The first recommendation is to read your manual. I’m sure most of you just smiled and thought, “that’s not going to happen.” Today’s digital point and shoot cameras, no matter how simple, come with various features and settings beyond just the automatic setting; it is worth taking some time to read the manual. As you read, jot down any features you want to tryon an index card; carry the card with the camera to remind you to experiment next time you take some photos.
Assuming you did not just fling aside today’s Coastal Breeze News to pour over your camera’s manual, here are some tips for taking travel (or any) photographs.
When taking a picture of a person on a bright, sunny day, use your flash (or fill flash if your camera has that setting) to avoid facial shadowing. Also use a flash if taking a photo of someone at the beach or in the snow. For landscape sunsets, however, turn the flash off.
LCD screens are difficult to see in bright sunlight; I prefer cameras that also have a viewfinder. Many Canon and Sony cameras offer this choice. If you do use an optical (versus electronic) viewfinder, remember that what you see throughit is not exactly what the camera sees. Therefore, check your photo immediately after taking it to make certain everything you want included in the shot is there.
When composing your photograph, try placing your subject a little off center. Many photographers follow the “rule of thirds.” Imagine 3 horizontal and 3 vertical lines in your viewfinder (or LCD screen) and place your subject anyplace where two lines intersect. If your camera does not have a zoom or has a very small zoom, move in closer to your subject. Try focusing on a small detail rather than the entire subject; take a picture of that curious gargoyle rather than the entire cathedral.
Look for an interesting or unusual perspective. Seek out natural frames such as gates, doorways, windows. Remember that shops and markets offer an array of colorful sights forphotographs. Experiment with taking photos reflected in a window. If you want to avoid photographs of famous places with a lot of strangers in the picture, get up early! Alternatively, if the location isn’t mobbed, take multiple photos from exactly the same spot. There is very simple software now available that can make a composite photo of the shots, eliminating the people. Or, try holding your camera above your head and shooting down over the heads of others. Since you can’t see what you are shooting, unless you have a swivel LCD screen, immediately check your photo and try again if it’s not what you wanted.
Many point and shoot cameras have autofocus controlled by the shutter button. While you can use it to lock in and then recompose a photo, the simple thing to remember is that youshould focus on your subject, depress the shutter button halfway to lock in the focus and then depress the button all the way.
Even simple point and shoot cameras offer a variety of settings. There are three that can be helpful in improving photos. The first is stitch assist, or panorama, which helps you take multiple photos that can be “stitched” together by simple software to make a panoramic photo. The icon for stitch assist is usually two overlapping rectangles. The landscape shooting mode, indicated by an icon that resembles a mountain, enables subjects in the foreground and background to both be in focus. If taking a photo where the subject is moving, or when taking a picture from a moving vehicle, try the sports mode, indicated by an icon of a person running.
If your camera offers AE (automaticexposure) bracketing, that is one setting worth learning to use. When you use AE, one depression of the shutter button takes 3 photos, each with a different lighting condition. This helps control for possible over- or under-exposure of a photo. AE is indicated by an icon of three overlapping rectangles, one white, one black, and one striped.
There are simple free or low cost software programs available to edit photos. If nothing else, learn how to crop a photo. Cropping can make a significant difference in improving the quality of a picture.
Finally, do something with those travel photos. The digital possibilities are endless! Make a DVD slide show that you can watch on your TV or send to your relatives. Turn your photo into a piece of artwork to display on your walls. I like to experiment with various artistic filters; a watercolor filter is my favorite.