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Digital Camera Tutorial: Spring Tips

4. Flash on, flash off.

Almost all digital cameras have built-in flash for taking pictures in the dark, and these are very useful, but only in certain circumstances. Even the most powerful built-in flash has a range of only a few metres, so if your subject is further away than that the flash is going to be no use at all. In fact using the flash on out-of-range subjects will actually produce worse results, because the camera will automatically set the shutter to a faster speed, and the shot will be totally under-exposed. Even slow-sync or night portrait flash mode will not help if the subject is out of range. Leave your flash turned off until you actually need it.

5. Brace yourself.

The number one cause of unsatisfactory photos is camera shake, where the camera is moving when the picture is taken causing it to be blurred. It occurs most often when taking photos in lower light conditions, when the camera's automatic exposure system will set a slow shutter speed. Image Stabilisation systems are becoming increasingly common even in compact cameras and these do help to reduce the effects of camera shake, but they are not infallible. The best way to avoid camera shake is to use a tripod, but if you don't have one available try resting or supporting your camera on a solid surface such as a wall or table. If that isn't possible, hold the camera with both hands, tuck your elbows into your chest and stand still. Take a breath, release it, hold and shoot.

6. Light light light.

Photography is all about light, so pay attention to it. Note the direction of the light, and be particularly aware of shadows and very bright highlights. Remember that your camera isn't as good at seeing both shadow and highlight detail as your eyes are, so try to avoid having both in the same scene. If necessary take a test shot, and then use your camera's exposure compensation feature to lighten or darken the exposure to bring out detail in the shadows or avoid burning out highlights.

When shooting photos of people outdoors, try to position them so that the sun is behind you but off to one side, so that your subject is well lit, but not so that they are squinting into the sun. If you have to shoot into the light try using fill-in flash if you're close enough, or spot metering and exposure compensation if you're not.


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