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Mark Peters : April 26th 2006 - 14:07 CET

Photo Tips for National Photo Month from PMA

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PMAPhoto Tips for National Photo Month from PMA : May is National Photo Month, and Photo Marketing Association International (PMA) reminds consumers it's time to take great spring pictures. Flowers are blooming, and so are photo opportunities. PMA recommends the tips below to get the most out of your digital camera. With digital cameras now capturing the lion's share of pictures, it's important to remember the basic fundamentals of camera operation in order to get the best results. Digital photographers should do their homework by studying the camera's instruction book. Here are five settings that make for better photographs. (for more picture taking tips and techniques visit the PMA Take Great Pictures website).
Photo Tips for National Photo Month from PMAPhoto Tip - Flash Adjustment
Learn how to turn the flash on and off, even if the camera has an automatic flash mode. Sometimes flash will ruin a photo. It may be better to try a longer exposure in natural light. For example, if you use the flash when shooting through a glass window, the flash usually reflects back into the camera lens causing a flare. Ambient light can also capture a more natural look to your photography in most cases. Finally, see if there is a "Fill Flash" setting on your flash menu. If so, use the "Fill Flash" setting in bright sunlight to illuminate harsh shadows in portraits, which are caused by overhead sunlight. Remember, most built-in flash units can only operate at a maximum distance of about 10 feet from the subject.

Photo Tip - ISO Setting
The ISO setting determines the camera's sensitivity to light. For example, on a bright sunny day ISO 100 or ISO 200 is perfect for picture taking. Many cameras permit the ISO to be adjusted to 400, 800, and even 1600. These higher ISO settings are best used for cloudy days, low-light indoor picture taking, or nighttime photography, since they are the most sensitive to light. Usually a camera's LCD menu allows you to select the right ISO for the job.

Photo Tip - Erase Pictures
You have to be careful about erasing photos in the camera, but it can be done. First, learn how to erase just one photo at a time. This is useful when you snap a bad photo and you want to retake the picture without cluttering up your camera's memory card with a bunch of poor images. Next, learn how to erase all the photos on the memory card, so that the card can be used again. Only do this after you've downloaded the images to your computer. And don't get the two settings mixed up, or you could lose all the photos!

Photo Tip - Image Size
Most digital cameras allow you to adjust the image size, which is the number of pixels used to make up the photo. The general rule is the larger you want to print a sharp photo, the more pixels you need. Therefore, if you want big prints, use the maximum image size. For example, on an 8-megapixel camera, the largest setting is 3,264-by-2,448 pixels. This can be adjusted downward several times, to 2,560-by-1,920, 1,600-by-1,200, or 640-by-480 pixels. Why would you want to do this? With a lower setting, more individual photos can be put on the card. Use this with caution; however, because once you have lowered the camera's resolution, you can't get the resolution back. If you've photographed a brilliant sunset in 640-by-480 pixel resolution, don't expect to make great enlargements from that picture. Because memory cards are becoming less expensive than they were just a year ago, it's worth it to shoot photos at the highest resolution, then crop out what you don't want on the computer.

Photo Tip - Image Quality
Also associated with image size is image quality. This is usually identified on the camera's LCD menu as "Standard," "Fine," "Extra Fine," and "TIFF." Not all camera makers use the same words, but you get the idea. In addition to image size, image quality also affects the number of photos you can take on your memory card. For making the largest, sharpest prints, "TIFF" is the best setting, particularly when a high image size is selected. For snapshot-size prints, you can select one of the lower image quality settings. One way to find out what you want or need is to take some unimportant photos at different settings, to discover if you can see any difference. Then pick the lowest settings for the pictures you like best. Remember, this is for prints ... almost everything looks great on a computer monitor.

Digital Camera manual
The camera manual will have a lot more information, and you should read it closely! If you are still having problems understanding how to adjust camera settings, take your camera and manual to a local photo retailer and ask a salesperson to explain the settings to you. They are the experts, and should be happy to help you, while also suggesting any camera accessories you may need.

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