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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 12 Issue 12
December 2018
11 Simple Ways To Take Better Digital Photos and Videos

While digital camera technology has improved a lot over the years, it's still a good idea to have some understanding of the basics of photography.

I am not an expert photographer, but here are a few simple techniques that I've learned which you can use to take better digital photos and videos with your iPhone, iPad, Android, or digital camera.
  • Pay attention to the lighting: Low light or bright light often ruined my photos ("solid black" or completely washed out photos were my specialty) until I found that indirect lighting often worked better. I now avoid visible hotspots and glare, so I turn any lamps away and keep any bright overhead lights and direct sunlight out of the shot.
  • Hold the camera steady: Handheld is generally the least steady, but there are two-handed techniques that you can practice. Bracing your camera against a doorframe, bookcase, chair, table, tree, etc. can definitely help, using a tripod is even better.
  • Choose the highest resolution you can: Your photos will have more pixels per inch (analogous to "thread count" in bedsheets), giving you higher quality, as well as more options later if you decide to enlarge the image. On the other hand, your images will take up more space (megabytes), but with the very large capacity of modern camera cards (and the cost of storage so low), storage size is rarely a concern.
  • Similarly, try the HDR (High Dynamic Range) option on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch (and some Androids), especially with a subject with a wide range of light and dark areas, like a blue house in the foreground with white clouds behind. It blends the best of three photos taken quickly at different exposures (consuming more storage) in order to avoid underexposing one part of the photo while overexposing another.
  • Focus: Learn how to tell your device which part of your subject to focus on; the exact technique depends on the device and the software.
  • Detail vs. overview: Move closer (or zoom in) to your subject, or move farther away (or zoom out).
  • Motion: If you know that your subject will be moving (or getting blown around by the wind, pushed around by ocean waves, etc.), find out how to handle this with your particular device so you'll be prepared.
  • Practice in advance, under similar conditions, as much as you can.
  • Don't let the complexity of your camera overwhelm you. Learn the basics, and then only tackle the fancier features as you need them.
  • Learn more: Take a class, read about photography online, join a photography club.
  • Take many more photos than you think you'll need. The more shots you take, the more likely you'll capture some good ones, and the more you may learn about what works and what doesn't. And unlike a film camera, there's no extra cost for film or developing.
I also recommend that you:
  • Plan on spending some time after you shoot to separate the "good" shots from the "not-so-good" (blurry, overexposed, too dark, subjects had their eyes closed, etc.).
  • The longer you leave the only copies of your valuable photos in your camera or on an SD card, the more you risk losing them, so back up your photos frequently, from your camera into your computer (which in turn should have a thorough, scheduled computer backup system). Once you're sure that your photos are safely transferred to your computer, delete them from the camera or card to make room for more, and to avoid copying duplicates into your computer the next time.
However, I don't recommend storing photos (or any other data) "in the cloud," especially if it's the only copy of that data. On the other hand, sharing a medium or large collection of photos with friends or family by uploading copies to a photo-sharing website is far easier than by email.

Where to go from here
  • The more you can learn, practice, and plan your photography in advance, the better prepared you'll be to capture the moment, including the unexpected or improvised.
  • Google: take better photos
  • Add to that Google search the model name of your smartphone, tablet, or digital camera to get advice specific to your device.
  • Or, add adjectives describing the particular situation or subject you're shooting, e.g., indoors, outdoors, sports, low light or nighttime, bright sunlight, portraits, landscapes, birds, flowers, water, reflections, clouds, stormy weather, spider webs, etc.
  • Or, add adjectives describing the camera feature you want to try, e.g., taking multiple shots quickly, focus, flash, film speed (like ISO), f-stop, zoom, wide angle, panorama, etc., and you should probably also include the word "digital" to avoid finding advice purely intended for film cameras.
  • Google: share photos with friends and family
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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