Digital Photography Techniques – New Equipment, New Skills

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Any musician over the age of 35 knows the steps you have to go through in the transition from analog to digital. Every person involved in sound in the early 90s went through the painful process of understanding how recording to digital tape and hard disk was different from recording to an eight track cassette tape or to half-inch Ampex tape. When you move to digital, everything changes with the way you use a mixing console. Your old EQ curves don’t make much sense anymore, the microphone positions that you’ve learned all change, and digital sound on a CD (remember them?) never sounds as warm and as saturated as vinyl until you learn how to tailor the recoirding process to digital tech. People felt the same thing going from black and white film to color, and it’s kind of the same thing in the transition from taking pictures on emulsion coated film to all-digital. Your results at first may somehow feel less satisfying than the old pictures you were always used to, but if you learn the digital photography techniques you need to, you can only get far superior results.

Camera shake has always been a problem that amateur photographers have had trouble with – digital or analog. The thing with digital cameras is that they have large screens that you can view your composed shot on, from arm’s length. You no longer need to hold the camera up to your left eye where the support of your hands and your brow might help with the stability. A digital camera therefore requires that you grasp with both your hands if you don’t have a tripod. Even if your frame composing rechnique doesn’t require it.

One of the most confounding areas with modern cameras that demand new technique is shutter speed. Digital photography techniques require new understanding in the way you deal with the sensitivity of the sensor. In traditional film, ISO 800 was film that respond eight times as fast as ISO 100. An ISO 800 was also much grainier than ISO 100. In digital photography, it’s the same sensor with the same number of megapixels, no matter what sensitivity is. However, you’ll still get the same kinds of results – only this time a faster shot has something called picture noise, and not grain. And picture noise happens to be much more annoying to look at than grain too. The default in a digital camera therefore should be 100 ISO for the crispest shots in most situations.

If using the auto mode for the exposure setting isn’t exactly to your liking, overriding it
 and shooting pictures at higher sensitivity enables you to shoot faster photographs in good light. You’ll usually need to do this when you’re trying to capture a great shot during an indoor sporting event where there is fast action, and not much light. You may also need to do this at a concert where you’re not allowed to use your flash.

Let’s talk a little now about the digital photography techniques involved in setting the aperture – which is the size the shutter will open to when you press the button. They measure aperture size by a unit called f-stop. You’ll often see settings for f/2.8, f/5.6,f/22 and so on. It’s a logarithmic scale – each step up actually doubles the amount of light let through. The larger the number, the less the light that is let through.

So why would you  want to change your camera’s aperture? Actually, it has a great effect on the area of your picture that is in sharp focus – a characteristic that they call depth of field. The larger your aperture, the smaller your depth of field. If you want one of those wonderful effects where just your chief point of focus is sharp and the background somewhat blurred, using a large aperture and a shallow depth of field is your trick. You don’t necessarily use just lenses for this effect. You can also set your aperture the right way. And auto mode generally, will be able to help you here.

The key to getting the hang of the best digital photography techniques is all about reading up, and practicing no end. With digital cameras, you don’t even have to worry about buying raw materials. Once you buy the camera, you’re good to go.


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