and shoot (no pun intended). A quick flip through the manual before dumping it in the attic along with the box could point out some hidden functionalities that you may have missed, including the technical specifications for say Canon’s CHDK firmware hack, which allows room for ultra-high speed photography, very long exposure times, time lapse photography, and RAW capture. Our good friends over at Lifehacker have already ran an article covering how to do that, so we won’t bother repeating the instructions. Point is, that even cheap cameras often have features beyond the standard preset functions that could improve your photos, perhaps even beyond the quality of the basic lens kit that came with your SLR.
4.Focus on the big picture. Eliminate distracting backgrounds. We usually try to capture everything, but like a good web designer, it's often not about what 'looks good' but what is the 'right' thing to do. So the next time you want to take a photo , try choosing a simple background over a fancy one, and place your subject in front of that. Where this is not possible, try moving closer to the subject, and crop out distractions behind them.
5. Framing and lighting. For those of you wishing to go even further, you can easily create a sense of depth and scale to your pictures, making them look more interesting. Frame the object with something naturally around it, such as an opening of trees or a wall. Most snapshots include the middleground and background, but you can create a sense of depth by also including a foreground object. It doesn't even matter if it is blurred, it will still give the illusion of depth. One way to avoid this, is to take their picture where there is a nice even light. This can just be out of direct sunlight, or under the shade of a tree. In fact, overcast days are great for creating a soft even light. The British weather is good for something, after all.
6. Get a Good Value For Money Camera. Last but not least, if you're on the hunt for a good value camera, check out deals via HUKD from your fellow readers:
- 1. Canon Powershot A470 Digital Camera (7MP) £50 at Jessops [millarcat]
- (Similar product is also available at Argos for £49.98 [cycleman])
- 2. Canon Powershot A460 Digital Camera (5MP) £ 11.66 at Sainsbury. [lbl-lazeyboys]
- 3. Samsung i8 Digital Camera (8MP) £83.94 at Bargaincrazy [millarcat]
- 4. Samsung / GE / Kodak Digital Cameras all only £49.99 each at Play [rounderdvds]
Finally, I'm sure many of you have even more knowledge and experience with photography as I am no professional. We're all here to learn, so please feel free to suggest your own tips/advice if you have any in the comments below.