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Taking better photos Our photographers show you how to get the most out of your digital camera

Day 1

Day 3

Day 2

Handy tips

Flash

Angles

Composition

Day Day15

Day 4

Camera modes

Your camera will have an Auto mode, and most of the time that setting will give you the crisp, clear photo you want. But sometimes you will want to take a particular kind of photo and

Portrait

Sport

In a good portrait photo the subject’s face will be in sharp focus but the background will be blurred and out of focus. This makes the subject’s face stand out more. Your pointand-shoot camera should have a button with a picture of a face, indicating that you can activate Portrait mode. It will then change the settings so the background is out of focus.

Advanced

In Portrait mode the camera automatically selects a large aperture (confusingly, this is the lowest number. It might be f2.8, 3.5, or 4.5, for example) so that the depth of field is significantly reduced. This means that the point you focus on will be sharp but everything in front of and behind it will begin to blur out. The camera compensates for the large aperture by lowering the ISO, or light sensitivity, giving a cleaner image, and raising the shutter speed, giving a sharper image.

Sport mode is great for taking photos of moving objects, particularly sports! If you use it in sunlight it should do a good job of freezing the action for your photo. A lot of point-and-shoot cameras are excellent in this mode but some action is just too fast for them, for example car racing. If your camera comes equipped with Panning mode (ideal for car racing) give that a try as well.

Tips If you want the background even more out of focus get further back from the subject and zoom in. Remember that in low light zooming in makes the camera harder to hold steady and your photos may blur. Try resting the camera on a wall or seat, or use a tripod if you have one. Remember that when you prime the camera (push the photo-taking button down halfway), whatever is in the middle of your screen will often be what the camera focuses on. You can put your subject’s face in the middle, push your button halfway, and then recompose your photo to get the shot you want. But do not get closer or further away from your subject or the focus will need to be reset.

Auto

Sport mode isn’t just for sports; it’s good for your holiday snaps too. Try it with kids jumping into a pool, or your dog running around on the lawn.

Advanced

Sports mode cranks up the shutter speed to freeze the action in your photo. This means less light is getting into the camera and it will need to compensate by raising the ISO and using a large f-stop. If the action is too fast or the light is quite low, this may push the capabilities of your camera.

Tips

Because of the high shutter speed your camera uses in this mode it is most effective in bright light. If you are in low light the action you are shooting could turn out blurry. This isn’t a matter of changing any settings; it is just showing the limits of your camera. Try forcing the flash to go off by pushing the button with a lightning icon beside it; if you are close enough to your subject this will help.

Portrait

Landscape Landscape mode is exactly as it sounds, great for shooting a landscape. To activate this mode find the button with a picture that looks like two mountain peaks, or something similar. The camera will then do its best to get every part of your photo in focus. This mode is also useful if you are shooting through glass or chain-link fencing. In Auto mode the camera can have trouble deciding whether to focus on the glass or what’s behind it. In Landscape mode the camera works to get everything in focus.

Advanced

Landscape mode sets up your camera with a small aperture or f-stop (large number, eg, f22) so that the depth of field is maximised, the opposite to the way it works in Portrait mode. This ensures that you can get as much of your landscape in focus as possible. The camera will compensate for the small aperture by lowering the shutter speed and pushing up the ISO.

Landscape

Tips Because your camera is changing settings to get as much of the photo in focus as possible the effectiveness of landscape mode is reduced in low light. You may end up with a blurred or grainy photo. Try using a tripod for landscape mode if you are shooting in conditions other than a sunny day.

Sport

night

Advanced

Auto

Instead of keeping a fast shutter speed and firing the flash, as the camera will do in other modes, in Night mode the shutter is slowed down and then the flash is fired. This allows the extra light to come into the camera so that you can see some of the background.

It’s a good idea to have a tripod handy for night shooting if you want a sharp photo. Resting the camera on a wall or table can also help but try not to bump it when you push the shutter button. If you want to get really creative, try putting some extra lights in to highlight certain parts of your shot.

The Southland Times will again be running its popular Wish You Were Here holiday photo series this summer. Readers will be invited to send us photos from their holidays and each day a selection will be published in the paper, starting Monday January 2. Last summer many of the photos sent in electronically were too small for us to publish. To remedy this, make sure your camera’s image file size is set to “large JPEG’’. This means your memory card will hold fewer photos but they will be of higher quality. See our Summer pages, beginning Boxing Day, for details on how to enter your photos in Wish You Were Here.

Depth of field: A measure Auto

Macro mode changes your aperture (f-stop) to the largest your camera will allow. This means that the depth of field is reduced and you have a shallower plane of focus. You will notice that the part of your subject in the middle of your photo will be in focus but around that it will blur.

sensitivity to light. It is similar to ASA for film users, or iris for videographers.

Macro

Tips

Be patient, the camera has a harder job focusing in this mode so it might take a few seconds longer. If it won’t focus, you might be too close. A lot of cameras let you get within 10cm of your subject, but not all will allow you to get this close.

of how deep the focus plane is and therefore how much of your photo will be in focus. At a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) more of your photo will be in focus.

ISO: A measure of the camera’s

Advanced Night

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camera limits the amount of light that gets to the image sensor. It is controlled by the f-stop setting, in the same way the iris in your eye gets larger and smaller depending on how much light is around. The smaller the aperture the greater the f-stop number, eg f22, and the smaller the opening, letting less light in. Linked to this, the smaller the aperture the greater the depth of field.

This switches the camera into a special focus mode that lets you get really close to the object you are photographing, often between 2 and 10cm on smaller cameras. Try it not only with nature but with your kids as well.

Tips

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Aperture: This part of the

Ever wondered how to get close-up photos of bees on flowers or ladybugs in the grass? Most cameras come equipped with Macro mode. You’ll know if yours does because there will be a button with a little picture of a flower beside it.

Auto

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macro

Night mode is a great setting to play around with and create some colourful, crazy photos. The flash will fire and pick up everything nearby. The cool thing about Night mode is that it makes allowances for the low light and tries to pick up some of the background, avoiding photos of bright faces with a black void behind them. Try putting some fairy lights in the background and see what you can come up with.

the result will be better if you use the corresponding mode. Today we will look at the options and how these alter the settings on the camera to achieve the desired result.

Macro

Page written by Nicole Gourley, designed by Shaun Yeo The Southland Times

Plane of focus: When

you pick a focal point in your shot, everything that is the same distance from your camera will be in focus. It’s like a flat plane in front of you. The greater the aperture, the less thick the plane is, and therefore a smaller area in front of and behind your focal point will be in focus.

Taking better photos Our photographers show you how to get the most out of your digital camera Day 1

Camera modes

Composition Day 2

Day 2

Day 3

Angles

Day 4 Flash

composition rule of thirds If you split the frame up like a noughts and crosses board, the rule of thirds says that the most important elements of your photo should fall on those lines and the points where they intersect. The location of the lines is said to be the area of a photo a human eye is automatically drawn to. Try placing your horizon line one third or two thirds of the way up the photo.

patterns Patterns can be found everywhere. Start training your eye to find the patterns around you and see what you can make of them. Remember that the camera sees things differently to the eye and you can easily turn a ‘boring’ setting into an interesting photo.

empty space Empty areas can add to your photo or ruin it. Have a think about why you have left so much space in the photo – is it for a reason? Sometimes leaving a gap beside your subject can be thought-provoking and interesting. Do be careful about how much emptiness you leave in the frame above your subject’s head (headspace). If you tilt your camera down there might be a better use for the space you have available in your frame.

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Handy tips

The only rule of photography is that there are no rules! There are, however, a few guidelines about what looks pleasing to the eye, so today we will show you what these are.

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texture

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Try using texture in your backgrounds; it can make an ordinary photo all the more interesting. Like patterns, there are textures everywhere just waiting to be discovered. Try grass, concrete or roughcast walls, corrugated iron fences, or old garage doors for some different effects. Often a texture will look extra good when the light hits it at a certain angle. Go hunting at all hours of the day for that extra special texture to jump out at you.

depth of field Depth of field can help draw the viewer’s attention to any part of your photo you want to emphasise. Try focusing on different parts of your photo for different effects. To focus on something, put it in the middle of your screen, push your photo-taking button halfway down (priming the camera) and then recompose your photo, while still holding that button halfway.

lines Lines are another way to draw attention to something specific. They don’t have to be lines the eye can see, like the corner of a wall or the edge of the stairs, they can be made out of anything. The eye will follow any line in your photo, so make sure it leads somewhere worth while.

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The Southland Times will again be running its popular Wish You Were Here holiday photo series this summer. Readers will be invited to send us photos from their holidays and each day a selection will be published in the paper, starting Monday January 2. Last summer many of the photos sent in electronically were too small for us to publish. To remedy this, make sure your camera’s image file size is set to “large JPEG’’. This means your memory card will hold fewer photos but they will be of higher quality. See our Summer pages, beginning Boxing Day, for details on how to enter your photos in Wish You Were Here.

glossary Depth of field:

tips Make sure that there’s nothing sprouting out of your subject’s head. Power poles and trees are prime culprits. Before you take the photo look at the background of your shot and decide how it will look when you see the photo on your computer. Is it too cluttered? Is there a rubbish bin in the corner that you could move?

Page written by Nicole Gourley, designed by Shaun Yeo The Southland Times

A measure of how deep the focus plane is and therefore how much of your photo will be in focus. At a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) more of your photo will be in focus.

Taking better photos Our photographers show you how to get the most out of your digital camera Day 1

Camera modes

Day 2

Composition

Day 3

Day Day15

Day 4

Handy tips

Flash

angles Try zooming right out and getting as close to your subject as you can. This produces a different

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Low angle

wide The lenses on most point-and-shoot cameras are quite wide, allowing you to take beautiful shots of your surroundings. In small rooms, wide-angle photos allow you to capture a lot of the scene. They can also be effective outside.

Wide-angle or telephoto? Shoot up, shoot down or shoot straight ahead? Today we check out the angles.

effect than stepping back and zooming in. Wideangle photos often look more 3D than a zoomedin photo – close objects look extra big; far away objects look extra small. Keep an eye on the corners of your photos; they often distort in a wide-angle photo and this can give people cone-shaped heads.

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Low-angle shooting means that you, as the shooter, get down lower than your subject and look up to take the photo. Don’t be afraid to lie on the ground or crouch behind some plants – it is worth it when you take an amazing photo. A wide angle (zoomed right out) is often needed to fit the subject in. However, doing this will make the objects closest to the camera (often the subject’s feet) look much larger than the rest of them. It can be an interesting effect, but think about who you are taking a photo of before you snap it from that angle. Photographing someone looking down on you can be unflattering.

Telephoto Telephoto is often used to describe a photo with a longer focal length than normal, or one that looks like it has been zoomed in on. An advantage of photographing your subject like this is that the background will be a lot blurrier, drawing attention to the people rather than where they are. These photos look a lot closer to what you would see in real life, but zoomed in a bit, as opposed to the distorted view a wide angle produces. Use this technique for portrait shots to emphasise the people you are photographing.

high angle High-angle photography is a great way to take flattering photos of nearly anyone. It can also produce some really neat effects.

people looking up at you. It’s also a good way to fit lots of faces into a photo, like on Christmas Day when you want to fit the whole family in.

You don’t need to be on a balcony to take a highangle shot. Try getting your subjects to s it while you stand, or stand on a chair to get a group of

For something different, find a location where you can get directly over your subject and shoot down on them.

The Southland Times will again be running its popular Wish You Were Here holiday photo series this summer. Readers will be invited to send us photos from their holidays and each day a selection will be published in the paper, starting Monday January 2. Last summer many of the photos sent in electronically were too small for us to publish. To remedy this, make sure your camera’s image file size is set to “large JPEG’’. This means your memory card will hold fewer photos but they will be of higher quality. See our Summer pages, beginning Boxing Day, for details on how to enter your photos in Wish You Were Here.

glossary

Page written by Nicole Gourley, designed by Shaun Yeo The Southland Times

Taking better photos Our photographers show you how to get the most out of your digital camera Day 1

Camera modes

Day 2

Composition

Day 3

Angles

Day 4

flash sunlight

Day Day15

Handy tips

It’s easy to think that because the sun is out, the flash is not needed. Wrong! Flash is one of your most valuable tools in summer photography.

eyes

An overcast day is perfect for photo-taking – even lighting creates a lovely effect. In the summer sun photos are often riddled with harsh shadows, particularly on faces. The perfect way to even out the shadows is to turn your flash on. On your camera will be a button with a lightning bolt icon. Pushing it once should bring up a few

options on your camera screen. Pushing the button repeatedly will cycle through these. The options are usually auto flash, no flash, and forced flash. If any part of your subject’s face is in the shade or covered in shadows, try forcing the flash and take another shot. It can make a big difference.

No flash

Eyes are so important when photographing people; they speak a thousand words through your photo. Flash can help you light up eyes that are shaded and means that you don’t have to get your subjects to face the sun; no more squinty eyes! Flash is a great tool for lighting up the whites of the eyes. Try to get your flash reflected as a little speck in the eyes; it makes them sparkle.

With flash

freezing action direct flash When the flash on your camera is pointing straight at your subject it is referred to as direct flash. Direct flash can flatten the photo and produce harsh shadows on faces or behind your subject. There are several ways to avoid this: • Hold a white tissue or piece of paper over your flash, diffusing it and making the light softer. • Photograph your subject a few metres in front of their background to avoid head-shaped shadows behind them.

For some cool effects, particularly noticeable at night, try holding coloured paper or objects in front of the flash. Of course, the object must be one that some light can get through.

Flash has the power to freeze action. Use your flash when your subject is moving fast, especially if it is low light. The flash will catch the action and freeze it for your photo. Remember to get within a few metres of your subject if you want the flash to pick them up.

If you are getting into advanced techniques, try slowing your shutter speed to very low and forcing the flash. It will give a neat blurred effect with what looks like an overlay of a sharp photo.

“Red eye’’ often occurs when direct flash is used. Often a camera will come with a built-in red-eye reduction setting. If not, try diffusing the flash, or use software on your computer to get rid of the red eye later.

Direct flash Diffused flash

Page written by Nicole Gourley, designed by Shaun Yeo The Southland Times

wish you were

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The Southland Times will again be running its popular Wish You Were Here holiday photo series this summer. Readers will be invited to send us photos from their holidays and each day a selection will be published in the paper, starting Monday January 2. Last summer many of the photos sent in electronically were too small for us to publish. To remedy this, make sure your camera’s image file size is set to “large JPEG’’. This means your memory card will hold fewer photos but they will be of higher quality. See our Summer pages, beginning Boxing Day, for details on how to enter your photos in Wish You Were Here.

Taking better photos Our photographers show you how to get the most out of your digital camera Day 1

Camera modes

Day 2

Composition

Day 3

Angles

Day 5

Day 1

Day 4 Flash

handy tips low light If you are shooting in low light and your photos are coming out a tad blurry, try holding your breath while you take the picture. It stops you moving as much. Another tip for low light is to lean your elbows on something or brace them against your stomach, and use the viewfinder on your camera instead of the screen. This creates more points of stability – three is ideal. Alternatively, if your camera has a

To end our series, here are some top tips from the professionals. Keep your camera close this summer and get shooting!

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movement neck strap use it and push it out tight in front of you. Then you can brace your arms against it and make your shot really stable. The shutter on your camera may take a few seconds to click after you push the button. Be patient.

Movement or ‘blurriness’ can be cool. Try getting a child to run in front of you, or practise on cars driving past. Lower your shutter speed and pan the camera,

following them as they go past. Try to get the car sharp and the background blurry, as if they’re going really fast.

Doug Field

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other

Underwater point-and-shoot cameras are available at quite a low cost now. If you don’t have one, try getting an old square fish tank and placing it almost all the way into the water, without letting any water in. Get someone to hold it for you while you put your camera in the tank and press it up against the glass. Underwater photography made easy!

When you get a new memory card, put it in your camera and ‘format’ it. There will be an option for this in your menus. It will wipe the card clean and format it for use in your particular camera. Always take spare batteries and memory cards. When buying a camera, unless you want to make a billboard-sized photo you don’t need to buy one boasting 14 megapixels; 10 megapixels is more than sufficient. Optical zoom is more important, 10x optical zoom is great. Think about getting one small enough to take with you on your summer walks. Grab a neck strap so it’s easy to carry, and you won’t miss any opportunities for great photos.

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The Southland Times will again be running its popular Wish You Were Here holiday photo series this summer. Readers will be invited to send us photos from their holidays and each day a selection will be published in the paper, starting Monday January 2. Last summer many of the photos sent in electronically were too small for us to publish. To remedy this, mak e sure your camera’s image file size is set to “large JPEG’’. This means your memory card will hold fewer photos but they will be of higher quality. See our Summer pages, beginning Boxing Day, for details on how to enter your photos

online If you missed any of our series or want to share it with friends, go to southlandtimes.co.nz and click on the “Taking Better Photos’’ link

Nicole Gourley

Page written by Nicole Gourley, designed by Shaun Yeo The Southland Times


Taking better photos