The secrets of taking good pictures: Camera, action

By TOM LANGFORD
August 16, 2011 17:45

The camera is often the least important component in creating a wonderful image, and the last link in a long chain called photography.

3 minute read.



With Auto Flash (illustrative)

Photography example 311. (photo credit: Tom Langford )

Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website designer.

Photographers know that the secret of taking Good pictures is that you take them with your head - the camera is merely a tool that records whatever it's pointed at. It's often the least important component in creating a wonderful image, and the last link in a long chain called photography.  

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The technology has changed enormously over the last 180 years but all you can ever do with a camera is to point and shoot it. Good Pictures are created by the artistry, vision, knowledge and experience of the photographer, not the equipment used to capture it.   Whatever the equipment used it will only take snaps unless you understand and practice the five steps involved in creating a Good Picture.    

Using a compact digital camera 

The compact digital family camera is an excellent tool for taking Good Pictures but it can be confusing to use because of all the modes, settings, menus and sub-menus. Be warned that the worst place to look for advice on how to use it is the camera manual. This is for reference purposes only. 

I find very few of the cameras many features useful for creative photography. For snaps, of course, Auto is fine, but when you have the chance to take a Good Picture, I advise switching off the flash.  

The Auto flash fires when the light level is low and sets the shutter speed to about 1/60th second so that the picture will not be blurred. This is fine for snaps but ruins how the scene actually looks in front of you.  

With Auto Flash
With Auto Flash

Without Auto Flash
With Auto Flash turned off

After switching off the flash you will need to hold the camera steady. Use anything sturdy that is close by: a wall, post, table, chair, etc. If there is nothing handy to support the camera then stand upright and bend your knees slightly to help steady your balance.  

Use the pad of the finger, rather than the tip, to gently squeeze the shutter button. This causes less movement of the camera and results in sharper pictures. 

Breathing causes movement of the chest and arms, so hold your breath briefly as you take the shot. And take at least three shots if possible - you can choose the sharpest later. 

Many compact cameras have an image stabilisation feature that may help, but you cannot rely on this to give sharp pictures. The camera will also adjust the sensitivity of the imaging chip, your "digital film", to give you faster shutter speeds in lower light. This Auto ISO feature is useful too, but without taking the simple precautions I have outlined you can end up with blurred pictures.  

It is often more important to know these simple, practical techniques that photographers use when handling a camera rather than fiddling with buttons and menus.

Send me your picture 

If you are aspiring to develop your photography skills, send me a picture and I will publish one at the end of my next article with some constructive feedback. 
Send one picture only, at a reduced size to jpost@langford.co.il 

Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website designer. He teaches photography courses for beginners and advanced. Details of his courses and field trips at: www.langford.co.il/courses 


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