Digital Photography Essentials: Point, Shoot, Enhance, Share

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The Perfect Companion for Your Digital Camera

Digital cameras are more than just cameras with electronic chips inside--they've revolutionized how we take pictures and what we do with them. If you're new to digital photography, Digital Photography Essentials offers everything you need to get up to speed fast. You'll find essential information about your camera and equipment, techniques for editing and enhancing your pictures, expert advice on ...

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The Perfect Companion for Your Digital Camera

Digital cameras are more than just cameras with electronic chips inside--they've revolutionized how we take pictures and what we do with them. If you're new to digital photography, Digital Photography Essentials offers everything you need to get up to speed fast. You'll find essential information about your camera and equipment, techniques for editing and enhancing your pictures, expert advice on sharing your images with others, and a wealth of digital photography tips, tricks, and project ideas.

A Complete Solution

The companion CD includes all the software you need, including a full version of Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.1 for Windows (a $49 U.S. value) and a fully functional tryout of Adobe Photoshop Elements for both Windows and Mac. In the book, you'll find step-by-step instructions that show how to repair, enhance, and just have fun with your images. There's nothing more to buy.

Packed with information, software, and the insights of best-selling author Erica Sadun, Digital Photography Essentials is the perfect guide for digital photographers. Topics covered include:

* Composing shots, lighting scenes, and posing subjects

* Managing your digital camera's batteries, memory cards, and more

* Enhancing your images and fixing picture flaws

* Discovering imaginative and creative uses for digital photos

* Sharing photos via e-mail and the World Wide Web

* Making DVDs, picture CDs, and video CD slide shows

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Own a digital camera? Want to go beyond “point and shoot”? Get Digital Photography Essentials by Erica Sadun. Here’s everything you need to know to get great digital photos, from composition, lighting, and posing to photo editing and “post-processing” (we know you’ve been meaning to create one of those cool 360° panoramas).

It’s also all you need to know about taking care of your digital camera and distributing your photos on CDs, DVDs, the Internet, via email -- even via digital picture frames (perfect for Grandma).

It’s also full of ideas for using your digital camera in ways you’ve never thought of. (Shoot the section-and-row sign at the airport parking lot, so you won’t forget where you parked. Shoot your daughter’s new toy before she loses the pieces. Create window decals and jigsaw puzzles. Getting ready to move? Shoot what’s in every box.)

Oh, and by the way, this $29.99 book comes with a fully licensed copy of Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.1 for Windows (which lists for $49.00). If you’re in the market for low-cost photo manipulation software, buy it here -- and think of Erica Sadun’s great advice as a free bonus. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641589188
  • Publisher: Sybex, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: BOOK & CD
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.76 (w) x 8.78 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Erica Sadun is the author of the Sybex best- seller Digital Photography! I Didn’t Know You Could Do That as well as iMovie Solutions: Tips, Tricks, and Special Effects, both from Sybex. She holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech’s Graphics, Visualization, and Usability center.
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Read an Excerpt

Digital Photography Essentials

By Erica Sadun

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7821-4177-3

Chapter One

Composition, Lighting, and Posing: Some Tried-and-True Advice

Whether you're using a traditional film camera or a fancy new digital one, composition, lighting, and posing play important roles in your photos. Taking pictures is as much an art as a science. Learn from the classics. The basic rules of portraiture and landscape art are as applicable to digital pictures as they are to traditional canvases. As you will discover in this chapter, it's important to think about how you should place your subjects, light them, and frame them with your camera. The time-tested techniques and tips described here will help you create better, more professional snapshots, while taking advantage of the special features provided by your digital camera. Learn to combine the traditional with the state-of-the-art, and you'll be richly rewarded by the results.

This chapter covers the following topics:

* Compose your shot with care
* Use light effectively
* Understand depth of field
* Achieve natural poses
* Focus sharply
* Tips of the trade

Compose Your Shot with Care

Do you remember that joke about Mozart (the one in which he is busy decomposing)? In photography, composition doesn't mean creating music. Instead, it refers to the way that the photographer places all of the visual elements of a picture. Good pictures don't happen by accident. Good pictures result from planning and following the basic rules of composition; the better the composition, the better the photograph. If you think that you take pretty good pictures now, you'll be astonished how quickly your snapshots improve when you apply the basic rules of photographic composition.

Get Closer ... Much Closer!

Do you know the single worst mistake that amateur photographers make? They shoot pictures from too far away. They think they need to capture the whole scene instead of just the real point of interest. This one bad habit makes many bad photos.

You can easily improve your photos with one quick fix: Move closer. The closer you get to your subject, the better your photos will turn out. Some people operate under the mistaken impression that you need to take pictures of an entire landscape or an entire person-including all the hair, limbs, clothes, and so forth-in order to create a memorable shot. On the contrary, your photos should focus on a point of interest. For example, when your subject is a person, think of the eyes as the most important part of your photo. The more you concentrate on a person's face-and, particularly, a person's eyes-the better your photo will turn out.

Consider the three photos shown in Figure 1.1. With each photo, the camera moves in toward the subject. See how the pictures improve with each step? Getting closer creates snapshots that focus more narrowly on the subject while creating a sense of intimacy between the subject and the viewer.

Use the Rule of Thirds

Long ago, in ancient Greece and Egypt, philosophers noticed a strange feature of beauty. Many things we find attractive incorporate a natural ratio of approximately 3:2, which they called Phi (rhymes with tie). This ratio came to be known as the golden ratio, or even the divine ratio. The ancients used this ratio to create art and architecture to mimic the beauty one finds in nature. The idea is this: Compositions that are split into thirds, with some feature placed about two-thirds of the way across the scene, look good. It's as simple as that.

Artists and, later, photographers picked up on this ratio to form the rule of thirds, which we use in composition. This involves placing visually interesting points along imaginary lines at one-third and two-thirds of the way across a picture. But the adherence to using Phi goes further than that. Even the most common print sizes (3.5 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, and so forth) approximate the golden ratio between their width and their height.

You can improve your photos by using this rule of thirds. Just imagine two pairs of lines. One pair runs horizontally across your picture at one-third and two-thirds of the height. The other pair runs vertically, again at one-third and two-thirds of the width. When framing your image through the viewfinder or on your camera's liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, place the most important features of your picture along one of these lines. Whether you shoot your pictures in landscape or portrait mode, this rule will improve your picture's composition.

If you're not comfortable "imagining" the lines, you can actually place them onto your camera's LCD screen. Simply cut out some transparent plastic, draw your lines on it, and apply it to your camera's display. Plastic used for making viewgraphs or transparencies works particularly well for this purpose. If static electricity doesn't keep your plastic attached to the LCD screen, use a little transparent tape to fasten it.

The illustration shown in Figure 1.2 shows the differences between images composed with and without using the rule of thirds. Notice how both portrait and nature shots improve when this rule is applied.

Simplify Your Background

One of a photographer's biggest goofs is to allow the background to be too cluttered with objects and people. Busy backgrounds distract the eye from your main subject, drawing attention away from what you should really be looking at. Contrast the pictures in Figures 1.3 and 1.4. See how the picture works better with less happening in the background? When using the rule of thirds, it doesn't matter on which of the lines you choose to set your visual focus point. Use any of the four lines or four points (where the lines intersect). Your photos will improve.

You can easily solve the busy background problem. Consider these hints:

Avoid busy scenery. The simplest solution is the most obvious. Take pictures away from cluttered areas. Choose a plainer backdrop for your snapshots.

Move the camera. Sometimes you can avoid visual clutter by adjusting your viewpoint. Try walking around your subject with your camera until you find a more flattering angle.

Move closer. The more subject the picture contains, the less background your picture shows.

Drop down. By shooting up at your subject, you can sometimes avoid a lot of eye-level clutter.

Take a portrait. Turn your camera 90 degrees and shoot in portrait mode rather than in landscape mode. Portrait shots limit the amount of background and show more of your subject.

Frame It!

Shooting your picture through a natural frame can add elegance to your pictures. Natural frames include windows, doors, and tree limbs, as well as other overhanging features. Adding a frame to your picture can make it look better. This works by directing the eye toward the subject. Figure 1.5 shows an example of how you can shoot a "framed" shot.

Choose the Best Camera Angle

Did you know that your point of view could dramatically change the way that you perceive a subject? When a camera shoots down, we tend to think a subject looks smaller and humbler. When the camera looks up, we think the subject looks bigger and stronger. These camera angles mimic the way that we have learned to look at things and people during life. Consider the viewpoint of an adult looking down at a child or a child looking up at an adult, and you can understand how the direction of a photo can resonate with personal experience. You can take advantage of the way that we naturally interpret these angles to add meaning and effect to your pictures.

Downward Angles

You can make your subjects seem smaller and more appealing by shooting down. This angle can make a young girl look more demure. It can make a child seem more childlike or an adult less imposing. Downward angles emphasize eyes and cheeks, while minimizing chins. Large cheeks and small chins correlate with the way we view children. Figure 1.6 shows a person shot at a downward angle.

Downward angles also make pictures feel more closed and complete than other angles do. When taking photos of the outdoors, a downward shot where the horizon appears high in the picture will produce a feeling of limits and claustrophobia. You can also use a downward angle to hide an ugly, overcast sky, as in Figure 1.7.

Upward Angles

You can make your subjects appear bigger, more imposing, and more demanding of attention just by lowering your camera and looking up. Use this camera angle to flatter your subjects and make them seem more important. You need not limit this technique to photos of people. Take an upward-pointing picture of your dog to show how strong and fierce he is. Take a picture from the bottom of a statue to emphasize its height and majesty.

The upward angle lends prominence and strength to both the subject and to your photos. This technique particularly emphasizes the chin, lending a sense of power to your subject. Figure 1.8 shows an example of a person shot at an upward angle.

Upward angles open up pictures by lowering the horizon, as in Figure 1.9. They lend a feeling of spaciousness and freedom without limits or restrictions. When shooting outdoor photos, use an upward shot to draw in the sky and capture the full magnificence of nature.

Straight-on Shots

The most common shot-the straight-on, neutral shot-forms the bread and butter of photography. This shot creates plain and undistorted portraits of your subject, as you can see in Figure 1.10. Use this angle when you're not trying for artistry or special effects. It's straight, honest, and simple. It may be boring, but it works for almost all of your photography needs.

Horizontal or Vertical Orientation?

As you've probably noticed, photos tend to come in one of two orientations. In the vertical portrait shot, the height exceeds the width. In the horizontal landscape shot, the width exceeds the height.

Horizontal and vertical compositions create different effects. Vertical photos capture individuals and small groups best, at the expense of the background. Horizontal shots, in contrast, are best for large group shots and general photography of people and nature. Figure 1.11 shows how using a vertical shot can improve a portrait photo.

Because of its more generalized nature, the typical camera creates horizontal shots by default. To take a vertical picture, just turn the camera on its side and shoot. Many tripods allow you to mount your camera for either vertical or horizontal shots.

Face Your Subject to the Center

The way a person faces, called a leading look, can direct attention into the picture or out of it. Looking out of the picture produces photos that don't quite work, as you can see in Figure 1.12.

Ask your subjects to look toward the center of your photographic frame, or move the camera and your composition until their pose works.

Avoid Unwanted Background Elements

Sometimes we forget to look at the background. We become so fixated on our subject's great expression or adorable pose that all sorts of unwanted visual details pop into our photos, unannounced. Often we don't notice the other elements until too late, when the moment has already gone, and then we're stuck with pictures that have little "problem" items all over the place.

You can learn to break out of the whole subject-fascination trance and avoid the pitfalls of unwanted elements in your photos. Start by thinking before snapping your photos. Take a good, long look at the whole picture. What items don't belong? What can you improve simply by moving an item-or yourself-to another location? It's easy to get rid of unsightly details. The problem is noticing them in the first place! The pictures in Figure 1.13 show the difference between just shooting a photo and noticing the background first.

The worst offender for this sort of photography is the classic "tree growing out of someone's head" shot, seen in Figure 1.14. By concentrating on your subject, rather than the background, you may end up with a telephone pole, sign, or tree sprouting from a head. Remember the basic rule: Stop, look, and if necessary, move! Only then should you snap.

Use Light Effectively

As a digital photographer, you need light. For obvious reasons, without light, you cannot take pictures. And without good lighting, you cannot take good pictures. Good lighting makes the difference between drama and melodrama, between splendor and ordinary, and between memorable and dull.

Sunshine can be your best friend, or it can be your worst enemy. While you're letting it fill your camera with brilliant colors and images, remain wary. Learn to tame and control it. Make it do what you need it to do. Natural sunlight creates the most dramatic and colorful scenes. It can also fool your camera. It can make your pictures harsh and unflattering. It can bleach images to near whiteness or hide your subject in an artificial dark.

You can improve your digital photography by learning to use light effectively. By following simple guidelines, you can ensure that your pictures turn out the best they can be-whether you're shooting indoors or outdoors, or in bright light or near dark.

Avoid Backlight

Backlight occurs when the sun (or, for that matter, any other light source) shines too close to your subject's back. Backlight tricks your camera into thinking it is taking a picture of a very bright object. Your camera adjusts its light levels too high. Instead of picking up the light levels from your subject, it picks them up from the scenery. While the scenery appears beautiful and well lit, your subject looks awful-usually as a silhouette against a bright and colorful background.

To avoid backlight, keep the sun behind you and in front of your subject. This allows your camera to properly interpret your exposure settings.

You may need to physically move yourself and your camera to find the proper lighting. If you cannot reverse direction completely, such as when you are taking a picture of someone standing outside a famous monument, move in a circle around your subject until you find a happy compromise.

Some digital cameras automatically "handle" backlight, usually by turning on the flash. You can, too. Set your camera to use its flash and ignore the ambient lighting. The pictures in Figure 1.15 show how the flash will compensate for backlighting. However, even though using the flash will fill in your subject, this method does not produce particularly wonderful pictures. Your subject's features will appear "flatter" than in natural light. Instead, try to avoid backlit conditions completely whenever possible.

Use Indirect Light

A face full of sunshine is about as flattering as mud. Sunshine fills a face with harsh, unpleasant shadows. People look haggard, tired, and old. Every wrinkle is brought into full prominence. Shadows on the neck add an extra chin or two. Add squinting eyes into the mixture, and you have the lighting environment from hell.

Fortunately, there's a quick fix: Move your subject into the shade. Look for a tree, an overhang, or a trellis. Wait for a cloud to cover the sun, or shoot your pictures on a hazy or overcast day. Although most people think they need to take pictures in the brightest sunlight possible, you can snap excellent photos under covered patios or shadowed overhangs, as shown in Figure 1.16.

Unlike direct sunshine, indirect light creates soft and beautiful pictures. It flatters your subjects rather than batters them. Indirect light means exactly that. Instead of light streaming directly from the sun onto your subject, it bounces off the walls, the ground, and the scenery around you. You still get plenty of light, but it's a different, more playful, and far more flattering light. Figure 1.17 shows how indirect light can create a great portrait.

When you cannot avoid full sunlight, use your flash to fill in some of the harsher shadows. Set your digital camera's flash to its always-on setting and take your pictures. Although indirect lighting produces better pictures, your flash will counteract some of the worst shadows. On the other hand, when you have good indirect light available to you, turn that flash off!

Pick a Good Time of Day

Contrast the warm, soft colors of sunrise and sunset with the harsh noonday sun. When you take out your camera, consider how the time of day will affect the light. Choose a time that matches the mood you need. At midday, sunlight is strongest and most direct. Light appears to be at its whitest, colors at their most true and vivid. At sunrise and sunset, the color of light deepens and changes-often minute to minute. Colors are redder, kinder, and more dream-like.

Use these changes in light to your best advantage. If you plan your photo shoots in advance, consider how the time of day will affect your images. Do you want to create a romantic portrait? Perhaps you should wait until late afternoon or early evening. Are you seeking a dramatic landscape showing a lot of detail? Midday should work better. And don't forget those great sunset shots. When the last rays burn over the horizon, turning the clouds to fire, don't miss having your digital camera in hand and ready to shoot.


Excerpted from Digital Photography Essentials by Erica Sadun Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Composition, Lighting, and Posing: Some Tried-and-True Advice 1
Ch. 2 Digital Camera Equipment 33
Ch. 3 An Introduction to PhotoDeluxe 63
Ch. 4 Digital Photo Editing 87
Ch. 5 New Viewpoints: Postprocessing Your Images 101
Ch. 6 Digital Photo Printing 121
Ch. 7 Photos on CDs and DVDs 137
Ch. 8 Share Your Pictures 151
Ch. 9 Digital Camera Versatility 173
Ch. 10 Digital Camera Crafts 191
Ch. 11 Photo Transformation Projects 211
Ch. 12 Just for the Fun of It: Digital Photo Projects 233
App Field Guide to Online Photo Finishing and Album Sites 251
Glossary 253
Index 259
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