Digital Camera Guide for the Novice

By: Christine Peppler

For the average person, digital cameras are the tool of choice to snap pictures of family and friends, to record special events, and to capture images of inspiring landscapes seen on vacations. However, for some, a love of nature, simple curiosity, or an interest in photography as a hobby guides them toward the world of close-up, or macro, photography. Close-up photography is simply a matter of taking pictures of small objects by getting very close and obtaining a magnified view. For anyone serious about macro photography an SLR camera is needed but for those interested in dabbling with their basic digital camera, a little experimentation can produce interesting close-up photographs.

Special "macro" lenses are recommended for the enthusiast but most digital cameras can accept small screw on "close-up" lenses which provide additional magnification. The digital cameras most consumers purchase are auto focus and merely require the push of a button to enter close or "macro" mode but the owner's manual should be reviewed to discover the minimum focusing distance of the camera. When shooting at a distance of only inches there are a number of precautions to take to assure a high quality image.

1.) Focus: When photographing at close range/high magnification, images can be blurred by the slightest movements.

&bull If the digital camera has a feature for mirror lock-up, it should be activated as the mere movement of the mirror can blur the image taken.

&bull Use a tripod

&bull Because slight breezes can cause movement, it is easiest to shoot subjects indoors when possible to gain control over the environment. In addition, shooting inanimate objects can also be a good starting point for a novice as the subject of the picture will not be moving.

&bull Because of the close range, blurriness in all but a very small area of the picture frequently occurs. To get more area in focus, reduce the aperture and increase lighting. In some instances, increasing distance from the subject may be necessary.

&bull Be sure the subject is parallel to the lens as items which are perpendicular have portions which are further away and therefore tend to blur.

2.) Getting the view you want: What is seen through the viewfinder of the digital camera is different than what the lens sees. This is particularly evident when photographing at close range.

&bull Use the LCD instead of the viewfinder to see what is being photographed.

&bull Or, use the correction marks (lines) that can be seen through the viewfinder which approximate the border of the image being taken to visualize what the lens is truly seeing. Then adjust the shot as necessary.

3.) Lighting: True macro photography commonly makes use of specialized flash units but care should be taken when using the flash unit with a digital camera to avoid over exposure and to obtain a natural looking background. Beginners can try a couple of things to obtain the best outcome

&bull Diffuse the light by using very thin tissue in front of the flash

&bull Place plain poster board (biege or gray is often used) behind the subject if the background is blackened. This will lighten the background and if placed far enough away, blur to look more natural.

&bull Use natural diffuse light when possible. As in most photography, avoid direct, overhead sunlight.

Although basic digital cameras have limitations related to macro photography, beginners can certainly obtain images with a level of detail and beauty seldom seen with the naked eye when giving necessary attention to the special needs of close up photography.

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