Digital Camera Operation Hints

All digital cameras share many essential features whose knowledge will help you take good photos. Here are a few:

1. Exposure - without good exposure you won't get a good photo. Exposure is the measure of how much light reaches the "film". Too much and it's OVEREXPOSED, and too little you have dark photos and UNDEREXPOSED. Most digital cameras have an AUTOMATIC setting that will do it's best to adjust the exposure for the entire scene. Many cameras also have a manual setting. (MAN) If you have time to set up your camera for the shot, try using MANUAL and starting with the F stop and Shutter speed (like F4/250) that the automatic has set (read this from the camera's LCD display) and use the settings around those AUTO settings to try for a better exposure. Don't set the exposure speed below about 1/60 sec though or you'll get a blurry photo. If your camera has a SPOT exposure capability, try using it to take a good exposure of the subject. Point the center of the lens at the subject in SPOT mode.

2. Exposure compensation. Look for the exposure compensation feature. Usually it has a +/- type icon. This will allow you to help the Automatic exposure. If the subject in your scene is darker than the surrounding, try adjusting the compensation for more light (+), and if it is lighter than the surroundings, try less light (-). A moose will need + adjustment, and a white pelican - adjustment.

3. Auto Focus - most cameras will try to focus automatically on your subject. Make sure the center of ;your lens is on the subject you want in focus. Many cameras will allow you to hold the shutter button half-way down while focusing on the subject, then move the camera to compose the scene and then press all the way down. This will give you the best chance for a good focus.

4. Presets. Most of the digital cameras today offer you a dial or digital display of pre-set exposures for various scenarios. Use them to get the best photos when you are unsure. For instance, use the RUNNER to photograph moving objects, use the CLOSEUP TULIP setting for getting close, use the star icon for night photos, use the LANDSCAPE mode for distant scenes, etc. Usually the icons are self-explanatory. Experiment with them.

5. Self-timer. The self timer has two good uses. First, the obvious. Set your camera on a tripod or a rock and run to get in the photo (don't fall). Make sure you focus in the same plane as where you will be standing, or on the person that will be next to you. Sometimes, it's best to put it in manual focus mode, focus and then set the self-timer. The second use is to avoid the camera movement caused by pressing the shutter which is often the cause of blurry photos. Set the self-timer to 2 seconds and hold the camera as still as possible with your elbows at your side while the self-timer takes the photo. This will result in sharper photos when you have time to do this.

6. Fill-flash. Look for the lightening bolt icon. It usually allows you to press a button to engage the flash day or night. Use this to make your portraits or bird photos better. Use this to elminate shadows on people's faces. If you have a MANUAL exposure capability, set it on manual, about 1/60 and F22 then use fill-flash to take a wildflower photo. Try it. By the way, when using flash day or night, remember that it will not light up a moose from 50 feet away. It is usually good to about 10 to 15 feet, so for most moose photography, it's not going to help you unless you are really brave and careless.

7. Quality Settings. Most cameras have several quality settings. This is basically the resolution or number of photo pixels that each image will contain. Have it on the HIGHEST or BEST setting if you plan on making prints, esp. 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 prints, and on a medium setting for web use. Most cameras store images in JPEG format, and you might have the ability to set it at 50 70 80 90 or 100% quality. The higher the number, the more storage it takes on your storage card but the better resulting print quality (assuming the photo is properly exposed, and you didn't shake the camera when taking the photo).

8. Zoom. Many digital cameras with fixed lenses have a zoom capability. Usually these are two buttons next to each other with opposing arrows. No doubt you have found them for yourself. Use them to crop or situate the subject in the scene at the right size. If the subject is far away, zoom in. People or animals can't be recognized if you are too far away.

These are merely a few features of the new digital cameras today. Yours may differ so, again, take the time to read your manual before you come and follow these helpful hints:

1) bring plenty of digital film and figure out a way to organize which ones are already taken. (Use a couple baggies marked USED and EMPTY maybe.) The amount of storage you use will depend on the QUALITY settings of your camera so there is no good rule to say what you need. Try bringing at least 3 2MByte cards with you on a day's outing.

2) Clean your lens with a soft cloth from time to time, especially after visiting a waterfall up-close! Your finger smudges on the lens will cause blurry photos too. Use a lens cap or the built-in cover when possible to avoid scratching the lens and getting dust, finger smudges, and water on the lens.

3) Bring extra batteries. Especially if you use flash much.

4) Use a camera strap if you can. Losing your camera on a vacation can be devastating.

5) Dump your photos to a computer when you get back to the RV so you'll have fresh cards the next day. Make a copy to CD if you can in case you lose your hard drive.

6) If you have an SLR type camera, bring a wide angle and a telephoto lens for best choice of photo opportunities. Be careful when you change lenses to avoid dusty areas to avoid dust on the sensor.

7) Label your equipment with your name and email address or phone number so you'll know it's yours and you'll have a chance of getting it back if you leave it at a restaurant or laying down on the ground somewhere.

8) Take photos of your friends and family too. When you get the photos out to view 5 years or more from now, those will be the most valuable ones. You can always go back to photograph Yellowstone Falls again, but NEVER again will you have your grandson at 5 years old or your wife at 21!

GOOD LUCK and come see us at RedRock RV Park. We have thousands of photo opportunities waiting for you.

Don't miss our RV Park's photo gallery, featuring more still images of the area around our RV Park here.

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