Digital Photo Tips

Experiences & notes of an amateur photographer 

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 Sallie Naatz Bailey

Note: This page was started about 5 - 6 years ago. Technology changes (for the better we always hope but sometimes wonder) but most of what I discuss here still applies. In the meantime, things like 'lens lag' - referred to below - have hopefully been addressed in newer cameras & I do understand that some handle the problem better than others. 

I'm not a photographer - in terms of technical knowledge - but in the course of taking photos to use as reference for my art, I became interested in the art of photography. I've used a SLR but found my real metier with a 'point & shoot' type camera which has a very shallow 'learning curve'. I can see all the photographers out there shuddering! My name for the Point & Shoot camera that I used for so many years was "my PHD camera" - i.e. - Push Here Dummy! Much as I loved it, I replaced it with a digital camera some time ago and haven't looked back!



 Gerbera Daisy


Japanese Iris





The acquisition of a digital camera has given me unprecedented freedom. No worry about not getting a good picture or wasting film. I binge on photographing our garden! And then to see the result immediately! It's magic! That also means no more blurred or out of focus picture or shots of one person in a group looking really bad!! Of course not - you delete those on the spot and take another!

One situation in which digital cameras perform poorly is where there are areas of strong contrast. Ordinary cameras can have trouble with this, too - but in a different way. Remember all those photos of family members taken outdoors in bright sunlight around noon with your old camera? Their features are black blobs of shadow - unless you remembered to use the flash! Subjects in a shaded area within a sunny scene can be tough with digital cameras and shots taken toward the sun can really be messed up. It can be done. Here's an example - below - of a photo taken from that aspect:

I was aware of the problem and used it to my advantage - but the original scene was brilliantly lighted by the sun. You'll note that this almost appears to be moonlight. Taking it toward the sun - which was essential to get the long shadows' full effect - accounts for the difference. There is ample opportunity to 'learn while doing' with digital cameras. Some cameras may have more sophisticated settings but you've got to experiment - and keep in mind- you're not wasting film or paying money for inferior prints! So go for it!

You don't need to go 'top of the line' either. I use an Olympus Camedia C-3000Zoom. It falls in the $300 - $400 range - or did the last time I looked - and its photos can be enlarged to 8x10 without any loss of clarity. Enough talk - after all - they say that one picture is worth a thousand words. (Click on following shots to see enlarged version).

Photos like this one simply cannot be taken with a 'point & shoot'. Photo editing enables you to lighten photos that would have been much too dark - such as the stage shot - which was taken in a darkened auditorium from about 50 ft.away with the telephoto lens turned on and the flash turned off, then edited to brighten it. Keep in mind that this is not an expensive camera by digital camera standards!

 The photo editing program I use most often is PictureIt. I also frequently use a combination of photo editing software - all of which have their own pluses & minuses. In addition to PictureIt, I use the wonderful 'freebie' called Irfanview and also Paint Shop Pro 6.





All at once I saw a crowd

A host of golden daffodils...

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils... .




Wild Columbine... 


 ... and Foxglove

 White & 'Strawberry' Foxglove

As you can see, I'm  quite intrigued with Foxglove. I have a unique method for taking such photos - the technical name for it is....... By-Guess-and-By-Gosh. In case you haven't guessed, my approach is quite simple. I set my telephoto for the farthest shot, then position the camera about a foot  or slightly more away from the subject, set the 'flower photo' shooting button - which my camera has - ON & fire away. Usually I have the viewing window turned on, so I can lower the camera and get a general idea of what I'm photographing without stooping, kneeling - or even lying on my stomach, as I did in my pre-arthritis days! I've got to tell you - photographing flowers is way easier than taking care  of them!! That I leave up to my husband!


If you think  this is a good shot - think about this - I took about 80 shots to get a few good ones! Some of the others are adequate but this is the clear winner. Clear is the operative word. Getting these little guys to sit still for a photo - especially when the digital camera has a shutter delay - is something else! (I call it lens lag). In both cases, I set the camera  on the deck railing, sighted through the viewing window and just - waited - with my finger poised to snap. Incidentally - shutter delays are common with digital cameras - normally it's not too troublesome unless you're photographing hummingbirds - or grandchildren! Both are in almost constant motion!!

This isn't a technically great picture - but how many of us have seen a hummer's underside?? I label this one 'faster than a speeding bullet'.........

This lily lived in a pot on our deck. It's pure dumb luck that - when I photograph them - the woods in the background come up as black - very dramatic! it's all in the angle - and the closer shot. I use the telephoto to get the close-ups.



Home Grown Beauty

Honestly - they really look like this! No retouching except for the brightness & contrast & sharpness! And to think everyone admires ROSES! No one ever wrote an ode to a tomato - more's the pity. I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder! Alas - the season is so short...

This just in - a reader of this  web page informs me that an Ode to a Tomato (below) was indeed written by Nobel prize recipient Pablo Neruda. Go here to Food Tales to read a translation.

 NewsFlash.... New Camera! Yep - a Kodak DX7590 with 'dock' (a special offer via Amazon a few months ago). This camera is a winner! It has a 10x optical zoom and an excellent lens. It's easy to operate and the dock makes downloading a cinch - fast and problem free - unlike my other camera. Photos henceforth will be from my trusty Kodak. I recommend it!

 This moonshot was taken with the zoom at maximum - from our front yard - without a tripod. (Click on it to see the larger version).

 I have discovered that the 'sports' setting on the camera actually compensates for the lack of a tripod in many cases - even compensating for the motion of wind blown flower close-ups. Newer cameras of course have auto correction for movement.



My neighbor's yellow peony in closeup.



 The cardinal was taken through a window, using the telephoto lens & the 'sports' setting mentioned above.

The photo of the deer - below - was taken from the kitchen window (through the glass - as was the cardinal). I used the telephoto on the sports setting, then cropped and lightened the image. Notice that she is licking her chops in anticipation of chomping on all those nice ground plantings around the house!