Sunday, July 12, 2009

Digital Camera Tips?

Now that I (finally) have a digital camera---which arrived while I was in Venice---I am planning to steal AG's idea (that I suppose he stole from others) and try to keep up a photojournal with one picture a day for a year or more. (Ideally, I'll keep it up for longer, but one consecutive year is a good goal.) I am not planning to wait until January 1st to start, but I do need to practice more with my camera before I start. (That said, if any of the pictures I take in Sevilla are fantastic, I might well start right away.) In my practicing, many of my pictures have been blurry, and I am trying to adapt to holding this camera differently than I did with previously-conventional ones. Any pieces of advice for helping me with this transition?


Justin said...

I doubt the blurry pictures have anything to do with how you hold the camera. Unless you have your finger in front of the lens... :-) Try picking different modes and see if one works better. In my experience, there's usually an "auto" mode that works well most of the time, and when it doesn't the "low light" mode usually does. If the pictures are blurry no matter what you do, that could mean the shutter is slow - that killed my old camera (repair cost > cost of a new camera).

If you have friends with cats (or cats of your own) that should help with the 1 picture/day goal.

Mason said...

The pictures are not all blurry. Some of them have been great. I haven't monkeyed around too much with the modes yet, though I have started playing.

Somerville has a cat belonging to the Principle that has the run of the place. That particular cat will definitely be one of the pictures (I already took two bad pictures of him; I deleted them), but my plans when photographing individuals is that they can only be the subject of the picture-of-the-day exactly once.

Lemming said...

This one is too late, but really-small digital cameras will shake in your hands more easily, blurring the image.

Also, there's a digital camera mistake that almost EVERYONE makes at first. The "take a picture" button works differently than you're used to. A lot of people hit the button, the camera does *something*, they think the picture is taken, relax, and then notice later that the picture is blurry. Taking digital pictures is actually a two-step process.

First, once the camera knows you want to take a picture (this is assuing the AUTO mode Justin suggested), it will focus itself, check lighting, decide whether or not to flash, etc. This takes a moment, and sometimes includes a flash of light -- not a full camera flash, more like a little red flashlight (varies from camera to camera) shining from the front to assess the situation.

Then, after a moment, it's ready to take a picture. If you just hit the button, it has to do all of that, then take a picture. Sometimes people mistake the prep work for taking the picture, think they're done, and have started to drop (or at least are no longer holding steady) the camera when it actually takes the picture.

So, here's the big lesson -- you have more control than that! Practice pushing the "take a picture" button a few times with the camera off. You should find that it has a halfway point you can settle into. Pushing the button halfway tells the camera to prep. Then, once its prepped, you can push it the rest of the way and get a picture *instantly*. (You just paid for the lag up front, in a way).

There's one other thing to consider as well. Think back to every time someone has instructed someone else in firing a gun on a TV show or movie. They always say "squeeze", not "pull". If you know why, the same principle applies here.

If you hold the camera steady, and suddenly apply a force at the top, wouldn't that likely move, or even reorient, the camera just before taking the shot? Even if it's very slight, it may blur the image.

Now, instead, if you imagine *squeezing* instead (which, honestly, you're more likely to already be doing anyway), there should be less un-compensated-for force, and you'll have a steadier shot.

Lemme know if any of that doesn't quite make sense!

Also, remember that with digital, practice is cheap (just like...).

Mason said...

I purposely got a small camera, though I don't think it's really small as far as digitals go. I purposely didn't get an SLR, though, because I wanted something I could easily put in my pocket and the SLRs were more or less the size of my old camera (or even bigger).

I have taken a couple of pictures with digitals before, so I knew I couldn't just snap it. I still am getting used to the squeezing bit, but several of my pictures came out really well today. The couple of pictures I took at my party last Friday weren't that good, but even 2 of my pictures from the airplane came out well today. I am indeed using an 'auto' stabilizing mode.

It's certainly good to remember about practice being cheap. I do want to improve my skill for when I take pictures of people so that they don't need to watch me practice too much. :)

Although a couple of today's pictures are pretty nice (and of sufficiently high quality, in terms of the pictures independent of the coolness of the content), none of them seem sufficiently spectacular or cool to be the first one in my photoblog. Maybe I'll start it on this trip or maybe I want.

Thanks for the tips!