Digital Pocket Camera | Digital Bridge Camera | Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera | Digital Camera Lenses
Sunsets and why we see the Colours - a Photographer's View | Hints and Tips From the H2G2 Photographers
With Digital Photography1 it has never been easier to create fabulous images. Free from the dark art of developing and printing your own work, you can also avoid the often disappointing results from film labs. No more long waits to see your work, and no more long experimental sessions in the darkroom to get the image just right (or the way you intended, which was not always the same thing!) And once you have a digital camera, a PC or laptop and a decent photo editing software package, it is free. Well, almost.
Few photographers will openly admit it, but there is a real pleasure, even pride, in sharing photographs with others, especially exhibiting in a gallery, photographic club or online. Exhibiting photographs is so much easier today now there are online storage facilities. People from around the world can share and enjoy the work of other photographers. Putting photographs online is a good way to get feedback, whether positive or negative, often including tips enabling an improvement in technique or the development of new skills.
The only thing that may be lacking is experience! The purpose of this collective Entry, from a wide variety of photographers, is to guide and assist everyone in the quest for the perfect image. Hopefully it provides some help - happy photographing!
Choosing and Buying Your Camera
Browse your favoured photographic/electronic websites late at night, as mega deals can often be posted then, such as 50-75% off. Useful for purchasing memory cards, filters, etc, too.
Mobile Phones are improving all the time, but remember: look at the size of the lens compared to that of a camera, and check whether it is plastic rather than ground, polished precision glass. Even an inexpensive camera may take a better photograph than a phone, depending which ones you have.
Buying DSLR Lenses - remember camera lenses are designed for a specific purpose, so use them for that purpose and you shouldn't be disappointed. Heard the one about the lazy man's screwdriver? It's called a hammer. Corners can be cut, using extension tubes and suchlike, but unless you know the rules, such as stopping down, slowing shutter speed, etc, don't.
Now you have bought it, insure it. This might seem obvious, but often gets overlooked. Get separate insurance cover, or don't assume it is covered by your household insurance without making sure. Check what is covered, and what the replacement value is. It is surprising how quickly the value of the equipment mounts2. Check your insurer covers it for all eventualities with no, or minimal, penalties. Also ensure a claim would be paid in cash. You don't want your four-year-old camera replacing with an outdated camera, do you? Especially when you've cherished yours by following all these tips and it's almost as good as new, whereas the replacement looks like it's just come off the pitch at Twickenham after an England-France match.
Make your camera and gear personal. Don't let it out of your sight. Wrap the strap around your leg in cafés or restaurants, carry it on your chest on public transport, take it as hand luggage when flying. Keep it close to you at all times. It only takes an instant for someone to steal it. The stories of cameras being left on car roofs, on fountains, park benches, café tables, etc, are legion.
Most of all, cherish and respect your equipment, whatever it may be, from your cleaning cloth to your camera body to your loved £1,500 telephoto zoom lens. It will give you years of pleasure and fun, and great memories to look back on in the future.
Camera Bag Ideas
For clarity a camera bag is a bag to carry cameras, lenses and equipment. A camera case is a protective cover for a single camera.
If the camera you choose does not come with a camera case, buy a good one - you will never regret it. Make sure you try it with the camera. It must be easy to lift the camera in and out; if it is too tight it will annoy you. It must be easy to use and provide good protection - looks are secondary; it's not a fashion accessory, it's got a job to do. Besides giving protection the case keeps the camera clean, dry and free of dust.
Obtain a good quality camera bag. This could be a shoulder bag or a backpack. Shop around, try them out, chat to photographers and get one that suits your requirements. And get one that is adjustable. Maybe invest in a day pack, a weekend pack, and an all-round pack, with plenty of storage. A waterproof cover is advisable.
Camera Bags Are Not Just For Cameras
Standard things you should include in your camera bag are:
- Tissues, wet wipes and cotton buds for cleaning.
- Spare batteries and film cards to keep things going.
- Filters and spare lenses for DSLR camera users.
Apart from the usual kit, here are some strange things that often come in handy:
- A couple of plastic bags - rainy and snowy scenes are great but protect that equipment! This also applies to sand and sea spray.
- A lump of blue tac or plasticine. Forgotten your tripod? Use this to stick the bottom of the camera to walls, bins, tree stumps, etc. Also handy for self-timer shots!
- A pocket knife and some bits of thin wire are useful for getting unwanted items to stay out of shot.
- A couple of pegs - useful for pinning down clothing, etc, to get the look you're after.
- A good soft brush, similar to those used to apply makeup, may seem a strange item to include but they are ideal for cleaning small areas of your camera, as are fine artist's brushes. Blue tac is also good for more stubborn marks.
Pack a small torch if you go out at night - it will be very handy to: find a lens cap if you drop it in the dark; change the lens; see the focus numbers on the lens; or change a memory card or a roll of film.
Pack a poncho or emergency cape in your bag. They take up little space, weigh hardly anything and are handy on a day out when that sudden thunder burst or squall threatens. They protect your camera and make ideal groundsheets.
A large carrier bag is very useful to sit/lie on, and also doubles as a lining if your camera bag is not already waterproof.
Save those sachets of silica gel that are often thrown away and put some in your bag. They are marvellous at drying kit out on a wet day, or a hot, humid day. They are especially useful when going around a botanical greenhouse in the winter, when the camera is cold and condensation hits you with a vengeance - it could damage your equipment if it's not dried off quickly. Bake the sachets every so often to dry them out.
Always pack your camera away. It is amazing how much dust can collect on a camera slung over a chair back over a weekend.
Travelling With Your Camera
If you travel by car don't leave your camera on the back seat - it could roll off when you apply the brakes. If you are going to stop occasionally to photograph the journey then you can keep your camera handy by shortening the shoulder strap and hanging it from the headrest on the rear seats. If you must use the front seat it is better to hang your camera on the back of the seat on a very short strap.
Leave the case at home! Use one for transportation, if necessary, but they are an encumbrance when out and about. They get in the way, or get left behind, or you fight with them to get your camera out and miss the shot.
I have carried cameras when doing walks and bike rides, usually my SLR although it isn't always practical to cycle with such a large camera...
Air travel beware!
When travelling by air, these exact same items [pegs etc] when X-rayed along with the electronic components of your kit will, trust me, look exactly like an explosive device on the security screen. Pack them separately or leave them at home!
Photography in Practice
Good Ideas and Habits
Never take only one picture. Always take at least three or more (easy to do nowadays with digital cameras) so you can choose the best one later. This is especially important if you take photos outside, on holidays, at a family party or wherever else they are not reproducible. It's different if you make a picture of, say, some kind of object at home where you can take the picture, look at it on the computer, make adjustments and take another picture and so on.
If you can review images there and then, do so. When you're back home and find out that you've cropped the top or bottom off something it's not always as easy to go back and take another set of pictures.
I've got a small netbook I can hook the camera into and quickly check the shots on.
If your camera has a fixed LCD display or you have difficulty using the eye-piece for low-level shots, try an angled eyepiece attachment. Inexpensive, and great for older photographers, or those with bad backs or knees.
If you don't have the money for a macro lens, purchase magnifying lenses. ×1, ×2 and ×3 should be adequate, but be aware you might need to f-stop down (use a smaller aperture) and beware of vignetting (a gradual fall off of brightness around the edges of a photograph - the further from the middle of the image you look, the more apparent it becomes).
When using a tripod in windy conditions, attach your camera bag to the base of the central section to provide stability. Carry a small allen key or equivalent. They are very useful for tightening tripod/monopod shoes onto cameras, especially if the tripod and camera are being carried over the shoulder. The cameras can have a tendency to loosen, especially over rough terrain.
Tired of carting a heavy tripod around? Invest in a wrap-around knobbly tripod that can wrap around poles, tree branches etc. Ensure you get the right size, though. One designed for a compact camera is no good for a DSLR with zoom lens and could prove very expensive.
Carry a large white piece of card and pegs, to obscure foliage, etc, and use as a backdrop when photographing individual flowers or other still objects.
Protect the rear LCD screen on your camera with an off the peg self adhesive shield. You can find them in good stores.
To prevent glare on the LCD view display, attach a business card or similar to the hot shoe (the place where a flash unit can be attached) by blue tac, to overhang the display. Alternatively, take a piece of card, crease to the shape of the display and make a rectangular 'tube', sealing with tape. This will act like a Victorian photographer's cape to remove glare.
Tired of losing lens caps? Buy some thin elastic, and get a small awl or a hole punch. Make a hole in the lens cap. Feed the elastic through, so the lens cap is in the centre of the strand, then tie a knot and seal the knot with superglue. Measure off around 6" (15cm) and make a loop that is just tight enough to go around the lens. Tie another knot and again seal it with superglue. Let it dry!3 No more lost lens caps. However, when using the camera, you may need to move the elastic to prevent it appearing in the photograph. Hold the lens cap out of the way in windy conditions.
Purchase a multi spirit level that fits on the hot shoe. This saves having to straighten photographs later.
If you don't have a camera with wireless download facility, consider looking at the range of new wireless SD Cards. According to the makers they make your camera wireless, so you can upload photos and videos to a computer straight away. Sounds good - no more fiddling with downloads.
If you take a lot of photographs, edit ruthlessly. Delete duplicates and any that are out of focus, and file them on the PC by subject, year and month. File events such as holidays, weddings, etc, separately.
If you are on a trip, note where you took your photos. You may find it hard to remember where you took each shot some time later. A geo tag camera is useful, but a pen and notebook is just as good. It's easy; you just need to note the date and the places in order - the date tag on a digital image will do the rest. If you later delete some images, don't forget to edit your notes.
Blind Shots - don't be afraid to take an occasional 'blind shot' holding the camera over your head and taking a picture of something you cannot see yourself. Sometimes you will discover a great photo, such as an image of Plymouth Harbour that one Researcher did not remember taking – it was a 'blind shot'.
To maximise the quality of your photographs (working on the assumption you are going to edit them later, or, if you don't have the software now, will be editing them in the future) take photographs in both JPEG and RAW formats. Most good cameras will let you do this. JPEGs are good for uploading on to media sites and/or sending in e-mails, while RAW is the best for editing or printing without losing quality.
Always carry a camera, even if it is just a compact or bridge. You are then always ready for that opportunity.
After I had a few 'near misses' I bought one of the new Dash Cams for the car. As all insurance companies seem to settle for a 50/50 result, even it's not your fault, so the footage can prove your innocence. It works a treat, stops folk pulling out in front of me, and cutting me up on roundabouts. The best is it stops drivers from coming up right close behind me, they see the camera, and back off thinking it's an unmarked police car. You can get one quite reasonably, that still gives you a full H/D 1080 picture, is a good investment.
Practise Good Photography - Frame Your Shots
Modern cameras with telephoto zooms, digital displays and built-in rule-of-third grids try to make life as easy as possible for the amateur photographer. However clever your equipment, there is still the matter of composition. What you see in your mind's eye may be slightly lacking when it comes to the final print.
Choose an interesting background - detail cleverly framed will lead your eye into the main shot. Try to avoid 'false projections' where something in the background appears to grow like antlers out of your subject's head!
However, sometimes negative space, where nothing interesting at all features, will show off your shot much better than a cluttered background - an old tree standing alone in a flat field for example. No background detail is best if you want all eyes on a single subject.
Point Of View is important - a boring shot from eye level can be transformed into a great picture by getting higher or lower than the subject. Vehicles and animals taken from ground level loom out of the shot, children shot from above appear innocent whilst the same child photographed from below looks a little more like the cheeky rascal they probably are!
Experiment - review your pictures with an outsider's eyes and try the same shot from different points of view; you may be surprised at the results.
Special Camera Accessories
Lens Adapter Rings
Lens Adaptor rings allow you to use another maker's lens on your SLR or DSLR camera body. For example, with an adaptor you can use older 35mm Minolta SLR lenses on the new Digital X series Fuji cameras.
Hot Shoe Flash and other flash systems have to some extent been replaced by the pop up flash fitted on the new digital cameras. This inbuilt flash will cope with over 75% of all situations that need extra light. Now a hot shoe for a flash unit tends to be only found on the more upmarket and professional cameras. If you require a specialist flash unit for studio, experimental or close-up work consult your dealer for advice on the best equipment for your needs.
Round Glass Filters - there are various kinds that are worth investing in. A plain neutral UV filter will protect the lens from dust, fingermarks and other damage. It is also easier and safer to clean than your cameras lens. A lens cap will fit on this filter so it will rarely have to come off. Other round glass filters can produce polarizing, optical and colour effects to enhance your photographs.
Square Plastic Filters are tougher than glass and hard to scratch4. These have two advantages over the glass filter. The first is the cost. Secondly, some of these filters can be moved in front of the lens to create various effects. Particularly useful are the graduated filters which have a strong tint at the top that fades to nothing at the bottom. Excellent for toning down bright skies or sunsets, or reducing glare from water or snow. Another useful one is the polarizing filter, which is like sunglasses for your lens on very bright days. It also reduces the adverse effects of reflected sunlight.
Safe storage is an important issue. It seems that photographers are less concerned with the safety of images than during the film era, often placing digital media in the hands of others to store online. Is it the huge volume we produce or the fact it's so inexpensive to produce that we become more careless, putting so many images in one place? Safe storage is becoming less commonplace, as are photographic prints. Photographers may find storage becoming a big issue in the future.
Image Storage In Camera
A number of 2Gb, 4Gb and 8Gb memory cards are better than a 32Gb or 64Gb card in case they fail - you won't lose all your pictures then. Instances of the sliding safety lock on the card breaking, so the photos can be downloaded but the card is otherwise useless, are not uncommon either.
Memory cards that are large but not too large also help when you have to find your images. Several smaller ones are more useful; you might like to buy several different cards from good makers so you can identify the contents more quickly.
If you use continuous shooting mode, images will first be stored in your camera's memory buffer. Once the buffer is full, an image needs to be transferred to the memory card before another picture can be taken. Purchase the fastest card you can afford. There is nothing worse than having to wait for photographs to upload when you want to rattle off a number of shots at once.
It is a good idea to store pictures on a separate hard drive (HDD) but file with care. It is unwise to only store files on your PC as it might malfunction.
There many types of portable hard drives that can assist you with your storage. The best prospect for problem-free storage is one of the SSD or solid state hard drives. One Researcher uses two 1 terabyte plug and play HDD units with very satisfactory results.
Image Storage at Home
What price a moment of forever? In the days of film we probably all started out meticulously filing our negatives, putting billions of prints in albums and, for those that way inclined, carefully slotting slides into fiddly holders. Later on most of those relics probably ended up crumpled up, tea stained or consigned to dusty boxes in the loft/attic/shed.
As photographers, we are now faced with a new dilemma - how to store thousands of digital images safely and securely. No more bits of paper and cellulose but something a lot trickier because you can't physically put them in a box in the loft!
If the memory card is full, the first stop is usually to take up huge amounts of memory on your PC or laptop. Floppy discs, then CDRs, and now external hard drives are available, but digital storage has never been foolproof, or cheap.
Name and tag your photographs as soon as possible, and upload them to your preferred storage site or viewing platform quickly. Do not delay. One Researcher did delay and now has 40,000 photographs to sort, tag, add location and upload on to Flickr.
Discs can get scratched or corrupted. Sooner or later your computer will go into sulk mode when it gets full up. External storage has a habit of overheating and going bang. Bye bye all those photos you've spent blood, sweat and tears obtaining.
Some websites offer free hosting, Flickr for example, gives you a huge space to upload images (either publicly or privately); these are great as a back up plan and there's no loss of resolution or image quality and size. Put photos on Facebook however and they are automatically resized to fit the site - if you need to download a copy the quality can be appalling compared to the original. Shop around and see what suits your needs.
Personally after several heartbreaking encounters with corrupted/damaged discs and several hard drives and computers that have gone up in smoke, sending thousands of photos into oblivion, I tend to opt for the belt, braces and stout bit of rope approach.
File the important stuff on disc, copy to hard drive, upload to a hosting site and pray that at least one moment of forever will survive the test of time; either that or get a bigger loft space and go back to paper!
I just transferred all my photos onto DVD discs, then wrote on the disc all the details, year taken, and so on. And as for transferring my old slides onto the computer, I simply bought a 'photo scanner' from a supermarket a few years ago; you can also transfer your film negatives through that scanner as well. It's a great piece of kit.
Online Galleries, Photo and Storage Sites
As for uploading to storage sites, there are plenty to choose from, and some, for a price, will give unlimited storage. Maybe select two or three - one for photographs just for personal use, a second for general photographs and a third for premium shots or portfolios.
Flickr - this offers a generous 1tb of storage, with the option to set up folders for different collections.
Google Panoramio had a good community giving you plenty of feedback, plus all picture views were noted so you could judge your abilities. Google Maps could use your photos as Google Earth references - it's nice to see your images pop up on the map. The full copyright of any image was retained by you the photographer. The other big plus was you met people online - folks from around the world chatted there about photography and their homeland. This has now been merged into Google+, which gives you a free allowance with a Google account.
Photobucket gives you 2Gb of free space.
Canon Irista provides 10Gb of free space.
It is strongly recommended that you check the Internet for sites of this kind; there is a wide choice and some offer extra facilities such as editing and album storage.
Camera Safety Tips
Take care when pointing the camera at the Sun as it may damage your eyes and the camera.
Be aware of your surroundings. When trying to get the best shot, look where you are going and pay attention to traffic. Don't fall into or fall over kerbs, fences, holes and other obstacles.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
If Researchers could go back in time, what camera tips would we give ourselves?
Don't use the cloth you clean your glasses with to clean your lenses - it will transfer grease onto the lens and it will be difficult to remove. Do not use tissues either. A certain Department Store, that also has its own supermarket chain, sell micro-cloths in a small bag with a clip-attachment that can be fixed on your camera strap so it is always handy.
Have a number of charged batteries with you, especially in cold weather when they can drain rapidly. Non-branded ones are usually as good as branded, but experience states not to go for the cheapest.
Don't swing a Kodak disc (or any other) camera around and around on the end of a strap, as it will break (mind you, it became obsolete pretty much instantly anyway - still, not the best point in my childhood).
Pay very close attention to the camera bag strap when climbing Arthur's Seat.
Don't let your toddler children bury your digital camera in the sand while you're not looking, as it'll never be the same again...
Don't take the D-SLR down that water ride see if the theme park has a locker instead.
I would also tell my granddad to double check he's taken the lens cap off. The number of photos he took of the inside of his lens cap...
Photo Manipulation or Post Shot Processing
Imagination is the only limit to post processing or photo manipulation.
There are three basic questions people ask about software such as Photoshop.
The standard: Can you make me look younger, thinner, taller?
The slightly more ambitious: Can you put me on stage with Ozzy Osbourne, or on the bridge of the Enterprise, or using a Creatinator?
The extreme: Can you have me riding a snow tiger, naked with an umbrella? Can you make me into a vampire sitting on an ancient tomb while wolves sit at my feet? Can you put him riding a pink horse leading a tortoise, holding a microphone with a My Little Pony?
Photo Manipulation Software
Is photo manipulation worth the effort? The short answer is 'yes'. With a little know how and many many hours of messing around with multiple photographs, you can achieve some great results - you are only limited by your imagination! Start with easy stuff like selective colouring (basically a black and white shot that has a splash of colour). Soon you will be creating solar systems and fractal tigers or putting donkeys in blue sheepskin sleeping bags! Good luck and set your mind free!
I have a 12 Megapixel camera, (that was the strongest one at the time I bought it). The first thing I noticed was that on a PC I could zoom in and make what was an average photo into a really good one by cropping it after zooming in. I have even done that to some photos taken from old slides, taken way back in the '70s. I scanned them into the computer, and made them look a lot better. I was really amazed at just what could be done with them, considering that I'm not a photographer or a computer wizard.
Start with a fairly basic program to try out what these programs are capable of. Windows Photo supplied with Windows 8 is very good at basic editing and colour manipulation but that's all. To advance to the next level you will need more advanced software. This program you will have to pay for; they are all good, but some are easier to use than others, so choose carefully. Some well known Photo Manipulation Software packages are listed below.
Windows has some very nice editing tools that are easy to use, for example Photo Viewer in Windows 8 and Windows 10 - do try them and you will be pleased you did.
Photoshop is good for basic editing, plus there are also many plug ins and add ons available, including those from Redfield, AlienSkin and Topaz, to take your photos to the next level. Choose a system to suit your budget and the type of final images you are aiming to produce.
DeviantArt contains brushes and loads of brilliant ideas to create artwork. Also the often stunning tutorials on 10 steps deserve a mention - very good for beginners to learn some great effects.
There's also a surprising number of free apps such as PicsArt that can give you a taste of photo manipulation, whether its silly photo booth kids' stuff or differing filter effects to try out.
There are many Photo Manipulation Software packages available that offer a trial version. Search the Internet and you will find many excellent examples.
Camera Clubs, Photo Societies, Brand Name Owners Clubs
Camera Clubs, Photo Societies, Brand Name Owners Clubs, the list is endless when it comes to joining others with the same interests.
Most towns, cities and villages will have a camera club of some description, advertised in the local papers or pinned to a community hall or library notice board.
Once upon a time (and it may very well still be the case) most camera clubs welcomed newcomers with open arms and the propensity to bore the same newcomers to death with technical jargon or statistics about their latest bit of kit. Slide shows and talks by local pros and semi pros seemed to feature at least monthly, and the obligatory trudge to the local park/beach/hill was a weekly event. Clubbing together to hire a professional live model was the highlight of the year, especially for the more dubious members! Camera clubs sadly developed the same public distrust as train spotters!
That said, there are some great clubs - ask around or simply pop in. Adult colleges, community centres and others often run evening classes in introductory photography or put on exhibitions, all with the hope of attracting new members to their associated clubs.
With the advent of the Internet and digital photography, many small clubs now have a global audience to present their landscapes to and don't have to wait till the second Tuesday of every month to show off their work.
With instant feedback and thousands of sites offering tuition and advice, the need and desire to actually attend a club has dwindled for the average snapper. There will always be clubs, there will always be photographers seeking dialogue with real life people, on the same beach or in the same village hall, and long may they continue, but many many thousands now turn to the web.
The choice of sites is in itself staggering, and the content within those sites even more so. There are still the modern equivalents of brand name owners clubs, as well as clubs or groups devoted to millions of aspects of photography.
If your desire is to photograph wildlife there's a group out there. Are you specialising in photographing ice cream? Well there's a group for you too! Everything from sports shots to pictures of the various English postboxes, or from American choppers to Australian shoe shops. However, a word of warning to parents of younger photographers: please make sure you have an online safety filter applied, as even the most reputable sites may contain adult content.
There are also pay-to-join societies, professional organisations and competition groups for all types of photographer or digital artist. Enter your funny cat pic at the local Village Hall fête or upload the shot to the World Photography Organisation annual awards? As photographers we are truly spoilt for choice and can find inspiration, advice and appreciation 24/7 from our global peers.
So if you feel the need to escape to a Scout Hut every other Tuesday and sit through Colin's slide shows, that's great - no sugar in mine please... but from the comfort of your own living room you can probably find his stuff online and the coffee's better!
Another option is to subscribe to a Camera magazine.
These have always been there, like Practical Photographer that I remember from my youth. Flicking through, when on my paper round, in the hope there was an article on Glamour Photography (come on, I was 14!)
Now there are loads of magazines. Some are general, some specific, even camera-specific. They often include DVDs giving training, as well as Photoshop tips etc. One annual subscription is often enough as, after that, they tend to duplicate the information.
Also online courses help out, often at discounted prices. One Researcher bought one, reduced from £499 to £19, for 42 sessions. For life.
There are also weekend courses, or evening courses that are, again, often specialised - for beginners, intermediates, night shoots, landscape, portrait, glamour, etc.
As an aside, it can be useful to speak to other photographers when out.
While out photographing mushrooms, my girlfriend got in conversation with a fellow photographer, with the same brand of camera, and learnt a great deal about macro photography in half an hour.
Other Useful H2G2 Camera Entries
Digital Camera Entries
- A Beginner's Guide To Digital Cameras
- The Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR)
- The Digital Bridge Camera
- The Digital Pocket Camera
- Digital Camera Lenses
Other Camera Entries and Techniques
- Simple Tips for Taking Good Photographs
- Photographic Lenses
- Photographic Metering
- Night Photography
- The Black and White Photography Process
- The Nikon F3 Camera
- Wedding Photography
- How to Enjoy Visiting Historical Sites