be surprised how many photographers do not know
the basics -- and wonder why their pictures always
seem to have something wrong with them. These
basic pointers are so common sense that we should
not have to say them -- but we will anyway, because
they are important. They might be simple, but
is there to learn about holding a camera? Not
much, but before you skip this section, think
about how small those digital cameras are getting
to be. There're a lot of dials and buttons packed
into a tiny area, and if you are not careful,
you press a button inadvertently and the results
are often disastrous. It does not help that some
cameras have buttons in the most improbable places.
It seems that one almost has to hold the camera
using one's fingertips.
hand: The index finger rests on the shutter; the
thumb is at the back to stabilize the camera;
the middle finger (and the rest of the other fingers,
if you so desire) holds the front of the camera.
Be careful that the thumb is not pressing any
button (except resting on the zoom toggle), and
that the other fingers are not hiding any sensors
on the front of the camera. The Nikon Coolpix
4300 has a very clean camera back with ample space
for the right thumb without pressing other buttons.
hand: The thumb and index finger holds the bottom
edge of the camera. Or, as in the case of the
Nikon Coolpix 4300, you can place the index finger
on top and the thumb under the camera. For clarity's
sake, the other fingers of the left hand are not
drawn in the diagram; they would rest against
the left side of the camera. Again, be careful
you are not in the way of sensors or even the
It is quite easy to touch the optics of a camera
and leave fingerprints. The result is that your
pictures do not turn out clear in certain areas.
Or, the autofocus sensors (if your camera has
them) can be fooled by the smudge you leave on
them, and deliver blurred pictures. Regularly
clean your optics with an appropriate cloth and
solution (both obtained at any respectable camera
store). Do not use tissue paper, your finger,
spit (ugh!) or household cleaning solutions, duh!
Pressing the Shutter
Most cameras with autofocus provide a two-step
shutter release. Depressing the shutter lightly
half-way locks the focus; depressing it fully
takes the picture. This two-step shutter release
allows you to select the part of the picture you
want to be in focus (especially if it is not in
the middle -- usually the focus zone -- of the
screen), depress the shutter release half-way
to lock the focus, and then reframe the picture.
Your main subject, even if it is not now in the
camera's focus zone, will still come out in focus
in the final picture.
depressing the shutter, do it gently, not with
a jerk. Do not hammer it down with your index
finger. Place your index finger on the shutter,
and let it rest gently there until you are ready
to take the picture. Then depress it gently half-way
to lock the focus. Reframe, hold your breath,
and then depress it fully, but still gently, to
take the picture. [Editor's note: don't forget
to breathe again!] This helps you maintain your
composition and keep your horizon level. Unless
you wanted your picture to have the "Tower
of Pisa" effect....
does not help that digital cameras have a relatively
long shutter lag. Shutter lag is the elapsed time
from the moment you press the shutter release
to when the digital camera actually takes the
picture. Meanwhile, your subject might have moved.
Some digital cameras are worse than others in
this respect making taking snapshots and action
pictures almost impossible. It is getting better,
but meanwhile, remember to press that shutter
release gently and hold for at least 1 full sec.
until the camera has recorded the picture. To
reduce shutter lag, always use the lock focus
feature on your digital camera.
vs. Shutter Priority
Which is better to use, aperture priority or shutter
priority? The answer is, it depends on what you
want to take. If you are at the basketball court
and want some action stopping shots, select shutter
priority. Set your shutter speed to 1/125 sec
or even 1/400 sec and let the camera figure out
the proper aperture (you might settle for the
highest shutter speed available for proper exposure,
depending on the light condition). Chances are
that most everything will be blurred but the subject
in focus. Which is fine since you want to "freeze"
the other hand, if you want to take a landscape
and desire most everything to be in focus, select
aperture priority. Here, you select the aperture
you want, usually stopped down to f/8 or f/16
(unfortunately, many digital cameras do not stop
down to that aperture yet, sigh!), and let the
camera figure out the appropriate shutter for
the correct exposure. Since this might result
in a slow shutter speed, you might want to use
a tripod in this case.
Using a Tripod
Did we say, use a tripod? Oh, come on, you must
be joking, right? Right! We, here at Photoxels,
rarely use a tripod. Notice, we said, rarely.
Most times, a tripod might not be necessary, but
some shots just scream for one. Panoramic shots
may require one. Macro shots definitely require
one. Night shots at slow shutter speeds demand
one. So, invest in one if you plan to take a lot
of landscape shots or are especially keen on macro
photography. We find that even one of the small
ones can be a big help.
Depth of Field
When you look at a picture where there are objects
in the foreground and in the background, you may
notice that, besides your main subject, some objects
in front of your main subject and going all the
way back to behind your main subject are also
in focus. This "zone of sharpness" is
called the depth of field.
The depth of field is dependent on the aperture
you are using, the focusing distance, and the
size of the projected image. The depth of field
decreases as you open up the lens, i.e. as you
move to a larger aperture. It decreases as you
move closer to your subject. And, at a fixed image
size, the depth of field is the same irrespective
of the focal length used (though to someone viewing
a photograph, it appears that DOF is greater
with a wide-angle and shallower using a telephoto
-- which is all we care about really).
would want to use a shallow depth of field to
isolate your main subject from its surroundings,
as in a portrait. You can accomplish that by moving
in close, by zooming in (again, because it makes
the background appear larger and more out of focus)
and/or by using a large aperture.
Conversely, if you desire the foreground and background
to be as sharp as possible, as in a landscape,
you would want to increase the depth of field
by using a a small aperture or wide-angle setting
on your lens (go away, don't bug me anymore with
the technicality ;o)).