Digital cameras, even ones on cellular phones of today, have become largely "point and shoot". You just take the picture, and that's it. The average user of digital cameras has no idea how to use the many different features on their digital camera. These features often seem confusing. But those features can be very useful in making good shots great, and bringing in the vivid colors and lighting that you may be missing out on, if you are just using the regular settings on your camera or camera-equipped cellular phone. The good news is, it is not nearly as confusing as you may think it is to use these features and they are easily explained. Plus, because ease of use is important when camera manufacturers release new products, finding these settings and adjusting them is easier than ever.
Lets start with a basic one first, one you have probably heard of:
Megapixels: A pixel is one tiny square of color. It can be any of the millions of colors there are, and millions of these make up a picture. Mega means "million" so a one megapixel camera will take pictures with one million pixels in each picture. This seems like a lot and it may be enough, it could be - but only if your picture size was only a couple of inches square. You want to make sure your camera is at least 6 megapixels, which will allow for good quality prints, and images that can be blown up to poster size, just in case you get an amazing shot!
Putting it to use: If you are taking pictures of landscapes or taking pictures of people in front of landscapes, you want to be sure that your camera is on the highest possible Megapixel setting. Conversely, if you are taking pictures and your camera is getting low on space you can usually adjust the megapixels downward some to make the most of that space before you run out. Still, make sure you stay above 5 megapixels if at all possible, too much lower than that and you could be disappointed with the image quality.
Aperture: This is a hole or an opening through which light travels. The more light that travels through this opening the brighter the picture will be. Adjusting this can be very useful. If you have ever taken a picture at a night club where lighting is low, you know how disappointing those pictures can turn out. You can adjust aperture to let more light in.
Putting it to use: If you are outside on a bright sunny day and there is too much light, people can appear washed out. Adjusting the aperture to let less light in is a great way to combat this. Without getting into all of the complexities of what f-stops are and how they are used on different digital cameras, the best way to test aperture settings is to take a few sample shots, while adjusting aperture one way or the other, so that when you are ready to take your picture at a night club or outside you are ready. Taking test shots will only take a couple of minutes, and entire articles on aperture can (and have) been written. We won't bore you with that here. Test shots are quick, free, and the best way to see the effects of aperture.
Shutter Speed: This also determines the amount of light that gets into the camera, but it mainly controls the time in milliseconds that the shutter is open. If there are shutter speed settings on your camera adjust them carefully, as anything with low shutter speed could cause blur to enter your photograph. Using slow shutter speed can be very cool for taking pictures of waterfalls or moving cars, but is bad for portraits.
Putting it to use: As you can see in the waterfall pictures below, shutter speed can have a dramatic effect on the image. The longest exposure in this image is 1 second, taken using a tripod. Using slow shutter speed can also be used to add a slight blur of moving objects, such as cars, motorcycles or people. You can also make the shutter speed slower to eliminate blur, such as if you are taking pictures of your children playing sports or playing outside. Using your digital camera take some test shots with different shutter speeds, so when the right moment or action is going on in front of you, you will know just what to do.
|Short Shutter Speed||Medium Shutter Speed||Long Shutter Speed|
Saturation: This refers to the richness of colors that are in the image. A lot of saturation means more vivid and rich colors. Less saturation means more muted colors. This can be useful to make images appear aged or extra colorful. Instagram uses this feature in many of its image filters. Using saturation can produce great results with little effort.
Putting it to use: If you want to make an image appear aged or muted, reduce the saturation some. If you want to make a picture even more vivid, up the saturation. And for a black and white image remove the saturation completely to produce a grayscale image. As with all of the other techniques, mess around with your camera settings and take a few sample shots.
By using the often unused features of your camera you may be surprised just how easy it is to get more out of your pictures, and make them even better! Happy picture taking!