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best digital camera under $400

The Best Digital Camera Under $400

If you have been relying on your cell phone or a point-and-shoot camera with only automatic or semi-automatic modes, you may have pushed that camera to its picture taking limits. You might be ready for a versatile camera that captures higher quality images of all the sights that you see, the people you know, and the things that you do. You don’t have to invest in an expensive, professional-grade camera. You can find affordable cameras that produce higher quality images and that allow you to expand your photographic skills. With this guide, we want to help you find the best digital camera under 400 for you and help you learn how to use it.

Our Best Digital Cameras Under $400 For 2019:

Easy-to-Learn Features That Improve Your Pictures

Affordable digital cameras have several easy-to-learn features that can improve the quality of your photographs, especially in photographic situations that commonly make it difficult for digital cameras to get a good reading on the lighting. Some of these situations include very bright scenes, scenes with lots of shadows, backlit people and objects, and indoor scenes with artificial lighting. Among the settings that you can change to help your camera get a better reading on the lighting are the EV or exposure value, the ISO setting, the shutter speed, the aperture or lens opening, and the white balance.

How Your Camera Takes a Light Reading

Your camera takes a light reading the same way that photographers have been taking light readings for decades. It uses a built-in light meter.

Photographers used to carry light meters with them. To take a reading, they would hold the light meter to a white object that they intended to include with their subject or that was receiving the same type of lighting as their subject. In certain lighting situations, though, digital cameras can have a problem determining what is white.

When the Picture Has Too Much White

When attempting to read the light in a very bright scene, especially when the sun glares off of snow, water, or a sandy beach, digital cameras can have difficulty determining the difference between true white and other very pale colors in the scene. Consequently, it may read them all as white.

The solutions include:

  • Changing the EV Setting Even many point-and-shoots will let you change the EV setting when you are using a semi-automatic scene mode. Changing the EV setting often is referred to as lightening or darkening the image. It may seem that you would want to darken an image that contains too much white, but the real problem is that the camera has selected colors to represent white that are darker than white, even though those colors are very pale. So, in order to get the camera closer to using true white for its light meter reading, you actually need to lighten the picture by raising the exposure value by a range from +1 to +3. The camera then automatically adjusts the ISO setting, shutter speed, and aperture or lens opening to the new exposure value.
  • Changing the ISO Setting Digital cameras and most point-and-shoots also will let you change the ISO setting. The numbers used for the ISO setting relate the different types of film made for film cameras and how sensitive they are to light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive the film is, and the less light it absorbs. The ISO settings for digital cameras also change the amount of light the camera absorbs, so, in very bright settings, you will want to lower the ISO setting. After you change the ISO setting, the camera then chooses an appropriate shutter speed and aperture setting.
  • Changing the Shutter Speed and Aperture or Lens Opening Another way to adjust the camera’s light meter reading is to reduce the amount of light that enters through the camera’s lens. Point-and-shoot cameras may not allow you full manual control of these setting, but most offer shutter priority mode and aperture priority mode. Digital cameras also offer these modes, and these may be the least intimidating way of adjusting these settings. When you choose shutter priority mode, you choose how fast you want the shutter to operate, and the camera chooses the appropriate ISO setting and aperture opening to match the shutter speed. The faster the shutter operates, the less light enters the lens. When you choose aperture priority mode, you choose how large the lens opening should be, and the camera then chooses an appropriate ISO setting and shutter speed to match the size of the aperture. Again, the smaller the aperture opening, the less light enters the lens.
  • Changing the White Balance for Brightly Lit Scenes Changing the white balance to adjust the camera’s settings for a brightly lit scene is easy using the camera’s white balance presets. Find the white balance setting in the camera’s menu, and set it to full sun or sunny day.

When the Picture Is Too Dark

Settings with lots of shadows or little to no light also create a situation in which digital cameras have trouble knowing what is white. In this case, the camera will choose a lighter area to use as white, but instead of white, that area might be a gray or one of the lighter colors in the scene. As you might already be guessing, the changes you need to make to the camera’s settings are the opposite of the ones suggested above. You need to enable the camera to see more of the range of dark colors by lowering the EV setting. You need to use a higher ISO setting to increase the camera’s sensitivity to light. You will need to let more light through the camera’s lens by slowing the shutter speed and choosing a wider aperture setting. When adjusting the white balance setting, choose the setting for a cloudy day or for shade. If the setting is very dark, changing only the white balance setting won’t be sufficient.

When the Colors Are Too Red or Too Blue

The white balance setting not only provides another way to adjust the camera’s settings to the amount of light in the scene but also to the type of lighting present in the setting. When you’re shooting indoors under artificial light, you may notice that the colors in an image look too red or orange or too blue. That’s because, while the camera may have chosen a true white object for its light meter reading, the artificial lighting in the room affected the way the white looked to the camera.

Incandescent lighting from tungsten lightbulbs has a yellow glow. Candlelight and firelight have an even deeper, warmer glow. The camera’s choice of what represents white under those lighting conditions is influenced by that warm red, orange, or yellow glow. The camera then adds that same amount of glow to all of the colors in the scene. The simple way to counteract the glow from incandescent lighting is to change the white balance to the setting for incandescent or tungsten lighting.

Fluorescent lighting, on the other hand, has a cool, blue glow, and again, that glow influences the way true white looks to the camera. Under fluorescent lighting, the camera adds that blue glow to all of the colors in the scene. Changing the white balance to the setting for fluorescent lighting counteracts the influence of that blue glow.

You may find yourself in a situation in which you have multiple light sources. You could have natural light from a window, incandescent light from a ceiling fixture, and fluorescent light from a desk lamp. If you want to compensate for all of these sources of light, then select custom white balance from the camera’s white balance menu. Take a plain white sheet of typing paper and place it somewhere where it receives light from all of the different sources of light. Set the camera to custom white balance, and fill the viewfinder or the display screen with the image of the piece of paper. Depress the shutter, and the camera will store that image in its white balance settings and use it for the custom white balance.

Resetting the custom white balance setting each time you use your camera provides your camera with the most accurate light reading, but if you are in a situation where you need to capture images quickly, rely on the preset white balance modes.

Adjusting the Light Meter With the Camera’s Metering Modes

Another setting that digital cameras and most point-and-shoots will let you adjust is the metering mode. These three modes – matrix, multi, or evaluative mode; center-weighted mode; and spot mode – tell the light meter which area of the image to select when taking its reading.

When the camera is set to matrix, multi, or evaluative mode, the light meter reading evaluates the light from the entire scene when it takes its reading. When you are taking a portrait of a large group, a close-up selfie, an architectural image or a photograph of an iconic landmark building, or a landscape or panorama shot, you will want everything in the scene to be clear and well-lighted. You will want to use matrix modes for these types of images.

When the camera is set to center-weighted mode, it takes a reading of the light from the background, but it gives priority to the readings it takes from the center of the image, or to the area surrounding the focus point if you are composing a shot in which the main subject is off-center. This is the mode to use for portraits and still-life photography.

Spot mode takes light readings only from the area where the camera is focused. The reading is taken directly from the subject and its immediate surroundings and is not influenced by the lighting of the background or foreground. This is the mode to use when you focus in tightly on a distant or fast moving subject. When using a telephoto lens with spot mode and focusing in tightly on your subject, keep in mind that, as your camera focuses into the right and left of your subject it also focuses into the front and back. Always check your subject to be certain that the areas closest and farthest away from the camera are in focus. If they aren’t, enlarge the aperture setting or adjust the telephoto lens to focus on a slightly wider area.

Megapixels, Photoreceptors, Image Sensor Sizes, and Image Quality

The number of megapixels does make a contribution to image quality, but it is only one factor. The size of the camera’s image sensor is another important factor.

Size matters because the image produced by a digital camera is actually captured by the photoreceptors that cover the surface of the image sensor. Each photoreceptor equals one pixel, so if you have two image sensors of the same size, then the image sensor with the most photoreceptors will be the one that captures the most details and produce the better photo. However, a larger image sensor will have larger photoreceptors.

Larger photoreceptors are important for CMOS images sensors, which is the type of image sensor found in most cameras because each photoreceptor on a CMOS image sensor has its own connection to the camera’s image processor. This connection takes up space on the image sensor, and when you have smaller photoreceptors, some parts of the image can fall on the spaces occupied by the connections instead of on a photoreceptor.

The image processors of cameras that use smaller image sensors compensate for the missing parts of the image by comparing all of the adjacent photoreceptors and filling in the space in the same way that Adobe Photoshop fills in pixels when you increase the resolution of an image beyond the resolution of the original.

By contrast, the larger photoreceptors on larger image sensors cover these connections and capture the parts of the image that fall on those parts of the image sensors. So, cameras with larger image sensors may have fewer megapixels but produce higher quality images because the larger photoreceptors capture more of the details from the actual image rather than relying on the camera’s image processor to fill in the gaps.


The Best Digital Camera Under $400

Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital Camera

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 allows you to purchase interchangeable Canon lenses so that you can purchase exactly the lenses you need for the type of photography you prefer. The EOS Rebel comes with a wide angle lens with a range of from 18mm to 55mm that is perfect for selfies, group selfies, portraits, landscapes, panoramas, and architecture, but it’s compatible with Canon’s entire line of EF and EF-S lenses. It also is compatible with a Canon external flash unit. The Rebel includes an optical viewfinder, an LED display panel, and an 18 MP APS-C CMOS image sensor that is larger than the image sensors that you will find in many cameras, including the Sony RX100. The Rebel T6 captures still images in both RAW or JPEG, and it captures full HD movies with sound at a resolution of 1080p. The camera’s ISO sensitivities range from 100 to 6400, and the Rebel T6 offers the standard white balance settings for sun, shade, clouds, incandescent, fluorescent, and a custom white balance setting as well as a setting for sunset. The metering modes also are the standard ones – multi, center-weighted, and spot metering. You also can correct the image to compensate for the temperature of the light source or use the ambient settings to change the color temperature, brightness, and color saturation to adjust the mood and emotional impact of the image. The Rebel T6 also offers face recognition, and it tracks moving subjects. It lacks smile recognition, however. You can shoot in fully automatic scene intelligent mode, shutter priority or Tv mode, aperture priority or Av mode, Program AE mode, or full manual mode. The Rebel T6 has built in Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities so that you can upload your movies and images directly to the internet from wherever you have a connection, control your camera remotely from your smartphone or tablet, and share your movies and photographs directly with other NFC devices.

Pros

  • Includes an 18 MP APS-C CMOS image sensor
  • Allows you to purchase interchangeable Canon lenses
  • Compatible with Canon’s entire line of EF and EF-S lenses
  • Compatible with a Canon external flash unit
  • Built in Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities
  • Offers face recognition

Cons

  • Lacks smile recognition
  • Requires purchasing lenses separately, which adds expenses
  • May require carrying extra lenses with the camera, which adds weight and bulk

Sony RX100 Digital Camera

The Sony RX100 comes with a high quality wide angle Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with an optical zoom range of 28mm to 100mm and a 1” CMOS image sensor that is larger than the 1/2.3 image sensor commonly used in cameras. It captures still images in RAW or JPEG at a resolution of 20.2 MP and movies in full HD with sound and wind noise reduction at a resolution of 1080p. The ISO sensitivity settings range from 80 to 6400. The RX100 includes smile and face recognition, and you can register the faces of up to eight people in the camera’s memory. The RX100 tracks your main subject to keep that person in focus. Sony refers to matrix metering mode as a multi mode. Center-weighted and spot metering also are available. The preset white balance settings include automatic, daylight, shade, clouds, incandescent, four settings for fluorescent lighting, two custom white balance settings, and a setting that adjusts the temperature of the image to correct for both light sources with a warm, yellow glow and light sources with a cool, blue glow. You can choose to shoot in fully automatic intelligent auto mode, shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, program mode, or full manual mode. The RX100 also automatically captures HDR images. In fact, it has two options for capturing scenes with areas of high contrast between bright lighting and shadow. If you have camera settings that you use frequently, you can store three of your favorite settings combinations in this camera’s memory.

Pros

  • Uses a 1” CMOS image sensor
  • Captures still images in RAW or JPEG
  • Offers wind noise reduction for capturing movies with sound
  • Can register the faces of up to eight people
  • Includes smile and face recognition
  • Can store three of your favorite settings combinations in the camera’s memory
  • ISO sensitivity settings range from 80 to 6400

Cons

  • Lens has an optical zoom range of only 28mm to 100mm
  • Lacks built-in Wi-Fi

Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70S Digital Camera

The Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70S comes equipped with an electronic viewfinder, a Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens with a range of from 24mm to 720mm, and a 20.3 MP 1/2.3” MOS image sensor that is smaller than the image sensors in either of the two cameras above. The wide range of the zoom lens allows you to use this camera for any type of photography from selfies, portraits, group portraits, landscapes, and architecture to telephoto shots of distant birds and animals or action shots of fast moving subjects. When taking still shots of videos of yourself, such as of a demonstration for your YouTube vlog, the display panel flips up so that you can see the image as you capture it. The display also functions as a touchscreen that allows you to control the camera. The Lumix DC-ZS70S captures still images in both JPEG and RAW, and it captures movies in full HD 4K. The ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 6400, and white balance settings include daylight, clouds, shade, incandescent, four custom white balance settings and adjustments for the temperature of the lighting source. The camera does lack a preset for fluorescent lighting, however. The camera allows you to register up to six faces for improved face recognition, and you can categorize your registered faces as adult, infant, or pet faces. You can choose to shoot in intelligent auto mode, aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, program mode, and full manual mode. The Lumix DC-ZS70S comes with built-in Wi-Fi so that you can stream live video, upload images and videos from wherever you have a Wi-Fi connection, and control your camera remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

Pros

  • Equipped with a Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens with a range of from 24mm to 720mm
  • The LED display panel flips up
  • The display also functions as a touchscreen
  • Captures still images in both JPEG and RAW
  • Captures movies in full HD 4K
  • ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 6400
  • Allows you to register up to six faces
  • Comes with built-in Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Uses a smaller 1/2.3” MOS image sensor
  • Lacks a white balance preset for fluorescent lighting

Nikon COOLPIX B500

The Nikon COOLPIX B500 uses a 16 MP 1/2.3 CMOS image sensor, which is the same size as the one found in the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70S and in many other cameras. The Zoom-NIKKOR lens ranges from 22.5mm to 900mm, which should enable you to capture almost any subject. On the COOLPIX B500, the display screen doubles as the viewfinder, and it tilts, allowing you to capture still and movie shots from new, interesting angles. The B500 captures still images in JPEG format only, but you can preserve the details by saving your photos on your computer in PNG format before editing them to prevent them from losing details due to being repeatedly condensed each time they are saved in JPEG format. The camera captures movies in full HD at a resolution of 1080p in stereo sound. ISO sensitivity ranges from 125 to 1600 in the camera’s fully automatic and scene modes with ISOs of 3200 and 6400 available in aperture priority, shutter priority, program, and manual mode. The COOLPIX B500 offers face recognition, smile recognition, and also warns you if someone has blinked as you were shooting your image. You can use smile recognition to trigger the shutter. The preset white balance settings include sunlight, clouds, incandescent, fluorescent, and custom. You can shoot in fully automatic mode, aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, program mode, or full manual mode. The Nikon COOLPIX B500 includes built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you can upload your images and movies to the internet from wherever you find an internet connection, stream your videos live, pair other devices to your camera, share photos and movies with other devices, and control your camera remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

Pros

  • Zoom-NIKKOR lens ranges from 22.5mm to 900mm
  • Display screen tilts allowing you to capture still and movie shots from interesting angles
  • Captures movies in stereo sound
  • Offers face recognition, smile recognition, and warns if someone blinks
  • Can use smile recognition to trigger the shutter
  • Includes built-in Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Uses a 1/2.3 CMOS image sensor
  • Display screen doubles as the viewfinder can be hard to view in sunlight
  • Captures still images in JPEG format only

Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera

The Canon PowerShot SX740 includes a 20.3 MP 1/2.3 CMOS image sensor, a zoom lens with a range from 24mm to 960mm, and a display screen that doubles as a viewfinder. The display screen flips up so that, if you are shooting yourself as you present a how-to demonstration for your vlog, you can see yourself as you record. ISO sensitivities range from 100 to 1600 in automatic mode and up to 3200 in program mode. The white balance settings include clouds, daylight, shade, fluorescent, tungsten or incandescent, and custom. You can shoot in the fully automatic modem, hybrid mode, Tv or shutter priority mode, Av or aperture priority mode, program mode, or full manual mode. In hybrid mode, you set the camera to record a short clip of the action just before you depress the shutter to capture a still photograph. The camera saves the short movie clip together with the still photo, and then, at the end of the day, the camera combines all the images taken in hybrid mode into a short highlight movie of the day’s events. The PowerShot SX740 captures still images in JPEG and movies in full HD at 4K resolution with stereo sound. The camera has built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that allows you to upload your movies and images wherever you have a Wi-Fi connection, share your photos and movies with other Bluetooth devices, and control your camera remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

Pros

  • Zoom lens ranges from 24mm to 960mm
  • Display screen flips up
  • In hybrid mode, camera saves short movie clips with still photos to create a highlight movie of events
  • Captures movies in full HD at 4K resolution with stereo sound
  • Has built in Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Uses a 1/2.3 CMOS image sensor
  • Display screen doubles as the viewfinder, can be hard to view in sunlight
  • Captures still images in JPEG format only

Our Winner for the Best Digital Camera Under 400

The choice was difficult because all of these cameras are worthy contenders. Our choice, though, is the Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital Camera. It wins because you can pair its larger image sensor with any of Canon’s EF and EF-S lenses. So, you can purchase a zoom lens with a range comparable to the cameras above while having the larger image sensor. Because LED displays can be hard to see in bright sunlight, we like cameras like this Canon Rebel that have viewfinders. We also favor cameras that allow you to capture still images in both RAW and JPEG formats. The camera operates more quickly in JPEG, so JPEG is a good option for shooting fast action or when you are attempting to capture shots of kids, pets, wildlife, and other subjects that could move at any second or when you, yourself, are on the move while trying to capture an image. However, shooting in RAW format allows you to capture and preserve all of the color and details present in the scene. As you develop as a photographer, you will appreciate the control the Rebel T6 gives you over color temperature and the variation in moods that you can create with the ambiance settings. Finally, we are partial to cameras with built-in Wi-Fi because we like the idea of being able to stream live videos, immediately uploading photos and videos to the internet, and using a smartphone or tablet to control the camera remotely. Remote control not only eliminates almost all sources of camera shake but also allows you to film yourself at some distance from the camera and to see the image you are capturing even if the camera lacks a tilting or flip up LED display. For these reasons, we think that the Canon EOS Rebel T6 is a versatile camera that will serve you well.

DSLR vs Point and Shoot Cameras

DSLR vs. point-and-shoot, that’s how it used to be. Professional photographers and aspiring professional photographers used DSLR cameras exclusively. For those who wanted better pictures but who were intimidated by the mystique of DSLR cameras, point-and-shoot cameras bridged the gap between cell phone cameras and DSLRs.

As the quality of point-and-shoot images has improved, though, professional photographers have come to appreciate lightweight point-and-shoot cameras with a versatile zoom lens as a means of capturing impromptu photographs of sights they see as they go about their day. At the same time, DSLRs with fully automatic modes and scene modes make these cameras more user-friendly. So, it’s not necessarily a case of one type of camera vs. the other any longer. Now it’s a question of which one best meets your photographic needs at the moment – a point-and-shoot or a DSLR.

What Is a DSLR Camera?

DSLR or digital single lens reflex cameras capture images on the photoreceptors of their image sensors rather than film. However, like SLR film cameras, DSLR cameras use mirrors to reflect the image from the lens to the viewfinder. This means that what you see in the viewfinder is exactly what the camera’s lens will capture. That’s the basic definition of a DSLR camera, but there’s more.

What More Is There to a DSLR Camera?

DSLR cameras are larger than point-and-shoot cameras, but their size provides more interior space for a larger image sensor. As we’ve already mentioned, a larger image sensor provides higher quality images.

Like point-and-shoot cameras, DSLR cameras have an automatic mode and several semi-automatic modes. Both allow you to make some changes to the camera’s settings in semi-automatic mode to adjust for the lighting, for example. DSLR cameras, however, provide more setting choices than point-and-shoots, so they offer more options for making adjustments than point-and-shoot cameras do.

DSLRs cameras also allow you to take full manual control of all of the camera’s settings. In fact, manufacturers design DSLR cameras for easy access to the manual controls because they expect that most users of these cameras eventually will use them in manual mode.

Both DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras may have built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC connections. Apps from the manufacturer may allow you to control the camera from your tablet or smartphone. You might also be able to upload photos and videos directly to the internet

The ability to take more control of the camera’s settings as you feel ready to do so allows you to grow as a photographer without having to repeatedly replace your camera with a more sophisticated one.

One more advantage you should consider – unlike point-and-shoot cameras, DSLR cameras have a range of accessories available for specific photographic situations.

What Accessories Are Available for DSLR Cameras?

  • When you purchase a DSLR camera, you purchase removable, interchangeable lenses separately from the camera body. Lenses that are available to be purchased separately are of higher quality than those that come with point-and-shoot cameras. By purchasing the lenses separately, you can choose the lenses you want for your type of photography.
  • Adapters let you use lenses made by your camera’s manufacturer for other camera models in their line on your camera. Some of these lenses may not be fully compatible with your camera, however, and consequently, some of the lenses functions may not work. Check your user manual for lists of fully compatible and less compatible lenses.
  • Lens filters enable you to take better pictures under difficult lighting situations. For example, UV filters and skylight filters improve image clarity by reducing the effects of haze, pollutants, and moisture in the atmosphere. They also reduce reflected UV light in bright beach and snow scenes. Filters also can create special effects. Orange filters add warmth to colors, enhance sunsets, and complement the skin tones of people with warm skin tones – natural redheads and strawberry blonds — while magenta filters complement people with cool skin tones – just about everyone else.
  • DSLRs may have hot shoes for accessories like microphones and external lighting and flashes.
    A camera with a hot shoe for an external microphone lets you choose the right microphone for the situation when you are shooting video. You might want a highly sensitive microphone to record an interview or to capture soft sounds. Microphones that reduce wind noise improve sound quality when you are shooting outside.
    When you use the hot shoe to attach external lighting or flashes, you can use your camera to control these accessories.
  • DSLR cameras are more durable than point-and-shoot cameras. You also can buy weather-resistant and weatherproof cases for them. Waterproof cases allow you to shoot underwater while swimming, scuba diving, or diving. Always check the maximum depth allowed for the case, though, and keep your dive within that range.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of DSLR Cameras?

What Are the Advantages of DSLR Cameras?

Larger image sensors contain larger photoreceptors that enable the image sensor to capture more of the color gradations and details from the image. So, larger image sensors result in higher quality, more detailed images. These more detailed images can be enlarged beyond poster size with no fear that they will become grainy or blurred.

DSLR cameras usually allow you to capture your image in RAW format as well as JPEG. RAW format captures and retains all of the details in the image. Your camera may slow down as it processes all of the information though, so JPEG is the better choice when you need to capture images quickly. RAW also creates larger files that require more storage space on your memory card. On the other hand, JPEG condenses the image when the picture is taken so that it can create a smaller file. It then condenses the image again every time the image is opened and resaved. This repeated condensation eliminates more and more detail from the image, but you can rectify this by saving JPEG images in PNG format before editing them.

DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras function identically in automatic and semi-automatic modes. The camera’s light meter and the scene and face recognition software determine the camera’s settings. However, a DSLR camera’s larger image sensor and a wider range of settings still give it the edge in image quality over a point-and-shoot camera.

Being able to take increasing control of the camera’s settings lets you experiment. You can learn how camera settings can convey emotions that give meaning to the image.

As already mentioned above, DSLR cameras are more durable than point-and-shoot cameras. As also mentioned, accessories outfit your camera for your type of photography.

Purchasing the lenses separately from the camera body allows you to choose high-quality lenses that are specifically designed for the types of photography that you enjoy. Point-and-shoot cameras come with lenses that are fixed to the camera, and the quality and capabilities of the lenses can vary. Generally, though, the lenses of point-and-shoot cameras are lower quality than lenses for DSLR cameras. In addition, some point-and-shoot cameras offer only wide angle or mid-range lenses which you can use for landscapes and individual or group portraits but which lack the range to focus tightly on distant subjects.

What Are the Disadvantages of DSLR Cameras?

DSLR cameras are larger and heavier than point-and-shoot cameras. You will also need to take your lenses with you, which adds to the number of things you must carry as well as to the weight and bulkiness of your camera gear. When switching between subjects or types of photography, you also may need to pause to change lenses.

Learning to use all of the features of a DSLR camera requires time, and the number of options available may feel overwhelming and confusing. Some people may find that this discourages them from trying to learn how to use these cameras.

DSLR cameras are more expensive than point-and-shoot cameras when you add the cost of the camera body and the lenses together.

What Is a Point-and-Shoot Camera?

Point-and-shoot cameras are small, lightweight cameras that you can carry with you in your pocket. They let you capture the photo-worthy sights that you see every day. As with DSLR cameras, however, there is more to know about point-and-shoot cameras.

What More Is There to Know About Point-and-Shoot Cameras?

Point-and-shoot cameras are a step up from the camera in your cell phone. They provide higher quality images than cell phone cameras. While easy to use, they also may have more features than the camera in your cell phone.

What Features Might Point-and-Shoot Cameras Have?

Point-and-shoot cameras have fixed lenses that are permanently attached to the camera. They can have an optical zoom lens that extends and retracts, but some point-and-shoot cameras have a wide angle or mid-range lens and depend on an extended digital zoom lens to capture distant subjects.

Optical zooms focus narrowly on distant subjects. Digital zooms repeatedly enlarge and crop distant subjects. Repeatedly enlarging a distant subject can result in an indistinct or grainy image, however.

Manufacturers design point-and-shoot cameras to operate in automatic mode and scene mode. Common scene modes include portrait mode with face detection, landscape mode, and modes for nighttime and low light photography. Scene modes might also include pet mode, fireworks mode, sunset mode, panorama mode, and modes for beach and snow scenes.

Some point-and-shoot cameras do offer full manual control of the camera.

Like DSLRs, these cameras may have built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC connections. You might be able to control the camera from your tablet or smartphone and upload photos and videos directly to the internet

The bodies of these cameras consist of plastic to keep them lightweight. To reduce the size and weight of the camera, point-and-shoots may have a digital viewfinder that displays the image from the image sensor, thus eliminating the mirrors that reflect the image from the lens to the viewfinder. Point-and-shoots may even reduce their size even further by omitting a viewfinder altogether. If the viewfinder is omitted, the digital display serves as the viewfinder.

Accessories for these cameras include table and floor tripods. They do not have mounts for external microphones or lighting accessories. Choosing the range of the optical zoom lens is important with these cameras. Optical zoom with a range from 25mm to over 400mm should cover most types of photography.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Point-and-Shoot Cameras?

While the picture quality may not equal the images captured by a DSLR, versatility, lightweight, compact size, and user-friendliness make point-and-shoots perfect for day-to-day use.

What Are the Advantages of Point-and-Shoot Cameras?

Manufacturers design many point-and-shoot cameras to compete with the cameras contained in cell phones. Consequently, point-and-shoots are compact and lightweight, but they have more features and better lenses and image sensors than cell phone cameras.

When they are in full automatic mode, point-and-shoot cameras recognize commonly photographed scenes such as landscapes, portraits, indoor settings, and settings with low light. These cameras then select the scene mode that best matches the image. Each scene mode is programmed with the most commonly used settings for that scene. In portrait mode, the camera recognizes the best settings for the background behind the subject while its face recognition software chooses the best settings for the skin tone of the person or persons being photographed. All you need to do is compose your shot and press the shutter button.

Point-and-shoot cameras offer easy access to controls for shooting photos and videos in automatic mode. Point-and-shoots also provides quick access to a selection of semi-automatic scene modes.

With a versatile optical zoom lens, point-and-shoots readily handle most types of photography and photographic situations. The features of these cameras make missing a picture-worthy moment far less likely.

What Are the Disadvantages of Point-and-Shoot Cameras?

The image sensors in point-and-shoot cameras are smaller than those in DSLR cameras. Consequently, these image sensors have smaller photoreceptors than full-size image sensors. A smaller image sensor means that the camera captures less information from the image. Some of the detail and gradation between colors is lost. That missing information limits the size of the copies that you can make from the image. Enlarging these images too far results in blurred or grainy images.

Most point and shoot cameras capture images in JPEG format because manufacturers expect that most users often will use the camera to capture images of moving objects like kids and pets. They also expect that users will use the camera on vacation or at family events where they will want to take lots of images. As already mentioned, JPEG captures images quickly and creates smaller files so that you have room for more pictures on your memory card, but also as already mentioned, it does condense images and lose detail. Just remember to save your images as PNG files before editing them.

Point-and-shoot cameras may allow only limited manual access to the camera settings. Some offer only automatic and semi-automatic modes.

While some point-and-shoot cameras do allow you to take manual control of the settings, access to these options can be buried deep in menus. Manufacturers expect most people who buy point-and-shoots to use the automatic and scene modes.

Best Point-and-Shoot Recommendations

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

The PowerShot G7 uses a 1-inch image sensor, which is larger than the 1/2.3 inch (2/3 of an inch) image sensor found in many point and shoots. The wide-angle optical zoom lens ranges from 24mm to 100mm with an additional 4X of digital zoom. This is a good range for shooting selfies, group selfies, portraits, group portraits, landscapes, and architecture, but it lacks the ability to focus in tightly on distant subjects. Unlike most point-and-shoots, though, you can choose to shoot in RAW format or JPEG. It captures still images at a resolution of 20.1 MP and full HD movies at a resolution of 1080p with stereo sound. Most point-and-shoots film with monaural sound. For better photos of your friends and family, you can register the faces of up to 12 different people with up to four different angles or facial expressions. The face recognition uses this information to recognize these people and optimize the camera’s settings. You can, of course, always shoot in full auto-mode or a wide selection of scene modes, but this camera also offers various levels of manual control. The PowerShot G7 eliminates a viewfinder to reduce size, so the tilt screen display functions as the viewfinder. The screen does flip up above the top of the camera allowing you to see yourself when shooting selfies. This type of flip screen is also useful for vloggers who film themselves as they do how-to demonstrations or product reviews. The camera includes built-in WiFi and NFC capabilities so that you can upload pictures and movies directly to the internet, control your camera with your smartphone or tablet, and share pictures and movies instantly with other NFC devices.

Sony RX100 IV

Like the PowerShot G7, the Sony RX100 IV has a one-inch image sensor. It captures still images at a resolution of 20.1 MP and movies in full HD at a resolution of 1080p in stereo sound. The wide angle ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T optical zoom lens ranges from 24mm to 70mm which is good for selfies, portraits, group portraits, landscapes, and architecture. Again like the PowerShot G7, you can capture your images in either JPEG or RAW, and you can captures movies in full HD at a resolution of 1080p with stereo sound. You can register the faces of up to eight people. Unlike the PowerShot G7, the Sony RX100 IV has an electronic viewfinder that displays the image from the image sensor. With this camera, you can reduce wind noise when you are recording movies outdoors, and you can shoot movies in super slow motion. The camera allows you to shoot in full automatic mode, choose from a good selection of scene modes, or take varying degrees of manual control over the camera settings, including full manual control. Like the PowerShot G7, the Sony RX100 IV offers built-in WiFi and NFC capabilities so that you can share pictures between NFC devices, upload files directly to the internet, and control the camera remotely using your smartphone or tablet.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10

The Lumix DMC-LX10 also uses a one-inch image sensor. It captures still photos at a resolution of 20.1 MP and full HD movies in 4K with stereo sound. While 1080p remains the standard resolution for posting videos on the internet, some vloggers are switching to 4K. You may or may not be able to see the difference between the two resolutions on the internet, but if you want to play your movies on a 4K TV, you will probably want a camera that can shoot videos in 4K. This camera’s wide angle Leica DC Vario-Summilux optical zoom lens ranges from 24mm to 72mm. Again, that’s a good range for selfies, portraits, group portraits, landscapes, and architecture, but it doesn’t have the range to focus in tightly on distant objects. The LCD display functions as a touch screen and flips up so that you see yourself as you are shooting a selfie or filming yourself as you are doing a demonstration for your vlog. For improved portraits, you can register the faces of up to three people on this camera. You can shoot in full automatic mode, scene mode, or take varying degrees of control of the camera’s setting all the way to full manual mode. While this camera does have built-in WiFi so that you can upload files directly to the internet and control it remotely from your smartphone or tablet, it does not have built-in NFC.

Best DSLR Recommendations

Nikon D3500

The Nikon D3500 uses an APS-C image sensor which measures 33.5 mm x 15.6 mm. For comparison, the 1-inch image sensors in the point-and-shoot cameras above measures by 12.6 x 9.8 mm and a full-size image processor measures 36 x 24 mm. While the still image resolution of the Nikon D3500 at 24.2 MP may not seem numerically that much larger than the 20.1 MP resolution of the point-and-shoot cameras above, the D3500’s larger image sensor allows room for larger photoreceptors which capture more of details from the image. As mentioned in the discussion of DSLR cameras, the lenses and camera body can be purchased separately, but manufacturers also bundle lenses with the camera bodies. This D3500 comes bundled with the Nikon Pro Kit which includes a wide angle Nikon Nikkor optical zoom lens that ranges from 18mm to 55mm and a telephoto Nikon Nikkor optical zoom lens that ranges from 70mm to 400 mm. This gives you the ability to shoot everything from close up macro photography to selfies and landscapes to birds, wildlife, and fast action sporting events. You can shoot still photographs in either JPEG or RAW format, and the DC 3500 captures full HD movies at a resolution of 1080p. As with the point-and-shoot cameras above, you can shoot in full automatic mode, scene mode, or take full control of the camera’s settings. The D3500 includes an optical viewfinder that allows you to see the image through the camera lens. It has built-in WiFi, but it lacks built-in NFC. The Nikon accessories available for this camera include external flashes, an external microphone, lens filters, and more.

Canon EOS 80D

The Canon EOS 80D uses an APS-C image sensor that measures 22.5 x 15 mm that, like the image sensor for the Nikon D3500, allows room for larger photoreceptors. The EOS 80D captures still images at a resolution of 24.2 MP and full HD movies at a resolution of 1080p. This camera comes bundled with two Canon lenses, a wide angle zoom lens that ranges from 18mm to 55mm and a telephoto zoom lens that ranges from 55mm to 250mm. These two lenses should be fine for most photographic situations. However, if you become serious about wildlife or action photography, you might want to add a telephoto lens with a more extended range. As with the other recommended cameras, you have the choice of shooting in JPEG or RAW format, and you can shoot in full automatic mode, scene mode, or take varying degrees of control of the camera settings. As with the Nikon D3500, this camera has built-in WiFi but lacks NFC capabilities. The accessory shoe allows you to use this camera with an external Canon microphone, a range of external Canon flash units, and assorted lens filters.

Conclusion

In the end, the best camera for you comes down to what you are most comfortable with and what you want to do with your movies and photographs. As with the cameras we recommend here, you can find cameras with wide angle lenses that are great for landscapes and architectural shots of iconic buildings when you’re traveling as well as selfies, group selfies, and portraits of friends, family, and pets when your at home. You also can find cameras with telephoto lenses that add the option of focusing in tightly on fast action shots or distant subjects such as a hot air balloon or a bird on the wing. All of these cameras allow you to shoot in full automatic mode, so you can begin taking photographs and shooting movies right away. Then, if you want, you can learn more about photography and your camera’s controls and settings as you are ready.

Street Photography - Taxi

Street Photography for Beginners

As a street photography enthusiast, I like the adrenaline when taking pictures in the public without making people curious. Taking pictures of strangers was often hard; however, I soon discovered that almost everyone likes to be photographed if you respect their privacy and feelings.

Street photography is all about documenting life and our society. It does not have to be shot on the streets as photographers also take pictures inside malls, airport, and many other public places. The purpose of these pictures is to capture human emotions, feelings, and soul.

This guide is written to introduce you to this fascinating art, which can often become addictive as you start enjoying its different themes.

Street Photography for Beginners – Legal Concerns

Disclaimer: Because I am not an expert in this matter (or a lawyer). Do your own research into your local laws, regarding the law and street photography. Do not hold me (or photographertouch.com) accountable for what is said here, these are my own beliefs, based on my research. Do your own due diligence, and get familiar with the laws in your area, or places where you travel.

Street photography requires you to consider ethical and moral responsibilities when capturing images in a public place. If you have read about street photography, you may have heard about a model release. A model release is a contract between the photographer and the person who is photographed. In simple words, the contract dictates that you have gained explicit permission of the subject to be photographed.

In reality, getting a model release from everyone around you is not possible, which is why you need to understand what and when to take a photo. The model release also proves a dilemma because you can’t ask every person in Times Square to sign a contract with you only because you will be capturing the image of the bustling activity in Times Square.

Due to these ethical and moral responsibilities, you should understand when you need a model release and when you can take a picture without worrying about formalities. If common sense prevails, you can capture images in the public as long as people around you are not bothered by your activity. On the other hand, it’s not wise to take photos that can annoy a specific subject. For example, I heard about a guy once who took photos of the monks in Thailand where there were many other people around. Suddenly, a policeman approached at him and politely instructed him to take permission from the monks before photographing them.

Similarly, you shouldn’t take a photo of a private apartment when there are people on the balcony. Most of these individuals are in a private place where they have the right not to be photographed. Capturing images of people in their bathing suit or people performing their official duties may also require their permission. If you want to play safe, don’t take any picture that may provoke someone to take action.

You should also be careful in taking pictures of landmarks. For instance, you can’t take a photo of the Eiffel Tower at night because the city government wants to protect its light show. Museums, military installations, airports, and private properties are some of the other places where common sense should prevail.

Australia

North America

Europe

Asia

Australia

Canada

France

Japan

New Zealand

USA

Luxembourg

Singapore

New York

Norway

UK

Equipment and Camera

The equipment you will want to use can vary, depending on the type or style of street photography you are going to take. For flexibility and capturing the image, whenever the opportunity arises, a big lens DSLR can be too heavy and clumsy, and you may want to select a camera that doesn’t make you conspicuous in the public. It means that a smaller camera or prime lens will be much more suitable, even a point-and-shoot camera or your mobile phone camera can work if you know when and how to capture images.

These simple cameras are effective because street photography mostly requires instant decision-making from the photographer. As a street photographer, you don’t have the time to set up your tripod. In fact, some photographers shun zoom lens because they want to capture the subject in quick succession.

Based on the type of street photography, heavy cameras can also provide much better results. For instance, if you’re interested in taking photos of landmarks at a distance, zoom-lens is a better choice. Similarly, 35mm lens may be the perfect choice for someone wanting to capture a rainy day on a village street. Just make sure, you are comfortable with the camera.

Camera Settings

For beginners, it’s always fascinating to understand how experts were able to capture amazing street images.Here are some street photography tips and trick for your inspiration, which will help you set your camera from an expert perspective:

Auto-Focus

Instead of using auto-focus capabilities, expert street photographers used “pre-focus” to capture an image. A pre-focus is a standard point for you to focus your camera. Anyone, who enters the pre-focus range, will be a potential candidate for capturing an image.

Pre-focus can be a great tool for beginners in an area where there is either a lot of activity or you are sure that a large number of people will pass through your pre-focus area. Whenever the subject enters a pre-focus area, you can capture the image, if you like. It is also important to use small apertures such as f/5.6 and f/8, which work seamlessly for a designated range.

Lights and Shadows

One of the most defining features of street photography is to be able to work with any kind of light. In fact, there is no bad light in street photography. You need to embrace every moment, which also means that light and shadows are an intrinsic part of the experience.

Don’t try to adjust the light, colors, and shadows in your computer software. Because people always associate street scenes with natural elements. In simple words, let nature dictate its path while you wait for that perfect opportunity to take the picture.

If it’s raining, it may be better to highlight the blurred effect that naturally comes with the rain. For instance, think of the dramatic effects of light reflecting from street lamps on a rainy night. Overall, you don’t want to fiddle around with the dramatic and mysterious impact that nature creates.

Unlike other forms of photography, it will be a grave mistake to change the environment that we all have become accustomed to. In street photography, lights and shadows are your friends; use them wisely, and you may get a picture of a lifetime.

Shutter Speed

If it’s the first time you are going to set parameters for street photography, you can always put your shutter speed on automatic settings. Automatic setting allows you to capture images without fiddling around with the camera settings.

If you need a definite answer, then expert recommends that your shutter speed should always be above 1/125th because street action is fast. Keeping shutter speed above 1/125th will allow you to take spontaneous action without losing the moment. For still photography, where the action is very slow, going below 1/125th doesn’t hurt either.

ISO

While aperture settings and shutter speed are somewhat easy to adjust, ISO remains a critical element that will take time to learn. For ease of use, experts recommend leaving ISO setting to auto. Automatic ISO settings are preferred for amateurs and starters because it is a somewhat of an art to perfectly align ISO setting with hundreds of different combinations of shutter speed and aperture modes, available today.

In fact, I’ve seen many expert photographers leave ISO setting on auto. If you want to manually set ISO, then don’t let it go beyond 1600.

Composition and Light

Here are the seven most well-known street photography tips to compose your photos:

1.Rule of Thirds – The rule suggests dividing the image between three vertical and three horizontal lines. Accordingly, the inner intersections of the grid show the four points that a viewer’s eye tends to seek out. Placing a point of interest at the center is less natural, but placing points of interest at the intersecting points creates a more balanced and has a more meaningful result. For single-subject photos, the left line is also important as viewers are accustomed to reading from left to right.

Rule of Thirds

2. Negative Space – Sometimes, you want both the subject and background to provide a strong feeling. The negative space is the background, which can offer intriguing insights. Too much clutter in negative space can also prove problematic.

Negative Space

3. Depth of Field – Depending on your taste, you may want to highlight specific areas of an image. Using a wider aperture can help focus on the subject; whereas narrow aperture can tell a greater story from a wide perspective.

Depth of Field

4. Textures – Human eyes are trained to discern complex textures. As a street photographer, you can include a variety of textures as backgrounds or subjects emphasizing different moods.

Textures

5. Pattern – Just as textures, patterns also play an important role in our lives. Street photography is tailor-made for finding patterns on the street. Patterns can come in a variety of colors, shape, and objects.

Pattern

6. Perspective – Everyone sees the world from a different perspective. The same is true for photography, where you can take a photo from different angles enabling the photographer to find interesting elements that sometimes remain hidden.

Perspective

7. Color – You can easily create emotions using color. Humans are accustomed to associating colors with emotions; therefore, the choice of particular color can play an important role in offering a more immersive experience.

Color

Advanced Photography Tips for Beginners

Learning to take photographs may seem a daunting process because we forget about simple techniques that makes a great photo. The following techniques will help you get out of your shelf and feel the world around you without the camera in your hands.

Try start using your eyes instead of the viewfinder. Sometimes, you can miss the perfect image outside the frame. Likewise, you should embrace spontaneity. It means you should trust your gut feelings to take a photo without thinking how others will respond to the image.

Instead of finding that perfect image, it also pays to find consistent themes in your photography. Working with themes can lead to a collection of photographs fit for full-fledged projects and books. Another tip for great photography is keep taking photos. Regular photos will enhance your mental ability, keep your eyes focused, and improve hand-eye coordination.

Showing emotions and gestures are also a great way to capture great photos. Always be on the lookout for capturing emotions because emotions shown on people’s face can often be the single most fascinating fact of a picture.

Street Photography Mistakes

Just like some of the advanced street photography ideas, which are very simple, street photographers also continue to make simple mistakes that can easily be fixed. Here are the top five mistakes:

  1. Low ISO – The old school always recommended using low ISO, which may not be true in this tech-age. As new technology is introduced, high-tech cameras are able to use high ISO to grasp perfect pictures. It’s one of the reasons why I suggested using automatic ISO settings in the earlier paragraphs.
  2. Fear of Subject – Most photographers feel shy taking photos of strangers. If you can’t take a photo you like, street photography may not be for you because it require courage and communicating with people around you
  3. Getting Close – Sometimes, you need to get closer to the object to get a great angle. Overcome your fear by trying to take pictures from various distance and angles.
  4. Removing the Camera – Often, photographers remove the camera from the eyes quickly after taking the photo. Instead, try to keep your posture without removing the camera allowing the subject to walk through.
  5. Focusing on a Single Person – When trying to focus on a single subject, remember that street photography can create sudden opportunities to take photos of multiple subjects. As a result, always be ready to combine elements into complex scenes.

Hopefully, these street photography ideas will help you take the first steps in the right direction. As street photography can be different from other types of photography, try to keep things as simple as possible. Don’t try to complicate matters by learning too much. Keep on taking pictures whenever you get time because street photography is all about learning from your experiences and gut instinct.

Black Friday

Shopping Month: All You Need to Know to Buy Things Cheaply and Safely

Chinese Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – November packed with special promotions on the net and in stores around the world. We have collected all the information for you.

The big shopping celebration of November is already here, and it seems that you are ready to take out your credit cards and storm the various shopping sites – in order to take advantage of the big deals. Just before you get lost between everything offered on the Internet, we decided to make things a bit more organized for you: what to expect and when, what discounts can be found, and most importantly – how to keep sanity and make no mistakes in this huge shopping celebration.

My Heart in The East and My Credit Card is in The West

The temptation comes from the East. This is the Chinese Singles’ Day, which takes place every year at 11.11 (this year is coming on Saturday), during which all sites in China, known for their low prices, offer even bigger and more profitable deals. On this day it is recommended to browse sites such as Alibaba and Aliexpress.

About two weeks after this celebration ends, on November 23, comes Black Friday. In recent years, this day has become a worldwide demand, with most online and offline stores offering huge promotions.

This is a good day to go shopping in general for those who want to save but beware of the hustle and bustle of shopping centers in the entire Western world. If you focus on online shopping on the same day, you will find huge deals on American and European shopping sites such as eBay, AMAZON, NEXT, ASOS and a host of other sites.

If you did not have the time to stock up on that day, do not worry: all of these sites will also offer big deals on the following Monday – “Cyber Monday” which is a direct continuation of Black Friday.

the great sales days for 2018

Caution from online shopping mistakes

So how do you manage to buy smart and keep yourself in the sea of temptations?

Here’s how to do it right: Make sure that the site you are purchasing from is shipping to your location, preferably free of charge.

Measure yourself in advance: make one good measurement and write down all the measurements so that you can continue shopping all year long without getting out of bed. While shopping, pay attention to the composition of the fabric that may affect the fit on the body, as well as images raised by other buyers.

Make sure to compare prices and note that many sites offer a special coupon code that sometimes appears only at the checkout or newsletter of the site. If you are planning a large purchase from a particular site, it pays to be updated and prepared in advance. Check the seller’s return policy in advance and know the consumer protections available to you. People indicated that they did not return a damaged or broken product due to the return process and the shipping costs.

Take into account shipping time and special delays around the holiday seasons and shopping, and note that there are various shipping options. People indicated that they ordered a product for a specific event but received it late so there was no longer any need.

People said they ordered a product on the Internet and regretted buying it when it arrived. Before buying, learn a little about the seller, read other customer testimonials, check how the seller is rated and how many purchases have already been made. Did you buy them anyway? Know that you can always change your mind. As long as you take care to protect yourself in advance: buy only on secure sites and use secure payment methods.

And there are also ways to keep your purchases secure

It is also important to follow certain safety precautions related to your safety. ESET says that just like at any other time of the year, transactions that seem to be too good, are probably not really like that. Because if it looks too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. Make sure that the site you purchase is secure: Check if the URL begins with https since most shopping sites encrypt traffic. In addition, on secure sites, there is a green lock on the left side of the address. Notice that the padlock appears in the URL line and not on the site itself – it can indicate a fictitious site. Also, make sure that your operating system is up-to-date and has the latest security fixes.

secured url

This is how secured URL looks like

Pay with a credit card or PayPal – Credit card companies allow buyers protection if something goes wrong while shopping. Bank transfers are usually not returned – be suspicious if the website asks you to make a bank transfer instead of paying by credit card. Set up alerts via your credit card company, they will send you an SMS or e-mail on every purchase made on your credit card. Set alarms starting at a low amount for each purchase. Also, set alerts for total purchases above a certain amount to protect multiple purchases of low amounts. Do not click unfamiliar links to sites that advertise promotions, coupons, etc. It can reach you via email, social networks, and even Google ads.

Finally, keep your personal and financial information. If you apply these tips during the upcoming shopping period, you can definitely significantly reduce your security risks.

Lens Guide

Lens Guide

Whether you’re a beginner or a professional photographer, buying lenses for your camera is a highly specific process that requires knowing a few different factors before making your purchase. Sometimes, searching for the right lens can become confusing or complicated when there are so many terms and details to remember.

Don’t be intimidated by all the information available -- this guide walks you through each step of choosing a camera lens with a combination of in-depth analysis and market basics. You don’t have to be a professional to understand the information here, and photography experts can find this handy reference guide gathers all the industry tips and tricks together in one place.

Except for in certain instances, everything you need to know about camera lens basics should be true for both film and digital cameras. While only some lenses and advanced technology are available for digital cameras, many of the principles for finding the right lens remain the same in either case.

The Lens: Basic Terms You Need To Know

Because many lenses can be used for more than one purpose, you’ll need a functional knowledge of the most common terms in order to shop the selections you’ll find. There is a lot of technical jargon to throw around when you’re talking about camera lenses. Let’s break that down.

The lens body and its functions:

Focal length

This refers to the level of magnification a lens provides. Focal length is measured by the millimeter; lenses with a range between a high and low focal length are known as zoom lenses, while those with a fixed focal length are called prime lenses. In terms of what a human eye might see, a lower number takes in a larger view than your natural sight. A high number means a smaller viewing aspect.

Aperture

Set of black camera shutter icons on white background.

Also known as the f-stop number, aperture can be a difficult term to master when beginning photography as a hobby or profession. Basically, the aperture setting changes how much of the image will be in focus in a final picture by changing how much light filters through the lens and to the sensor. In low-light conditions you will look for the lower numbers f-stop.

Shutter speed

The shutter controls how long the sensor is exposed to light, which affects the quality and clarity of the image you’re photographing. Typically, a faster shutter speed equals a cleaner image, especially when you’re photographing subjects while you or they are moving.

Sensor sizes

The size of a camera’s sensor will determine if the camera is considered a full-frame or cropped-sensor camera, also known as an APS-C camera. Understanding how does sensor size affect focal length will help you determine what lens will work for the shot you want. A lens that can work with various sensor sizes will produce different results despite the fact it’s the same focal length. Knowing how to calculate according to the crop factor will help you determine which lens to buy, and we explain that in depth below.

Lens mount

For a lens, this term indicates the ring that allows the lens and camera to connect. Certain adapters can be used for some types of lenses so that they can be used with cameras from different manufacturers.

Compatibility

For a lens, this refers to both the camera’s sensor size and connection ring to the camera. Traditional film cameras and most professional DSLR camera lenses are compatible with the aspect ratios of APS-C cameras. However, lenses made for cropped-sensor cameras are not compatible with the aspect ratios of full-frame cameras. As well, certain adapters can be used for some types of lenses so that they can be used with cameras from different manufacturers.

Field of view

What the camera sees is called the field of view and can be observed through the viewfinder for each camera. Understanding how the camera will frame a picture in its final form is an essential part of photography.

Depth of field

How much of the photo is in focus gives the viewer a sense of positioning within the scope of the picture’s composition.

Optical lens

This might be a single pane of highly specialized glass or more usually an assembly of them for any given camera lens. The quality of the manufacturing impacts the clarity and longevity of the lens.
Focusing ring. Whether manually used or automated on digital lenses, this controls how of your frame is in focus. Many modern lenses have indicators and settings that allow a combination of manual and auto-focusing techniques.

Hoods and caps

Hoods for your lens are used to prevent rain from hitting the lens or help reduce how much light is filtering through. Caps can snap, push or screw onto the front and back of a lens for added protection before and after use.

Different Types Of Lenses

Now that we have the basic vocabulary covered, let’s talk about the specific types of lenses you’ll find on the market and when you might need to use them. Think about your camera lens in terms how you want your final picture to come out. This will help you identify the type of lens you need for the perfect shot of your dreams.

Most general purpose zoom lenses offer the new photographer many opportunities to practice mastering focus and depth of field principles. More practiced photographers also need a go-to classic for capturing shots from many angles and perspectives. Functionally, any fixed lens is considered a prime lens and requires the photographer to understand the focal length between their lens and their subject. Higher quality brands achieve faster shutter speeds and might then call their lenses "fast prime" to further differentiate them from standard fixed lenses.

Starter lenses:

Standard

A standard lens can also be called a "normal lens" and is usually included with new camera purchases. Every beginner should be comfortable using the standard lens and its settings while they explore their photography skills. Most standard lenses are meant to render pictures that have a natural-looking angle as if seen by the human eye.

Macro

While zoom lenses can get you a close shot, a macro lens will get you the closest shot possible. Hyper-sensitive to the smallest of details, getting started with a macro lens means even a single rose can be captured through a variety of tight shots.

Intermediate upgrades:

Fisheye

Measuring between 8-16mm, a fisheye lens uses focal lengths far below what the natural human eye sees and the edges and corners of a shot distort due to the extremity of the wide angle. Photographers often choose this lens for architectural shots or artistic angles for landscape and sporting pictures. When you’re ready to take your beginner skills up a notch, playing around with the interesting perspectives you can find through a fisheye lens is a great workout for your focus-finding and depth of field skills.

Wide-angle

Perfect for capturing breathtaking views and a favorite of travel photographers, a wide-angle lens broadens the possibilities for rich composition and impressive scope for your photographs.

Telephoto

As a lens with focal lengths anywhere from 55-70mm at the mid-range zoom to extreme 1700mm lenses used for sport and wildlife photography, a telephoto lens is used to get a close shot from a distance the human eye wouldn’t be able to see in detail. While a telephoto lens poses a more challenging learning curve than others for the budding shutterbug, there are still brands that offer affordable and accessible versions so you can get used to working with more powerful lenses.

Pancake

A slimmed down, fixed lens meant for all-purpose use. While not especially technically challenging, photographers who are still getting used to how their camera processes images might feel more comfortable with adjustable, standard lenses instead.

Specialty grade:

Tilt-shift

Turning the subjects of your photograph into toy-like miniatures takes a special lens and some practice to master the trick of taking these kinds of shots.

Super telephoto

Maximum zooming capabilities happen with a super telephoto lens. Most landscape and wildlife photographers depend on the superior reach of high-end telephoto lenses.

Teleconverter

Called a lens for your lens, teleconverters increase the reach for your telephoto lens by attaching between the lens and the camera body. While some light capture and shutter speed may be affected, this is an inexpensive and versatile option for gaining more capabilities without purchasing a more expensive lens.

Advanced Lens Features

Even for the hobbyist photographer, certain advanced features can be easy to use and yield amazing results. For shutterbugs who are looking for more robust techniques, new technology offers a wide array of unique and awe-inspiring opportunities to improve your shots.

Just because these are advanced capabilities doesn’t mean you need an advanced level of skill to use them. Taking a little time to understand these features will have any hobbyist shooting like a pro with the lens in no time.

Technology And Durability

The build quality for lenses and cameras can vary greatly and is the main factor in determining the price point of any given lens. While in most cases this means a higher cost equals higher quality, it’s important to shop around for the kind of build that suits your needs and your camera best. As new synthetic compounds hit the market, manufacturer’s are experiment with how to improve the durability and longevity of their lenses.

Most innovation answers a demand that comes from having a problem and struggling to solve it. Reverse lensing, where you turn your lens around and mount it to the camera with an adapter, is a helpful and inexpensive alternative to purchasing separate macro lenses. Now, some manufacturers may be working on camera lenses that have mounts on both ends in order to remove the need for special adapters on certain cameras.

While smartphones and other mirrorless or lensless cameras make their move on the market, none of them yet compare to the crisp and saturated qualities a photographer can achieve with a variety of traditional lens structures. Because of the way it captures and renders light, photography with formal lenses achieves the most accurate vision of what the human eye sees and what a camera can do to enhance it.

Stabilization And Sensitivity

Stabilization And Sensitivity

As shutter speeds and sensor sensitivity increases with technological advancements in photography, the need for stabilization features and fast-response focusing capabilities rise, as well. Many photographers may prefer their image stabilization mechanisms to be in the lens itself as opposed to the camera body. For most lenses, it’s assumed that the fine-tuning required for proper stabilization will be most accurate when calibrated inside the lens instead of the body.

Sensor stabilization has its place, too, especially for photographers trying to achieve a variety of different shots on a more budget-friendly basis when they can buy less dynamic lenses. Stabilization features in a lens can often mean a higher price tag, but many are becoming more affordable as the industry advances.

Autofocus and manual override mechanisms also continue to improve with the quality of components being made at better manufacturing rates. The more these two functions can work in tandem together, the more flexibility you have as a photographer to capture moments between movements and incredible detail for important shots.

Other Factors To Consider

Once you know the kind of shots you want to take and what type of lens works best, you’ll need to consider several other minor and major factors that could affect your image quality or your choice in equipment.

Certain photographers prioritize weight or price, while others look at build qualities and special features before determining which lens to include in their kit. Knowing all your options is an important step when developing your own preferences.

Compatibility And Equivalent Focal Lengths

While most lenses will list lens mount compatibility by brand somewhere in their specs, you can match their measurements or your own camera’s specs to find the right match. Comparing lenses with sensor sizes in order to know what image quality to expect is a trickier business. While there are calculators to help you estimate outcomes with different pairings, it’s important to remember a couple of basic factors.

A full-frame sensor is typically found in 35mm film cameras and the higher quality DSLR cameras most often used by professional photographers. The bigger sensor typically means a better quality photograph due to larger individual photosites collecting light on the sensor’s surface.

Most mid-range and average DSLR cameras have cropped sensors roughly half the size of those full-frame cameras; these cameras are referred to as Advanced Photo System type-C cameras.

Full-frame lenses can be used on either type, but the difference in sensor size affects the focal length. Photographers need to know the equivalent length if they’re using a full-frame lens on a cropped-sensor camera in order to frame their picture appropriately. For quick reference, multiplying the focal length of an APS-C camera by 1.6 for Canon lenses or 1.5 for Nikon lenses should give you the appropriate equivalent ratio.

If you currently have an APS-C type camera, it’s important to note that if you switch to a full-frame camera then you won’t be able to use APS-C lenses with your upgrade. This could affect your purchasing choices now if you’re investing in quality lenses with full-frame photography in mind.

What affects the price of the lens

With better quality comes higher prices, and this is certainly true of sensitive and finely-tuned equipment like camera lenses. The mechanisms that make the auto-focus operate or the shutters of the aperture opening flex faster or slower require expertise to put together and materials made to exacting specifications.

With better quality comes higher prices

With that level of craftsmanship or specialty materials comes not only a rising price but can often determine how large or heavy a lens may be. This is something to consider when putting together a kit not only because of your budget but how easily you can use and store the lens as well. It might not seem important, but when you’re holding a camera for long minutes to try and get the perfect shot, a lens that’s lighter than others by even a few ounces makes a huge difference.

Some cameras may be calibrated to work best with lenses manufactured by the same brand, but many third-party manufacturers are developing quality lenses that can be used with more and more cameras every day. This provides an affordable alternative for hobbyists who want more powerful components but can’t afford the brand name price tag.

Special Features And Lens Care

As technology continues to innovate with the digital capabilities of modern lenses, their functionality improves. With this comes a shift in industry standards and expectations. Newer lenses on the market target the need for more video capture now that so many photographers have cameras capable of both formats, which means big moves in the auto-focus and image stabilization area of development. High-end lenses focus almost instantly and combined stabilization in the lens and camera body itself make video capture cleaner and clearer.

Weather sealed lens increases the longevity and durability of camera lenses

Weather sealed lens increases the longevity and durability of camera lenses against wear and tear and other difficult conditions, like harsh elements and high humidity. New products that coat the lenses in order to reduce reflections and distortion can also protect the glass against minor damage, too.

All of this also means an expanded need to care for your camera lenses carefully. Most photographers already know they might need specialty cleaners and cloth for the front and rear panes, but proper care of a lens requires several tools in your kit. It’s important to know that proper care doesn’t mean constant cleaning — in fact, too much handling and cleaning can raise the risk of damages!

Whether you’re cleaning the lens at home or in the field, keep on hand a blower or a brush with soft bristles for your camera lenses in addition to the cleaning solution and microfiber cloth that should be standard items in every kit.

For quick fixes of smudges or fingerprints, dust the lens and apply the solution before using gentle, circular motions that work from the inside out. When you’re able to manage more in-depth maintenance, use a special little blower that puffs gentle bursts of air into the crevices and rings to rid them of debris or dust. Never blow with your mouth, as it could leave saliva or impart humidity into the camera.

Common Mistakes When Choosing A Lens

What are the Common Mistakes you can do?

Don’t worry, everybody makes mistakes when there’s so much information, terminology and technology to understand. The good news is that this list can help you avoid common problems and challenges you might face when buying a camera lens. Double-checking before your purchase for any last minute faults can often do the most in helping you avoid irreversible issues.

When You Don’t Do Research

The most common cause of problems when purchasing a new lens happens you have haven’t done the right amount of research. Either your lens doesn’t fit or you’re not getting the shot you want. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the most accurate information and it can take some digging around before you have all the answers you need.

Making sure your lens is compatible with the sensor size of your camera and that the lens mount will attach properly to your camera’s body are the most important factors to understand fully before buying.

Professionals can struggle with this as well as beginners, so don’t worry if you find yourself flailing around in comment threads and review lists wondering what your question was in the first place. Also, remember that understanding each lens has a specific set of purposes can help you narrow down the ones you need and the settings you prefer.

When You Buy Used And Untested

Many photographers score great gear by swapping with other enthusiasts or buying secondhand lenses through reputable hands. Many eager beginners can get caught up in a nice looking price tag and figure that it’s okay to buy it used since they’re just getting started. The problem with buying secondhand lenses from stores or people who don’t understand the special care and requirements of these sensitive pieces means you might be buying excessively damaged goods.

When possible, you should consider purchasing a lens brand new so you can rest easier with a knowledge of factory-fresh components and zero damages. Many manufacturer’s offer warranties, some that last the lifetime of the camera, that can only be activated by the original purchaser and may require receipts to be shown for proof of purchase.

When You Store And Handle Carelessly

Handle Carelessly

While some repairs can fix certain problems with camera lenses, their highly sensitive nature leaves them vulnerable to permanent damage very easily. Not taking the time to properly store and maintain your lenses can result in costly fixes and replacements down the road. Not only do you need to look out for damage to the lens glass itself, but dust can damage adjustments and other finely-tuned calibrations.

Dirt and sand can also work their way into the crevices between components, and even foggy or humid conditions can permanently damage the lens with condensation or mold. Knowing what kind of fabrics and casings to use for your chosen brands will help you sustain the lifetime of your lens.

Lens Accessories

While not always necessary, some accessories can become indispensable pieces to keep in your photography toolkit. Highly sensitive or specialty lenses need extra care when cleaning and storing them for use. Others offer exciting new possibilities for your shots when used with certain filters.

Cleaners And Specialty Cloths

Because of the highly sensitive material lenses are made from and the fact that keeping a clear, smooth surface on the glass is paramount to taking perfect pictures, it’s important to use the right cleaning tools. Spray cleaner for windows and a couple of paper towels aren’t going to cut it -- or rather, they are, since they might scratch the lens and ruin it for good.

Microfiber cloths and gentle, specialty cleaners should be kept on hand for cleaning in between shots or in case of accidents. Regular dusting, cleaning and maintenance can also increase the longevity of your lens.

Filter Types

UV/protection filters

These can be necessary for protecting your lens from wear and tear that can lead to cracks or scratches on the glass. UV filters do not impact photo quality though may affect how stylized filters photograph.

Polarizing filters

Making the colors of your photograph pop can start with using different polarizing filters. These change how the lens captures and renders reflections and color saturation, though they may not be suitable for all types of lenses.

Neutral density filters

In order to reduce how much light is entering the lens, you can use a neutral density filter. This helps to decrease shutter speed, which means longer exposure time. Photographing with this technique lends a sense of natural movement to finished photos or videos.

Cases, Caps And Adapters

Cases are an incredibly important and often overlooked component of any photographer’s personal kit. While there are many different brands and styles to choose from, you should look for water-resistant fabric and an appropriate level of padding. Some cases come with straps and others are slimmer in order to fit better inside your camera bag.

Good lens cases aren’t the only way to protect your camera lens. Fitting the right size caps to either side of your lens takes that protection one step ahead and prevents any scratches or accidents from happening if the case isn’t enough to keep the glass safe. One of the more overlooked pieces are the rear caps, which can be inconvenient to reattach when photographers are switching between lenses.

Sometimes, adapters can help you use lenses from different manufacturers on your camera. This can make space in your camera bag, shave seconds off your shoot time and save dollars from your wallet. While using lens adapters might add more time to your setup for certain shots, the benefits of flexibility between products can often outweigh the added step.

How To Choose The Right Lens For You

Only you know the vision you have in your mind of the photographs you want to take. However, knowing what to expect from your search for the perfect lens will help you target the right choice at the right time. Most photographers, even beginners, find they make frequent use of a few lenses at a time for any project. Plan ahead when you can and have a couple of go-to choices you know work best for your everyday needs.

Identify your budget and needs.

You may want one of the most expensive lenses ever, but chances are that you don’t need one unless you have a highly specialized opportunity and the room in your budget for that kind of purchase. Most photographers have to balance their wish list of gear with a wallet that needs a break every now and then. It doesn’t hurt to dream, and it’s important to validate your goals with quality purchases like specialty lenses and equipment.

When certain brands or types of lenses are out of reach, look around for alternatives that produce similar effects or can achieve a comparable level of focus and light balance. A little extra footwork and setup might be required to fine-tune that shot to the vision in your mind, but one of the engaging elements of photography is using your learning to strike that balance between your eye and the equipment you’re using.

Compare features and prices.

While there are several ways to compare one lens to another, you may want to use a variety of sources to see how the different features and brands stack up and where they stand on price points. Sometimes, you can achieve taking the kinds of photographs you want in your portfolio or collection by combining a filter and lens or stacking a telephoto with a teleconverter lens.

While the kind of camera you have will make a difference in what lenses you’re looking for, many third-party manufacturers offer quality options at affordable prices when compared to brand-specific choices. If you’re finding that the lens in your camera’s brand has a prohibitive price or you want to see how the calibrations of a different manufacturer affect the outcome of your pictures, consider if a third-party brand of lenses might work for you.

Depending on your priorities for your shopping or your project, price may be the biggest concern. For photographers just getting started, think about the features you need to get the shots you want and then find the lens that best fits those specifications in your budget. High specialized lenses often cost more, and you may want to wait until you’re more comfortable with the camera you’re using before making that purchase.

Make a wish list of lenses.

Keep tabs on your inventory and what you hope to add to it as you continue your journey with photography. Plan for the shots you want to take and maintain a running list of lens brands and styles you’d like to try to see if they’re what you need.

If you want, make a literal digital wishlist through any of the usual online retailers that you think your friends and family may want to consult for any potential gift-giving ideas. This is a great way to round out your collection and share memorable moments by capturing even more of them with your loved ones.

Keeping a list of your preferences will help you when you’re making your purchases for yourself, or if you’re considering renting or buying lenses second hand. Knowing the current market value of a lens before spending the fees to borrow or risking the chance of a secondhand buy will make sure you’re negotiating for your best interests.

Renting or borrowing lenses from friends or sharing communities can also be a great way to narrow down your wish list once you’ve tried a brand or style and find it doesn’t suit your needs after all. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve become a seasoned pro, the market is always shifting and technology promises new products that will revolutionize your next shot.

Staying up to date on the latest industry developments, releases and trends keeps your knowledge fresh and your skills sharpened so you can keep taking the photos you want in the style that fits you best.

Image Sharpness

The Ultimate Guide to Sharper Images

When you take a photograph, it's an attempt to capture emotions and memories to save them for later and to share with others. When you and others look at your photographs later, you want those images to recreate all the memories and emotions of the original experience. When those images in your photographs are blurry rather than crystal clear, it's frustrating, very disappointing, and even, possibly, at least a little heartbreaking. No matter what type of digital camera you have, though, you can learn how to eliminate the problems that produce blurry images so that you never have to be frustrated, disappointed, or heartbroken again.

What’s Behind Those Blurry Photographs?

The causes of blurry photographs range from the ones that probably come to mind easily to ones that may seem complicated and technical, but even the ones that seem complicated and technical make sense once they’re explained. Once you understand the problems that create blurry images, you can easily correct them. Here are the culprits:

blurry, lack of sharpness, Poor Focus
  • Your subject moves.
  • The camera moves (called “camera shake”), usually, but not always, because you moved while holding the camera to take the picture.
  • The camera’s autofocus system didn’t focus on your subject properly.
  • The settings that affect the exposure of the photo – ISO sensitivity, aperture, and shutter speed – (the complicated, technical sounding causes, but don’t panic yet) didn’t work together properly to create the best image.
  • The camera lens or its image sensor needs cleaning.
  • Your vision has changed, and you need to visit your optometrist for an eye exam.

Subject Movement -- Straitjackets Are Not the Solution

You cannot put living subjects, like people and pets, into a straightjacket, no matter how tempting the idea is, even if you are taking a portrait shot. Even in portrait shots, people may blink, sneeze, cough, become distracted and look away, take care of a nose that has begun to itch, or move for some other reason. A straightjacket just is not an attractive look to wear for a portrait, and the look on the unhappy face of your subject wouldn’t be very attractive, either.

Digital cameras deal with this challenge in various ways.

Dealing With Subject Movement in Portrait Shots

Among the ways that digital cameras deal with moving subjects in portrait shots are:

  • Blink detection systems that alert you if someone in a portrait shot might have blinked.
  • Storing a few seconds of video taken before you push the shutter button along with the image taken at the moment you snapped the shutter.
  • Taking a series of images when you push the shutter button.

Dealing With Subjects With Places to Go and Things to Do

running camel

When you plan to capture still shots of sports, stage performances, kids and pets, or other types of action photography, you know that your subjects will be in motion. They have very important places to go and things to do.

Digital cameras handle these situations with:

  • The continuous focus setting for auto focus.
  • Shooting a series of still images.
  • Manual adjustments to the exposure settings – the size of the aperture opening, the speed at which the shutter operates, and the ISO sensitivity which compares to film sensitivities for film cameras.

Your Camera Shakes Things Up

A number of things can cause camera shake, and it isn’t always the photographer’s fault. Camera shake occurs when:

  • The photographer moves. This one is solely on the photographer, sorry.
  • Vibrations that affect a camera mounted on a tripod due to wind, traffic vibrations, the movement of a shutter release cable, or someone touching the camera.
  • The mirrors within the camera lens move while the camera is mounted on a tripod, called mirror slap.

Your Camera Just Can’t Focus

With face detection, smile detection, pet detection, and other features, you may fall into a false sense of security, thinking that auto focus systems are infallible. They are very, very good, but they can fail to focus, fail to focus on the right subject, or lose their lock on the subject.

This happens because: 

  • Auto focus expects to find the main subject mid-ground at the center of the picture, because that’s how most pictures are composed. If your subject is in the foreground, the background, or off-center, your camera is likely to select and focus on the wrong subject.
  • In portrait mode, cameras focus on the face closest to the camera, treating that person as the main subject. In a group portrait, though, you may want the focus on someone else.
  • Camera’s have mistaken something that’s not a face for a face.
  • When camera’s use face recognition to focus, they can lose focus if the subject turns his or her head or fail to establish focus if the subject isn’t facing the camera.
  • If you try to take a picture through a window or glass case or if there is an object in the foreground, your camera may focus on the glass, a window screen, a speck on the camera lens, or some object in the foreground such as leaf, a piece of furniture, or a decorative room décor item.
  • Cameras can fail to focus on subjects that are too close to the camera.

Focusing for Wide Angle Photos vs. Long Distance Photos

Cameras may have trouble determining what to use as the focus point in either of these situations. Consequently, the camera may leave the edges of a wide angle shot, such as a landscape, in soft focus, or it may capture too much of the scene and not focus in sharply on your intended subject.

Wide Angle Photos

Your Camera Becomes Oh, So Sensitive

Certain settings can leave your camera too sensitive and sharply focused. When that happens, you’ll see spots throughout your picture, called noise, graininess, or pixilation. The same thing happens when you over-sharpen an image with your photo editing software.

It’s Not Your Camera’s Fault

Dust or smudges on your lens or dust on your image sensor translate to specks and smudges on your pictures.

In addition, if your vision changes, it changes how well you are able to see your subject, and that, too, can affect how well you focus your photographs.

What Are We Talking About?

Before things get confusing, here are some explanations of the terms we’ll be using:

Sharpness and Contrast

Sharpness refers to how clear and well-defined the details, edges, and lines are in an image. Contrast refers to the amount of difference between the dark, shadowed areas of the image and the bright sunlit or artificially lighted areas of the image. An image can have little contrast between the lightest and darkest areas but still have sharply defined details, lines, and edges. Conversely, an image can have a high degree of contrast between light and dark areas and still lack sharp definitions of details, lines, and edges.

Focus and Auto Focus

The focus is the point at which the light from the view seen through the camera’s lens converges to form a clear, sharp, well-defined image on the film or the camera’s image sensor.

Auto focus is the system that your camera uses to focus on a subject automatically, and it can be an active system, a passive system, or a hybrid of an active and passive systems or two passive systems.

Active systems bounce sound waves or a beam of infrared or laser light off of the subject and then measure the length of time it takes the sound or light to return to determine the distance to the subject. These active systems are able to focus even in the dark, but they cannot focus through a glass case, a window, or window screens because the emitted sound or light will bounce off of the glass or the screen before it reaches the subject. The emitted sound or light may also bounce off of some other object that comes between the camera and the subject, causing the camera to fail to focus properly. In addition, active systems can have trouble focusing on subjects that are too close to the camera, making macro photography problematic.

Passive systems focus by examining the image received by the camera without actively emitting any sound or light for the purpose of achieving focus. Instead, passive systems use either contrast detection or phase detection to achieve focus. Because passive systems require an image from the camera in order to focus, they cannot focus in complete darkness, as active systems can. They require an auto focus assist lamp to emit a brief flash of light, preferably infrared light, so that the camera’s image sensor can acquire an image. Infrared is preferred because it is the least likely to be noticed by live subjects, so it is the least likely to startle or disturb subjects. Passive focus systems can have problems focusing on subjects with little or no contrast; soft, ill-defined edges; or repetitive patterns.

Contrast detection systems compare the contrast between adjacent pixels in the image. These systems determine when the correct focus is achieved by determining when the most intense and distinct contrast among adjacent pixels is reached. However, detecting and determining the sharpness of the contrast between pixels is achieved without any measurement of the distance to the subject, so if the optimal level of contrast, and thus the optimal level of focus, is lost because the subject moves, contrast detection systems have no means to regain focus by tracking the subject.

Phase detection systems work in a way that is similar to the point in the eye exam when your optometrist splits the image you see into two images and asks you to signal when they merge back into one. Phase detection systems, however, measure not only the separation between the images from side to side but also from the forward focus position to the rear focus position. This gives these systems a reading not only on the distance to the subject’s position but also the direction to the subject’s position and the likely direction and speed of any movement.

In tracking mode, which is also known as continuous focus mode or AI (Artificial Intelligence) servo mode, the camera uses predictive software algorithms along with changes in the distances between the split images from side to side and front to back to track the distance to and speed and direction of a moving subject or subjects in order to maintain focus.

Hybrid focus systems combine two focusing systems that compensate for each other’s weaknesses. A common hybrid system pairs phase detection and contrast detection. This enables the camera to track and keep one or more moving subjects in a general state of focus and then use contrast detection to bring them quickly into sharp focus when the shutter button is pressed. If a camera offers tracking and smile detection, it has a hybrid phase and contrast detection system.

Manual focus allows you to focus the camera when auto focus has difficulty focusing or when it focuses on the wrong subject. Some cameras allow you to use the camera’s LCD screen as a touch screen and move the symbol for the active focus point over the area where you want the camera to focus. Others allow you to use up-down and right-left arrows to move the focus point.

Alternately, you can use the focus-and-recompose method. Move the camera to your chosen subject, push the shutter button halfway down to lock the focus on your subject, and then move the camera to recompose your shot and press the shutter the rest of the way down.

Another alternative offered by some cameras is back-button focus. These cameras allow you to program a button on the back of the camera to auto focus the camera so that pressing the shutter halfway down no longer locks the focus of the camera. You can then use the button on the back of the camera to lock your focus on an off-center subject, recompose your shot, and then depress the shutter all the way down without having to hold it halfway down while you recompose your shot.

Using the shutter priority, aperture priority, or full manual mode gives you even more control of your camera’s settings.

Shutter priority allows you to set a low shutter speed to let in more light while the camera automatically chooses the width of the aperture and the ISO sensitivity.

Aperture priority allows you to choose the width of the aperture opening while the camera automatically selects the shutter speed and the ISO sensitivity.

Full manual mode allows you to adjust the aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO sensitivity until you find the best balance between those three settings.

Depth of Field

Depth of field refers to how much of the foreground and background of the picture is in focus.

If you are focusing tightly on your subject, such as for a portrait, a sports action shot, or a long distance, telephoto shot, you don’t want objects in the foreground or background to distract from your subject. Using lenses and camera settings that restrict the camera to a shallow depth of field that keeps a tight focus on the area immediately around your subject deliberately blurs foreground and background distractions. Restricting depth of field too tightly, however, can leave part of your intended subject out of focus. A narrow depth of field also makes focusing the camera more difficult.

If you are photographing a large group, a building, or a sweeping landscape, you will want everything in the photograph to be in focus. Using lenses and camera settings that provide as much depth of field as possible bring foreground, mid-ground, and background into equally sharp focus.

Metering Settings

The metering settings tell the camera which area of the image to use to measure the amount of light your intended subject is receiving. The camera then uses that information to select the settings for the lens aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO sensitivity when auto focus is in use.

Metering setting offer three choices – spot focus, center-weighted, or matrix.

Spot focus

uses a narrow depth of field to take a reading of the amount of light falling upon and immediately around your subject, and it is used for distant subjects in telephoto and action photography. 

Center-weighted metering

takes a reading over a larger percentage of the image with the priority give to the readings from the center of the image, and it can be used as a general setting for any image composed with the subject at mid-ground and more or less in the center of the image, such as a portrait shot. 

Matix metering

uses a grid to divide the image into segments and take a reading from each segment. These readings are then averaged, with each one given equal weight, to reach an overall reading for the entire image. Use this setting when you want the entire image well-lighted and in focus, such as for landscapes or images of buildings.

Aperture

The aperture is created by a set of small blades in the camera’s lens that open and close to control how much light is allowed into the camera, as well as how much depth of field the photograph will have. The size of the aperture is described in f-stops. A large, or wide open aperture with a low f-stop like f/3.5 lets in more light, but narrows the depth of field. A smaller aperture with a high f-stop like f/22 allows less light, but widens the depth of field.

The f-stop is a measurement of the diameter of the aperture in millimeters, and it is expressed as a fraction of the focal length of the lens. So, if you have your zoom lens set to a focal length of 100mm and you are using an f-stop of f/20, you would divide the focal length of the lens by the f-stop setting to get the diameter of the aperture opening, which would be 5mm. Thus, you would be letting more light into your photograph but narrowing the depth of field.

The focal length compares the width of the view visible through the lens to lenses used for film cameras. Lenses with lower numbers have wider views and greater depth of field, but lenses with higher numbers can focus on more distant subjects with a narrower depth of field for telephoto photography.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed measures the length of time the shutter remains open in fractions of a second. Shutter speed controls both how much light the image receives and the amount of blur that could be introduced into the image. Higher shutter speeds reduce the amount of light that the image receives as well as reducing the chances that subject movement or camera shake create blur. Lower shutter speeds increase the amount of light the image receives but increase the chances of creating a blurred image. Blur isn’t necessarily a negative, though. It can be used deliberately to create artistic effects, as in time lapse photographs in which the shutter may be open for many hours.

When you are holding your camera rather than using a tripod, the rule of reciprocals offers a guideline for selecting a shutter speed that will reduce the chances of a blurred image. The reciprocal of a number is that number expressed as a fraction with the number “1” as the numerator and the number as the denominator. In photography, the rule of reciprocals states that when you are handholding your camera while taking pictures, your shutter speed should be faster than the reciprocal of the focal length of your lens. So, if you are using a wide-angle, 28mm lens, your shutter speed should be faster than 1/28 of a second. If you are using a 240mm telephoto lens, then your shutter speed should be faster than 1/240 of a second.

Faster shutter speeds that reduce blur but also reduce the light received need to be compensated with a larger aperture that lets in more light to keep your image from becoming too dark, but larger apertures reduce the depth of field, which may blur more of the foreground and background than you wanted and may even leave parts of your subject out of focus.

ISO

ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, and the letters are pronounced individually as “I.S.O.” It controls how sensitive your camera is to the amount of light it receives and how “noisy” – grainy or pixelated -- your photos are.

The ISO numbers correspond to the film numbers for film cameras. The lower the number, the less sensitive the film and the corresponding camera setting, and the higher the setting the more sensitive the film and the camera setting are to the available light.

Lower numbers enable the camera to capture the details of scenes or subjects in bright or highly reflected sunlight, a situation that would cause a more sensitive film or setting to wash out the image and record only faint, faded images or only a glare of white.

Higher numbers compensate for lower light or the higher shutter speeds for action shots with an increased sensitivity that enables the film or the camera setting to quickly capture as much light as possible from what is available.

Therefore, an ISO setting of 100 or lower is for bright sunlight and scenes where the sun reflects off of water, sand, or snow. An ISO setting of 200 is for cloudy days, and an ISO setting of 400 is for lighted indoor scenes or action photography.

Digital cameras offer ISO settings above 400. Some offer an ISO setting of 3200. As cameras improve, they are able to use higher ISO settings more successfully, but there is a trade off between increased sensitivity and increased noise. Test your camera using the higher settings to find the range at which your images become grainy or pixelated.

7 Practical Tips for Getting Sharp Images Every Time

1. Holding the Camera

You need to provide a stable base when handholding the camera as you take pictures. You can provide a three-point base by holding the camera in your right hand with your index finger on the shutter button as your left hand supports the lens. Keep your elbows close to the sides of your body, and place the cup for the viewfinder firmly around your eye. Practice depressing the shutter button with a smooth, steady stroke.

If that doesn't work, you can try this other methode:

2. Choose the Sharpest Aperture Setting

While depth of field issues may prevent you from selecting the sharpest aperture setting for your lens, you should try to choose a setting that is as close to it as possible. The maximum and minimum apertures for your lens will be listed among its specifications. When you want to use a wide aperture setting, select one that is two to three f-stops below the maximum aperture for your lens. If that adds too much to the foreground and background around your subject, then at least reduce the aperture setting by 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop. Similarly, choosing an aperture setting one to two f-stops larger than the minimum aperture reduces diffraction, or the amount of light that disperses after it is forced to pass through the small aperture opening. Light also disperses after passing through larger apertures, but the percentage of light that is diffracted by passing through a small aperture is much larger than the percentage that is diffracted by passing through a larger aperture. Consequently, the softening effect of the light diffracted by a small aperture is much more noticeable. Opening up the minimum aperture thus improves the sharpness of the image.

3. Image Stabilization

Two types of image stabilization are available – optical and digital, and some cameras offer both. Optical image stabilization uses small gyroscopes in the camera lens to sense movement and compensate by adjusting the mirrors in the lens before and as you take the picture. These mirrors transfer the image from the lens to the camera’s image sensor, so the corrections are made before the picture is taken. Digital image stabilization uses the camera’s image processing software to compensate for movement after the photograph is taken. Image stabilization can be turned on and off, so make sure that it is turned on when you are taking photographs while you are holding your camera. With optical image stabilization, you can reduce your shutter speed by as much as three steps below the reciprocal of the focal length you are using for your lens. 

4. Use a Tripod

Whenever you use a slow shutter speed, a shutter speed that is slower than the reciprocal of the focal length you are using for your lens, mount your camera on a tripod. Both table top and adjustable full-size tripods are available. They are lightweight and fold and telescope so that they are easy to transport.

5. Trip the Shutter Remotely

When your camera is mounted on a tripod, touching it can cause vibrations that translate into camera shake. Even using a cable to trigger the shutter can introduce movement if you accidentally pull on the cable or a gust of wind blows it. Cameras have several options that you can use to trigger the shutter remotely. Most cameras allow you to set a timer to delay the operation of the shutter to allow everyone to get into the picture. Some cameras allow you to set the camera to delay the shutter until it recognizes a smile, a wink, or an additional face (the photographer's face) entering the shot. Other cameras allow you to take complete control of all of your camera’s functions from an app that you can install on your smart phone or tablet. 

6. Use Your Camera’s Auto Focus Points and Continuous Focus

When focusing your camera, select the auto focus point closest to your intended subject rather than moving the camera to point it at your subject, depressing the shutter halfway, and then recomposing your shot. Moving the camera to focus it means that you have focused on your subject in a different focal plane, or at a different angle, than the focal plane or angle in which you are shooting the picture. If you are shooting with a shallow depth of field, the difference in the angles could be enough to put some parts of your image into the unfocused foreground or background. In addition, using the auto focus points allows you to set them to track one, or with some cameras two or more, moving subjects, keeping them in constant focus. However, your pictures will be clearest with a single auto focus point.

7. Select the Focal Length of Your Zoom Lens, and Then Focus Your Camera

When cameras had to be focused manually, parfocal lenses would retain their focus when zoomed in or out. Many lenses are now varifocal lenses, though, and these change their focus as they zoom. This means that if you zoom the lens after focusing it, the focus drifts. Consequently, it’s best to select the focal length you need to best compose your shot and then focus your camera. In addition, attachments make it possible to use a wide range of camera lenses, but keep in mind that some camera manufacturers include contrast detection systems in their cameras but not phase detection. These lenses may not respond as well when the tracking function of phase detection systems is in operation. If your camera accepts interchangeable lenses and includes a phase detection system, as most do, be sure that the lenses you purchase for it are compatible with phase detection tracking.

7 Common Mistakes That Can Cause Poorly Focused Images

1.Forgetting to use mirror lock-up mode when using a tripod results in camera shake due to mirror slap.

2.Forgetting to turn off optical image stabilization also can result in camera shake if the gyroscopes in the lens sense movement in the tripod and unnecessarily attempt to compensate.

3.Forgetting to turn off continuous auto focus before adjusting the camera’s focus by using the focus-and-recompose method causes a blurred image when the auto focus system tracks your chosen subject as you turn the camera away to recompose your shot.

4.Failing to take the time to test the various combinations of focal length settings and aperture settings, for your camera and making note of the combinations with the smallest aperture settings that still result in a sharp picture for each focal length may deprive you of a range of solutions that produce sharper images under a particular set of circumstances than the standard suggestions. Every camera and lens combination is different. Relying on the general guidelines given above is a start on finding the settings that produce clear, sharp images, but your particular camera and lens combination may have additional useful settings. Take photographs pairing various focal lengths with various aperture settings and then compare the sharpness of the images on your computer to see at what settings blurring begins to occur.

5.Failing to test increasingly slower shutter speeds while handholding your camera to discover the slowest shutter speed that you, personally, can use. Some people have steadier hands than others, which enables them to use shutter speeds that are too slow for others. Others with less steady hands may need a faster shutter speed when holding a camera.

6.Failing to take time to practice your photography. It’s not like you have to purchase film and pay to have your photographs developed. So, practice selecting different camera settings, different focal points, different lighting situations, different compositions, and try out all of the automatic and manual settings on your camera. Don’t just try them once and move on the next one. Take 10, 15, 20, or more different shots with each one. Try photographing the same subject using all of the different settings on your camera, and then study and compare the results. 

7.Failing to keep your attention focused on your photography and allowing yourself to become distracted or hurried while taking your shots. Remember that you are attempting to preserve fleeting emotions and fleeting moments. Take the time you need to achieve a well-focused, well-exposed, well-composed photograph.

7 Tips for Shooting Sharp Photographs in Low Light

1.Use your camera’s auto-focus assist lamp. While some cameras use their built-in flash as an auto-focus assist lamp, many have a separate focus assist lamp. Having a separate, infrared auto focus assist lamp is best. The sudden burst of white light from your flash can startle live subjects alerting wildlife subjects to the presence of an intruder and causing them to flee, ruining candid shots of people and pets who are likely to look in the direction of the flash, and annoying people who may dislike having someone sneak up on them with a camera. If your camera lacks a separate infrared assist lamp but has a port where you can plug in an external flash, external flashes with independent infrared focus assist lamps are available. You can also use a flashlight to help your camera focus on a subject that is relatively nearby.

2.Assist your camera’s contrast detection system by focusing on the edge of a brightly lit spot in the image such as a streetlight or the lights or signs from a building might provide. Find a brightly lit spot that is about the same distance from your camera as your chosen subject and select the focus point that is closest to an edge of that spot. As long as your depth of field is wide enough to include your subject and the edge of that brightly lit spot, your subject should be in focus.

3.Take more manual control of your camera’s settings by using shutter priority, aperture priority, or manual mode.

4.Use the lens scale (the numbered ring around your lens) to select the distance between your camera and your subject (the focal length).

5.Use a wide angle lens and a small aperture opening for shooting nightscapes. If you are shooting a tall subject, like a skyscraper, or a broad one like a night landscape or cityscape, set the focal length almost to infinity to allow the greatest leeway for depth of field. As with shooting landscapes in daylight, this setting ensures that everything in the mid-ground and background will be in focus, as will everything except for the very near foreground.

6.Use the Live Focus on your camera’s LCD screen to zoom in on areas of your image to manually focus your camera and to check how sharp the focus is on details of your chosen subject, especially check the eyes of subjects in night portraits. Remember, though, that your camera’s viewfinder, if it has one, focuses more accurately if you have enough light to use it.

7.General suggestions that for selecting shutter speeds, aperture openings, and ISO sensitivity for photographing people in low light include using shutter speeds in the 1/60s to 1/120s for live subjects who are relatively stationary, such as those sitting down at dinner, and shutter speeds in the 1/200s to 1/400s for people who are more active, such as those who are mingling, laughing, or dancing. Once you have selected the slowest usable shutter speed for the situation, open the aperture as wide as the required depth of field will allow. Then, finally, set the ISO sensitivity to 1600 or 3200. Seek for balance between the shutter, aperture, and ISO settings, but if you must choose between a sharply focused photograph that contains a little noise or graininess or a photograph that is less sharp but that contains no noise, choose the settings that give you the sharpest focus.

Conclusions

These tips should speed you on your way toward taking beautiful, clear, sharply focused photographs every time. Auto focus systems are already so good that you can rely on them most of the time to get the camera settings right. That allows you to get creative with interesting, creative compositions – shooting up at a subject from a low angle, shooting down at a subject from a high angle, using macro photography to take unexpected close ups of common objects, or trying out some of the angles and settings that the pros use for their artistic work. Don’t neglect learning and practicing with the settings included with your camera, though, both automatic and manual. The more you experiment and practice, the less intimidating your camera will be, and the less intimidating your camera becomes, the more fun you can have with it. Also, the more you experiment and practice, the more you will learn about what you can do with your camera, and the more you know about what you can do with your camera, the better your pictures will be and the more creative your photography will become. Soon, you could be having the same sort of “I wonder what would happen if I did this” ideas that occur to the pros, and that is the beginning of even more fun.

Photography for Beginners

Photography For Beginners

When you are just getting started in photography, there are days you will take flat and seemingly lifeless photos. But that happens even to experienced photographers who forget a thing or two about photography and, therefore, end up missing a shot.

While photography may look simple and straightforward, seeing that we can all do it on our mobile devices, there are different aspects to put into consideration to capture professional quality photos. Focus and exposure are two of such factors. You need to ensure that you get the lighting right, balance the elements of your photo and much more.

Your camera sets most of the aspects automatically, but sometimes, you will need to tweak the settings to get a good photo based on the shooting situation. Granted, you will need to know your camera in and out.

Know Your Camera

Cameras are offered differently; they vary in size, shape, aperture and features. However, there are buttons and features that you will find in almost all cameras. Some of the common parts include:

Shutter button

This is the button you push to capture a photo. Most of the digital cameras in the market today have a 2-stage shutter button. This allows you to push it halfway down or all the way down. When pushed halfway, the button locks in the focus or photo exposure, and when pushed all the way down, the shutter button takes a photo.

LCD Screen

The LCD screen on your digital camera allows you to frame a shot, view photos you have taken, and change the settings of your camera with ease. When used right, the LCD will allow you to control lighting, white balance and the balance between photo components. Again, you control how much you zoom in or out.

Menu and Mode Buttons

The Menu and Mode buttons allow you to tweak the settings of your camera to meet your shooting situation. Some cameras will have both the buttons while some will have just one. Some of the settings you can change include shutter speed, activate or deactivate photo flash, contrast and brightness, change scene mode to video mode and much more.

SLR cameras are now offered with a mode dial, which you rotate to change the settings of your camera. From the dial, you can select portrait, landscape, special scene, sports, manual, shutter priority, aperture priority and much more. The dial lets you change settings with ease.

Zoom Buttons or Ring 

The zoom buttons let you zoom in or out. They will be labeled W, for wide, or T, for tight. In advanced SLR cameras, zooming is done from the wheel that encases the lens. Here, you rotate the wheel left or right to zoom in or out. In other camera's, there is a dial around the shutter from where you zoom.

Play Button

This is button you push on when you want to view the photos or videos you have taken. While viewing the photos, you can use the zoom buttons to see more details on the photos. This will allow you to determine whether a photo was on focus and whether it has good framing.

This button is used together with the scroll wheel, which allows you to scroll through photos or navigate through the menu of your camera.

(Canon)

(Canon)

Trash button 

This is the button you push when you want to delete a photo.

Input/output Terminals

On the sides of the camera are input and output terminals that allow you to connect your camera to accessories. One side has a memory card port. Next to the port is a door release light that shows you whenever the card door is open.

On the other side of the camera are A/V, USB and HDMI access ports from where you can connect your camera to a computer or a larger screen for photo viewing or photo editing. On the same side is a microphone jack, which you can use when recording or taking videos and a remote control terminal for better control of your camera.

On top of these ports is a speaker grill, indicating the position of your camera's speaker. However, the speaker can be located in different parts of a camera.

The Frontal Part of your Camera

The lens is the main part on the front side of your camera. When the power button is pressed, the lens extends out and retracts when the camera is switched off. Most SLR cameras, however, have a lens release button from which you release the cap that keeps your lens protected.

On the lens casing is a focus ring and a zoom ring. The focus ring lets you attain a clear image. On the frontal part is a focus and an image stabilization switch, which you use to stabilize the image before capture.

When shooting at night, you can use the built-in flash at the top of your camera to light up the scene or object to be captured.

Understanding Your Camera to Get Much Better Photos

Exposure

Digital cameras are offered with a sensor behind the lens. The sensor acts like the roll of film in traditional cameras; it is the part that will actually capture a photo. However, the sensor is never taken out of the camera. When you are taking a photo, the sensor will be exposed to light for a very short period. The amount of light captured when the sensor is exposed to light is called exposure. Some cameras allow the sensor to be exposed for a period longer than a fraction of a second.

When the exposure is not right, your photos will be too bright or too dark. In most cases, your camera will adjust the exposure automatically. In other times, you will have to manually adjust the exposure of your camera to get good photos.

Focus

When the subject of your photo is in focus, they will have no blur and will appear sharp. In some cameras, focus is handled automatically and all you need to do is hold the camera stable. However, when that happens, your camera might try to focus on another object, which might cause your subject to go out of focus.

On the LCD screen of your camera, a focus indicator will be shown. This is a box that shows you what the camera is focusing on. Whenever you are taking a photo, keep an eye on the focus indicator. On most DSLR cameras, however, there is a focus ring that you use to tweak the focus of your camera and an image stabilization button that helps you reduce blur.

There is a viewfinder, which occurs as a window above the LCD screen, which shows you the auto-focus information. For a good focus, however, stick to manual focusing.

Common Camera Settings

Most cameras are designed to work automatically. This allows them to adjust to different shooting situations. However, there are settings you will like to change for better quality photos. On top of each button on your camera, there is an icon indicating what the button does. These icons are universal and appear on each camera. For instance, the bin icon indicates trash/delete/erase.

Flash: In low-light conditions, you can activate the built-in flash of the camera. However, the flash is, in most cases, automatically activated.

Timer: This comes in handy when you are taking a group photo. You can set the timer, which allows you to join the group. The camera is placed on a table or tripod for stability.

Macro Mode: This is a setting that allows your camera to capture closeup shots. With this setting, your camera can take photos just a few inches away.

Exposure Compensation: If your photos are coming out too dark or too bright, you can use this setting to control exposure; either increase or reduce exposure.

For other settings, refer to the Know Your Camera section above.

Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture

Getting the right exposure is key in getting a good quality photo. When you are controlling the exposure of your camera, you only need to tweak three settings; aperture, shutter speed and ISO. When set right, these settings allow you to take photos in different situations and lighting conditions from bright sunny days to low-light conditions.

Like a horde of other settings, your camera will automatically control these three settings. However, you can actually control these three settings by selecting different modes on your camera and by adjusting the amount of light that goes through the lens of your camera. DSLR camera allows more manual control over the camera's exposure, which explains why they are a favorite of many professional photographers.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time that the camera's shutter stays open. When a camera has a slow shutter speed, for instance 1/4 second, the camera gathers more light for clear images. When your camera has a fast shutter speed, for instance 1/2000 second, it freezes the action, thereby, avoiding blurry photos. The latter is ideal when you are capturing moving objects such as in sports.

When using a tripod and capturing stationary objects, a slow shutter speed will give you clear and sharp photos. When used right, both the slow and the fast shutter speeds will give you great photos.

Aperture

The lens of your camera has a circular opening that controls the amount of light that reach the sensor. This works the same way as the pupil of our eyes. The size of this opening is referred to as aperture, f-stop or f-number. The aperture and the shutter speed control how much light gets to the sensor of your camera.

When your camera has a wide aperture such as f/1.4, a faster shutter speed will be needed to get clear sharp photos. With a narrow aperture, for instance f/16, a slower shutter speed will be needed for sharp images.

The aperture also regulates the way light is focused on your camera. With a wide aperture, you will have a blurry background, but the photo subject will stay in focus. When this happens, the effect is known as a shallow depth of field.

ISO

When using a digital camera, you can control the sensitivity of the sensor. Sensitivity is shown in form of ISO number. When the sensitivity of your sensor is low, for instance ISO 100, the camera will require more light to create a good exposure. This means that, in such a case, the camera will have either a wider aperture or a slower shutter speed in order to gather more light.

Cameras with a high ISO number, such as ISO 3200, have a very sensitive sensor, allowing them great exposure even in low light conditions. However, when the ISO number is high, there will be more photo noise and the photos might appear grainy.

For sharp photos, ISO, aperture and shutter speed should balance. While these elements are balanced automatically, you can control them when you feel the quality of the photos are not as you would want.

Depth of Field

Focus, just like exposure, is very important in any photo you take. But, there are times you need the subject of your photo to stay in focus and the background out of focus. It all depends on the effect you are trying to achieve. When this happens, it is referred to as shallow depth of field. When on a shallow depth of field, you can easily focus on your subject, but objects closer or further from the subject will not be focused on. When using a DSLR camera, a shallow depth of field can be achieved by choosing a wide aperture such as f/1.4.

When using a small aperture, your photos will have a deep depth of field. Thereby, more of the photo will be in focus. This is ideal when you are taking a landscape photo and need the background and foreground objects to be in focus.

In point-and-shoot cameras, you have no control of the aperture. Therefore, it is difficult for you to achieve a shallow depth of field. If you still need a shallow depth, you can zoom in and concentrate the focus on your subject. DSLR and bridge cameras allow you more control over the depth and field and, thereby, bring out your artistry and creativity to focus. This also gives you control over your photos.

Scene Modes

Scene modes are presets in most cameras. You can access the scene modes from the menu. In some cameras, there is a dial at the top of the camera from where you can choose the scene modes.

Scene modes are geared to a given situation. When you choose SPORTS, the scene mode will use a fast shutter speed and also activate motion detection to reduce blur. You can choose portrait mode to focus on the subject of your photo with ease. The scene mode also allows you to adjust color balance, allowing skin tones to appear natural.

Even when you do not adjust the scene mode of your camera, automatic adjustments and the photo will still appear sharp. In a camera that allows you to select the scene mode, the quality of your photos will be highly enhanced. Therefore, it is advisable to use them as often as possible.

(Canon)

White Balance

When you are taking photos, the intensity of different colors has to be controlled. This typically refers to the primary colors blue, red and green. The reason behind this is to render correctly. Gray balance is the most common method used.

Color balance enhances the look of a photo and can be used for color correction. Color correction comes in handy, seeing that the original image for the sensor of the camera does not match the human eye. Therefore, the camera needs to compensate for the differences.

White balance, on the other hand, is a setting that allows you to create natural coloration in your photos. When the white is balanced right, you will achieve accurate colors. Put simply, the color of the photo you take is affected by the lighting selected. The human eye and the brain will compensate for the light differences. Here, a red object will appear red irrespective of whether it is viewed in fluorescent, incandescent or sun light.

White balance compensate for the differences in light between the eyes and the camera. You can change the lighting of your camera from the white balance settings. This lets you choose between incandescent, fluorescent, daylight, shade, flash or cloudy. You can also set the white balance to adjust automatically.

Metering

Metering refers to the measure of the brightness of your photo subject. Your camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed, aperture and ISO number based on the brightness of your subject. Each camera has a built-in metering sensor.

A sensor does not just measure the brightness of the subject, but that of different parts of the photo frame. There are three methods through which a camera can meter light:

Spot Metering: This is where the camera meters light indicated by a spot. Spot metering is ideal when the subject of your photo is a small spot that needs enough exposure. This gives you the assurance that the spot is well exposed even in dimly lit situations and in situations where the background is too dark or too bright.

Matrix Metering: This is the most common form of metering. Here, the camera frames the entire field and sets exposure for the best image.

Centered Weighted Metering: Here, the camera meter the subject, background, and foreground then assigns value to the area enclosed by a circle. This is ideal when there are varied light conditions within the frame. This kind of metering has been used for a long time for portraits.

You need to choose a metering method based on your artistic needs and the scene.

Understanding Composition And Guidelines To Make Your Photos Much More Interesting

When taking photos, you have to get the settings right for sharpness and clarity. Beyond that, it is up to you to tweak the position of the camera to get a good photo. There are no rules to follow, just guidelines to enhance the appearance of your photos.

There are a number of composition guidelines you can apply in any shooting situation to enhance the impact in different scenes. When used right, these guidelines will allow you to get natural photos, bring better focus on important parts of a scene and even lead the viewer through the images.

Most of the composition guidelines are universal. When you get used to them, they become part of your shooting, and you can apply them even without realizing that you are. Following the composition guidelines makes the difference between taking photos fast and spending a lot of time focusing on a scene.

Below are some of the composition guidelines:

Rule of Thirds

Your photo needs to be balanced. This can be achieved by correctly positioning the most important parts of your photo. You can do this by imagining that your photo frame is divided into a three by three matrix. The photo subject needs to be placed along the lines that divide the frame or at the points of intersection.

Most digital cameras will offer you grids over the LCD screen. This makes it easy for you to place your photo. When an image is placed on the intersection of the grids, the background, foreground and subject are balanced.

When the photo subject is placed off-center, the photo appears more interesting, but it leaves a space on one side, which can result to a feeling of emptiness. Granted, the space needs to be occupied by another object of lesser importance. This brings balance.

Even when you want to focus on an up-close object, you need to have a far object on the other side of the photo to enhance balance.

Leading Lines

When you place lines on your photo, you enhance the way the photo is viewed. This is so because the human eye is drawn towards lines. Lines pull us close to the photo. There are different types of lines that you can use on your photos including diagonal, horizontal, vertical, zigzag, curvy and radial among others.

You can achieve this by capturing roads, electricity lines and any other elements that show lines.

Symmetry and Patterns

In any scene, there is symmetry and patterns either man-made or natural. Symmetry or pattern on a photo adds an artistic touch and enhances your composition. You can break the symmetry or pattern to introduce a focal point or tension on the scene.

Identify a Viewpoint

A viewpoint is a vantage point from where you take your photo. A viewpoint makes the difference between a good photo and a poorly taken photo. When you choose a good viewpoint, you are able to focus on the subject of your photo well and affect the story a photo carries. Besides shooting from eye level, you can shoot from high above, from the side, back, or ground level.

Background

When the background acts as the sensation of your photo, you will not have a good shot. The human eye distinguishes between different elements in a scene, but the camera cannot. However, it is possible to overcome the problem when you are shooting. You need to look for a plain background, less busy.

A good photo background should not distract the eye from the photo subject.

Depth

When composing, you need to create a good depth with the elements on the photo. This allows the eye to tell the actual depth on the scene. This is easily done by including objects on the foreground, middle and background. You can also overlap the elements by obscuring one object with another.

When you create depth, our eyes will distinguish between the layers, allowing the subject of the image to be the sensation. You can add interesting objects on different distances from the camera.

Framing

When you add a frame on the edges of your photos, you are able to isolate the subject from the other parts of your photo. There are lots of natural frames you can use including trees, holes and archways. Successful addition of frames result to a more focused image and draws your eye to the point of interest.

Hills have been used for a long time to create focal points.

Cropping

When the subject of your photo is so small, it gets lost in the details of the clustered surroundings. You can crop the subject tight, eliminating a busy or noisy background, making the subject of your photo the sensation.

Cropping is simply cutting out the excess details. Digital photography has made it easy for you to experiment with different composition techniques without worrying about film costs and you never run out of shots. You can shoot different shots, choose the best and delete the rest. And there are no extra costs.

When you are experimenting, different concepts will work and others will not work. You can focus on lines, frames and other subjects within a photo and have as many shots as possible.

Common Mistakes Every Beginner Will Make

You might be so excited when you buy your first DSLR camera, but it only takes a few days and your excitement wears out because you cannot get the shots you dreaded for. You know an SLR camera is supposed to give you quality photos, but that is not happening. Why? Because you are making one or more mistakes common with beginner photographers.

As a beginner, it does not matter whether you spent hundreds of hours in college or at home reading about photography, you still get frustrated. Sometimes, it is not that you do not know the guidelines, but you might be forgetting a thing or two. Below are some of the common mistakes made by beginners.

1. Wrong White Balance 

While the eye can distinguish between different colors, the camera does not. It is, therefore, up to you to choose a good white balance to ensure that the different colors are well balanced.
When shooting on a bright sunny day, then you set the white balance to cloudy, an orange cast will be seen, and on a cloudy day when the white balance is set to daylight, a blue cast is seen.

If you do not know how to set the white balance, set it to adjust automatically.

2. Unbalanced Brightness 

While your eyes can distinguish between the different elements even when the brightness varies, the camera cannot. This is because the dynamic range of the camera is different from that of your eyes. Put simply, dynamic range is the ratio between the darkest and brightest elements in a scene.

As a photographer, you need to enhance the exposure of the different elements in your photo to enhance the outcome. To the human eye, overexposed patches on the photo are more unacceptable than underexposed patches.

When using a DSLR camera, it will give you highlight warnings, showing you regions that are overexposed during image playback. When the blinking extends, make exposure compensation.

3. Placing the Subject in the Center

When the subject of a photo appears in the center, it creates a boring and artistically unappealing photo. Here, there is nothing else to look at for the viewer. Granted, you need to apply the rule of thirds to create an appealing photo. However, remember not to leave an empty space.

4. Wrong Focus

When the focus is not right, you will have blurred photos. The main focus of your photo needs to be in sharp focus. If this does not happen, the viewer will be distracted and lack interest on the photo.

Because the eye sees clear images, we expect them to appear clear and sharp on a photo. You need to check the focus by zooming in on your subject to ensure there is enough light and color contrast. You can use autofocus when manual focus cannot work.

5. Busy Background

A background will ruin photos. It is one of the most common mistake with beginners. You concentrate so much on the subject of the photo and end up forgetting the background.

There is nothing wrong with giving the background some attention, but this ends up ruining the shot as the viewer might concentrate on something else and forget the subject. When shooting, start by identifying the subject. Forget the subject and concentrate on other aspects of the scene to find things that will complement your subject.

6. Crooked Horizon

The horizontal contributes to the balance in a photo. The first thing a viewer will see is a skewed horizon. But a lot of photos have crooked horizons, which make subjects appear like they are falling. When you ware composing your photo, you can use the grid overlay to frame the photo.

7. Photos with no Depth

When there is no depth, the viewer cannot tell the distance between two elements in a photo. Seeing that photos are two-dimensional, focusing on the foreground, middle and background and elements allow you to create depth. When this does not happen, the resulting photo is a disappointment.

8. Cluttered Photo

When you want to capture a lot in a single photo, you end up with a photo that looks confused. This happens when you look at a scene as a single unit. Instead of taking a photo with so much detail, choose a single element that interests you and put emphasis on it.

You can try different compositions to accommodate as much detail without creating a cluttered appearance.

9. Bad Light

Light is key in photography. With no light at all, there is no photography. Light has different qualities and direction. You will have great shots in the golden hours; a few hours before sunrise and a few hours before sunset.

When the light is too harsh or is too dim, the photo will appear low quality. When you learn to focus on the light, you become a better photographer.

Conclusion

Photography should be fun and interesting. But only when you learn the basics of photography. There are different cameras to choose from when you are getting started. A good SLR camera will not cost you much and will offer you great quality photos. Your budget will limit your camera choices.

When buying a camera, consider the aperture, the resolution and the features of the camera. Some cameras allow you mode manual settings than others. Which is a good thing as you have enough control of the photos you take. Additional features such as built-in flash let you take photos in different situations.

Input and output terminals make it easy for you to access your photos from a computer. You can also consider the accessories that come with your camera including carrying straps, lenses, memory cards, USB cables, batteries and tripod. These make it easy to get started.

When shooting, remember that the only rules that exist are those you create. You can, therefore, shoot in any way that you want as long as you follow the simple guidelines above.