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Archive for the ‘Digital Photography Tips & Info’ Category

PostHeaderIcon 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know

From Digital Photography School:

Digital Cameras seem to be one of the gifts of choice this year for Christmas if the questions in my inbox are anything to go by.

As so many new camera owners are starting out with photography in the new year I thought I’d compile a list of photography tips and techniques that new camera owners might like to work through in the coming weeks.

Some are very basic while others go a little deeper – but all have been selected from our archives specifically for beginners and new camera owners. Enjoy.

PostHeaderIcon Photoshop Alternatives

Download Squad has a nice posting with information about several Photoshop alternatives such as:

  • GIMP
  • Paint.NET
  • ArtWeaver
  • Photofiltre
  • VicMan’s Photo Editor

In the comments, there are also some other alternatives mentioned.

PostHeaderIcon Photoshop Actions

Adobe Photoshop (along with Photoshop Elements) have a feature called “actions”. These are similar to macros you might find in a productivity suite. The “actions” let you do several things at once. I recently came across a site that explains nicely what an action is and how to start using them.

…have you ever had a task in Photoshop where you apply the same steps in the same order over and over? After many repetitions of these mindless and time consuming tasks, they become boring and error prone because they don’t engage our imaginations nor require creativity. Practice doesn’t make perfect. It results in wasted time.

If this sounds familiar you have probably wondered, “Instead of having to enter these steps manually each time, isn’t there a way they could be recorded and played back automatically with the touch of a button?”

The good news: “Yes, there is.” All it takes is utilizing functionality built into Photoshop called Actions…

The “actions” can actually be saved and shared, and the site has links to download dozens of free actions.

PostHeaderIcon Bounce Flash – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

Photographing people indoors often requires the use of flash for added light. Direct, on camera flash however often results in multiple problems, red eye, washed out or overexposed subjects and of course, harsh, unflattering light.

If you use the flash built in to your camera, you don’t have many options. However, if you use an external flash you can change the small, direct light source of your flash head to a large diffuse source by bouncing the flash off of the ceiling.

Most external flash units sold today have heads that swivel and tilt for directing the flash. Directing the flash at the ceiling makes the ceiling your lights source. In my tip Quality of Light and the Size of Your Light Source I talked about how the the size of your light source affects the quality of light, larger generally being considered better. In this case, the light reflecting off of the ceiling is significantly larger than your flash head. The resulting light on your subject is softer, shadows are not as harsh and the lighting is more even throughout the subject area.

To effectively use bounce flash, you need a ceiling that is not too high. The higher the ceiling, the higher the light loss (refer back to my tip on flash to subject distance). If the ceiling is textured your light will be more diffuse than if it is not. Bouncing your flash off of a coloured ceiling will introduce that colour into your photo so using this technique with white ceilings works best, however, ceilings with a slight warm tint may add a nice warm tone to your image. Your flash should be directed at about 45 degrees to the ceiling though the distance to your subject will determine the actual angle you may need.

Finally, use your histogram or image review on your camera. If you find your images are a little dark your flash may not have enough power to effectively bounce off the ceiling though you can increase your ISO to negate that effect.

The two photos below are images of my niece. The photo on the left was shot direct with flash. The flash was mounted on a bracket above the camera to help eliminate red eye and direct any shadows down and behind her. As you can see, the lighting is flat and unflattering. The image on the right was shot with the same set up but with the flash pointed toward the ceiling at about a 45 degree angle. As you can see the shadows are softer, skin tones are more appealing and she has gained a little bit of warmth compared to the first shot.

Being able to control your light is one of the basic steps to better photography.

Until next time, happy shooting.

The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the President of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to

PostHeaderIcon Optimal Lens Aperture for Sharp Photos – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

Lenses have many apertures available for use.  Aperture is used to modify the amount of light entering the camera body and can have the effect of increasing or decreasing shutter speeds and depth of field. It also has an effect on the sharpness of your image.

Stopping down a lens (using a smaller f-stop / a larger f number) has the effect of perceived increases in sharpness.  Because of diffraction though, a lenses optimal sharpness occurs a few stops before minimum aperture, which for most lenses is between f8-11 and possible as high as f16.

Until next time, happy shooting.

The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the President of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to

PostHeaderIcon Other options for Macro Photography – Choosing a Macro Lens Part 2 – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

Last tip I talked about choosing a macro lens. There are other ways to do macro photography without a dedicated macro lens though. Bellows and extension tubes enable you to move your lens further away from the camera body which in turn enables you to focus closer and get in tighter to your subject resulting in increased magnification. Close up filters attach to the front of your camera like regular filters and also allow you to focus closer and get larger magnifications in your images. Reversing rings let you stack two lenses together, front element to front element. This procedure will also give you some level of magnification though at the cost of ease of use. The options listed here decrease in cost with the bellows costing the most money (without purchasing a dedicated macro lens) and the reversing ring being the least affordable. Flexibility and ease of use decrease in the same manner.  For a more detailed explanation of these items, visit

Until next time, happy shooting.

PostHeaderIcon Top 10 travel photo mistakes


Howard Hillman is a well-known travel writer. He has a web site called Hillman Wonders of the World where many of the “wonders” of the world are ranked. As I was browsing the site, I came across a section called “Top 10 travel photo mistakes and camera tips for avoiding them“:

I wrote my 23-page Photo Tip guide to help you take superb travel pictures with your compact or SLR digital camera. By learning my tips & insights, you won’t make common mistakes made by others. I hope you come home with exciting travel photos.

The main page that I link to lists the 10 tips, but then each tip has a detailed section you can view that explains more.

PostHeaderIcon Choosing a Macro Lens – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

A friend and fellow photographer, Scott Simons, recently put on a presentation discussing early morning photography. During that presentation he was asked why use one macro lens over another. It was a good question and one that I will answer here for you today. This is for the most part, specific to people shooting with SLR type camera’s with interchangeable lenses. While other camera’s may have the ability to use screw on or accessory lenses in conjunction with the existing lens, I am not talking about that today.

First, why a macro lens. Macro lenses enable the photographer to photograph small subjects in great detail capturing up to life size reproductions the subject. 1:1 life size simply means that the images appears the same size on the film plane (or digital sensor) as it is in real life. Macro lenses are typically very sharp which help in capture fine detail of small subjects. They also allow for necessary, precise manual focusing.

For 35 mm digital photography, most macro lenses will be somewhere within the following set of focal ranges: 50mm, 60mm, 90mm, 100mm, 105mm, 150mm, 180mm and 200mm. Of course, not all manufacturers make all focal lengths but most will make three of them. The 50 and 60 are generally considered wide angle macro lenses, the 90, 100 and 105 normal macros and 150, 180 and 200 telephoto macro lenses. So what is the difference?

The difference between the focal lengths of any lens is field of view. A 18mm wide angle lens has a greater field of view than a 200mm telephoto. The same is the case with macro lenses. This is important because the wider the field of view, the more background will be a factor in your image. Generally you want to sufficiently blur the background to help bring emphasis to the subject but not necessarily always.

For comparison, I will talk about the lenses as used when photographing a subject at 1:1 (or life-size) that does not occupy the entire frame: a subject with a background.

A wide angle macro lens will incorporate more of the background than a medium or telephoto macro. At the same time, the working distance (the distance between the camera and subject) will be closer when working with a wide angle macro than with an medium focal length macro or telephoto.

Working distance is a factor because the more distance between the camera and the subject, the greater ability you as a photographer will have to use light modifiers to manipulate your image. Another advantage is that when your subject can move such as butterfly, you can help prevent them from being too skittish and walking away on you by staying as far back as possible.

Where is the advantage? Most people I know will say that the advantage lies with the longer focal length macro lenses. They narrow field of view and a greater working distance from your subject typically help to create fantastic images. The drawback is that longer focal length macro lenses cost significantly more money any are heavier. If you need to carry your equipment long distances, weight may be a concern.

If you are interested in macro photography, you can start with some less expensive alternatives. Extension tubes allow you focus closer than a given lens normally allows and close up diopters may help you as well. Next week I will talk a little bit about these and other options.

For a look at some of my own macro photography, visit

Until next time, happy shooting.

PostHeaderIcon Using Colour as Your Subject – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

On Monday night I had the pleasure of viewing several wonderful slideshows from members of my local camera club. One of those was a great presentation by Karen Fulham. Karen’s photos are full of colour which also happened to be the subject of her presentation.

Using colour as your subject is a good method is a great way to both practice your compositional skills and to add some new excitement to your photos. In order to capitalize on the use of colour as your main subject within your photograph, you must have strong compositional form with your photos.

Colour in strong compositional forms abounds everywhere. Capturing those colours and forms can lead to wonderful photographs.

Until next time, happy shooting.

PostHeaderIcon Keep Your Eyes Open – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

For most people, it is natural when they bring the camera up to one eye, to close the other. In most situations where you may be taking a photograph, this works just fine. There are situations however where you may find it advantageous to keep both eyes open.

When photographing a subject where you are waiting for an event to occur, such as a baseball player about to hit the ball, there is a definite advantage to using both your eyes. Once you image is composed within your viewfinder, open your second eye. Through some practice, you will be able to see both what you have framed in your camera and also, through your other eye, what is happening outside your camera. In this case you might be able to see the pitcher wind up and release the pitch.

Keeping both eyes open can help prepare you to capture the best image you can.

I have mentioned in the past that I am a member of the Niagara Falls Camera Club, which in turn is a member club of the Niagara Frontier Regional Camera Clubs (NFRCC). The NFRCC holds an annual convention that is open to the public. This year we will be meeting the weekend of April 11, 12 and 13. If you live or will be in Western New York that week end, it is a great opportunity to hear some excellent speakers talk about photography. Our keynote speaker this year is George Lepp who is a wonderful nature photographer and a pioneer of digital photography. For more information visit

Until next time, happy shooting.