The first topic is "Exposure". Exposure is the amount of light it takes for a camera to receive to capture an image onto film or digital medium.
The amount of light it takes to make a proper exposure is controlled two ways; 1) Time, 2) the Apperature or lens opening.
Now I know that most people will just put their camera on the automatic setting and let the camera worry about the exposure. That is okay most of the time but, there are some instances when it is best to adjust the camera settings to make sure that you will get a proper exposure to capture the image the way you intend to capture it.
The controlled "Time" for the exposure is the shutter speed. The shutter opens and then closes for a specific amount of time when the shutter button is depressed. Thus, letting in the desired amount of light needed for the exposure.
The apperature is the lens opening. The lens has several set points/openings. These are called F-stops and they control how much light is let in through the lens for the exposure. The lens openings ( F-stops) also control the depth of field that will be obtained in a photograph.
The depth of field is the portion of the photograph that is focus. For example; when you have focused on your subject the lens opening will determine how many feet past and in front of your subject will be in focus, or that will not be blurred. The smaller the lense opening the more of the picture is in focus. The larger the opening the less depth of field you have.
To simplify, if you are taking pictures of a wide area it would be best to set your camera on the landscape setting. If you are taking a portrait type of photograph of one or two people then put the camera on portrait.
It is best to experiment with your camera along with the manual for all the different settings and uses there of. Getting yourself totally acclimated to all the different settings that you have on your camera will pay off in the long run for you to make photographs that you will truly be proud of. It took me a little while to get used to it myself. These digital cameras have a lot more settings on them than the old 35mm that I was used to.
In my opinion your lighting set-up or light available is probably the most crucial aspect of obtaining a good photograph. Shadows, and artificial lighting will be an important factor in obtaining a good photograph as well.
When taking pictures outside never take a photograph of a subject when facing the sun unless you are taking a picture of a sunset or the sun coming up.
When facing the sun the camera will read the light coming from the sun and not the light at or around your subject. Thus, your subject will come out dark and you won't be able to see your subject clearly. Now if your trying to take a picture of someone in front of a sunset then use your flash. Your camera should have a setting on it for "Force Flash". This makes your camera use the flash even if the amount of light that the camera reads says that it doesn't need a flash. When you use the flash in this situation your subject will be highlighted by the flash and you will get the sunset too.
Try not to ever have your subject facing the sun either. This will cause them to squint and doesn't make a nice picture either. Instead, have the sun coming slightly over your shoulder but somewhat to the side. This gives you good lighting and doesn't have your subject looking straight into the sun. Even when taking pictures of subjects other than people, you will get the best results when the sun is somewhat behind you and not in front of you.
You will also want to pay attention to shadows, especially across the face of your subject. If your have a very nice setting or background that you would like to use but there are too many harsh shadows that cover your subject use your flash. Your flash will take out the shadows off of your subject but you will still get the setting you want in the background. This is called " Fill Flash".
Most people don't realize how much better their photographs would turn out if they use their flash more when outdoors on a bright sunny day. When the sun is bright the shadows are darker and can just ruin a good photograph. Use your flash more I think you will be happy with the results.
One of the hardest things for anyone to do is to learn how to use their flash well. Anytime you are trying to get a picture at night using your flash the main thing to remember is the flash on most cameras today are not strong enough. Most flashes won't reach anymore than an average of seven feet, and even then, they still won't work well when you have a subject and have nothing behind them for the flash to bounce off of. A flash needs something to bounce off of to get a good exposure. For instance, it is hard to get a good photograph of someone standing in a boat holding a fish at night. The best thing you can do, if in that situation, is to have them sit down and you stand up. This changes the angle tremendously but, it brings some of the boat into play to use as a backdrop and to get bounce back from the flash for a better exposure. Better yet if you have a boat with a fold down top, pull it up halfway and create a backdrop with it. This will give more surface for the flash to reflect off of for a better clearer exposure. But, don't try and use more lighting such as a flashlight or spot lights to give yourself more light. The camera will read that you have more light and will adjust itself according to how much light you already have and it will adjust it's exposure settings and you will not get the picture you desire.
In a reverse situation when your taking pictures at night of someone and you get up real close to them to make sure you get enough light from your flash, if you don't have a back drop then your subject will come out white and everything behind them is dark.
When taking pictures indoors and your camera does not call for a flash, look to see if your facing a window. Like outside when facing the sun the camera will read the bright light coming through the window and your subject will come out dark with a lot of light behind them. Also remember that even indoors the flash is still only good for about 7 to ten feet and will not reach across a large room to get a good clear picture, such as in a gymnasium or concert hall or even a large living room.
One other important thing. When using the telephoto or zoom feature on your camera, the further you zoom in the less light you will be receiving through your lens for your exposure. So, if taking pictures at night or indoors try to refrain from using the zoom feature because this knocks down the effectiveness of your flash. If you can't use the zoom feature in order to get enough light for your exposure you can always crop the picture with your photo editing program later and still have the same exposure that you captured in the photo.
There are two ways to crop your pictures. One is with the camera and the other with a photo program.
When taking pictures with your camera make sure you fill up your view finder or LCD with your subject but don't cut off their heads or anything you want in the picture but, try to eliminate all dead space.
USING A PHOTO EDITING PROGRAM
When you've taken a picture and you realize that you did not frame it well with the camera you can fix that with a photo editing program. There are a lot of photo editing programs on the web and even a few pretty good ones you can download for free.
If you need a photo editing program try to pick out one that is simple to use but that has all the features that you want or need.
When cropping just take out all the dead space and get your subject as tight as possible in the frame without taking away from the artistic value or balance of the picture. Just remember, if your going to print it out and put it in a frame you will need to leave enough space around your subject as to not cut anything off when it is put in the frame.
Most photo editing programs have an auto-enhancing feature on them. This automatically adjusts the gamma, contrast, and brightness of a photograph when selected if the program deems it necessary to do so. Sometimes when you select the auto enhance feature nothing happens. This is because the program rated the exposure correct. If you are still unsatisfied with the photograph you can do some adjusting on your own.
The gamma in a photograph is similar to the brightness and contrast of it.
You can select gamma adjustment and adjust it either direction and adjust your picture to your liking or to where the picture is clearest.
I always adjust the gamma in a photograph before I try to adjust the brightness and contrast.
If a picture seems flat in its tones try adjusting the contrast until you improve your photograph. Just don't over do it.
When a photo comes out too dark you can adjust the brightness and make the photo more visible. Just be careful. Lighting up a photograph too much and then printing it out ends up just wasting ink and paper.
Some programs will have a fill flash or spot flash feature. I like this feature because if I forgot to pay attention to shadows I can use this feature to get them out or I can move the lighting around to balance the picture better.
Most of all with an editing program it takes a little practice to get used to it and be able to edit your photos with ease. The more you play with it the better you will get. What I do to keep from messing up a photograph is make a copy of the original and then play with the copy. That way if I mess up I still got the original.
I hope I haven't further confused anyone but have helped and given a good understanding to all in what to look for and how to set up to make a good clear photograph. I very much enjoy seeing everyone's pictures and their big fish in their avatars, and I hope that this article will help everyone in their everyday attempt at being a photographer.
If I can help in any way with any other photography problems feel free to PM me. I will try and help all that I can. If I can't answer your questions I know several people in the B.O.C. that make a living with the camera and I'm sure we can find an answer for any of your questions.
Thank you all for making the BOC such a wonderful site.