Quick Photography Tip
Make sure that the background in your photos doesn't compete for attention
Using the auto mode on a digital camera gives you a point
and shoot camera that allows you to concentrate on the
subject while the camera makes the necessary settings to
give you a well exposed and properly focused image.
But like most automatic features, knowing how they function
will help you keep the camera from getting fooled in those
special situations that often yield the most dramatic
photos: including when your subject is backlit or
A photograph is essentially a record of the light conditions
at a certain point in time and space. We recognize the
patterns of colors and shapes in a photograph because they
resemble what we see in daily life. Light is so common that
we take it for granted, but the photographer needs to be
attuned to the subtlety of light in order to make effective
What we consider to be 'white' light is actually made up of
all the colors of the spectrum. This is easy to demonstrate
with a prism - let light shine through it and it will
refract into all the colors of the rainbow. In fact, we see
rainbows because water droplets are acting as prisms by
breaking up the white light from the sun and splitting it
Objects have different colors because they reflect those
colors while absorbing the others. Black absorbs all color -
it is the absence of color.
Even though all light may look alike to us, different light
sources emphasize certain parts of the color spectrum.
Bright sunlight from about 10 am to 2 pm, for example, has a
bluish tinge. Early morning and late afternoon sunlight is
red because it is filtered through the earth's atmosphere.
Artificial light also has distinct color characteristics.
Incandescent light brings out red colors while fluorescent
light is greenish-blue.
The photographer can take advantage of these different
characteristics when taking shots. Either the camera can be
adjusted to compensate for the light source or the special
characteristics of the light can be used for artistic
Most digital cameras can be adjusted for color balance.
There may be several options: auto, manual, daylight,
incandescent and flash. They can be used to compensate for
the light source so that white is truly white. This allows
the colors to be reproduced accurately.
In some cases you may wish to get a special effect by
altering the white setting to a different color. You can
preview how this will look on the LCD monitor.
The direction of the light source is a very important
consideration in photography. Light can come from above,
behind, below or the side of the subject and each produces a
different effect. Generally speaking, a diffuse light coming
from the sides will be a good starting point when
photographing people. This kind of light occurs in the early
morning and late afternoon, or can be produced in the studio
with an umbrella reflector.
Of course, all kinds of special effects can be produced by
lighting your subject in different ways. Backlighting can
create a halo effect, while overhead lights can create
strong contrasts between light and shadow.
Another factor which affects photography is the strength of
the light. Direct light creates strong shadows while diffuse
light can create a warm atmosphere by reducing the contrast
The beauty of digital photography is that you can experiment
to your heart's content without running up film or
processing costs. Get ideas for lighting by looking through
photography books you can find here:
and trying out various types of lighting to see what works
Using Flash Automatic Flash
Auto flash is a great tool for solving common lighting
problems, but unless used with care it can create some
Almost every digital camera is equipped with automatic
flash. Most cameras have several flash settings for
different lighting conditions. The flash can be set to
automatically trigger when the light conditions are too dim,
and there are usually several other settings for greater
control over the flash.
The flash is usually integrated into the body of the camera.
This is very convenient -- just shoot the camera and allow
the flash to come on if it is needed. There are, however, a
few problems related to the close proximity between flash
The most common problem is red eye. Everybody has seen this
-- the eyes of people (and even animals) take on a weird red
glow. This is caused by the light from the flash reflecting
back from the retina of the eye. The thin red blood vessels
in the retina cause the red color.
Some cameras have a flash setting which reduce this red eye
effect. This works by firing a short flash before the
picture is taken which causes the iris of the eye to become
Another problem caused by integrated flash is a lack of
depth. The reason for this is the even illumination over the
entire surface of the subject. Shadows which normally give a
sense of depth are eliminated.
Both red eye and flatness can be reduced with a separate
flash unit. They can be powered with a 'hot shoe' (a bracket
on the camera body) or a cable which synchronizes the flash
with the built-in flash of the camera.
By moving the source of the flash away from the lens, added
depth is created and the subject's eyes are not directly
illuminated. External flash units also give you more options
for aiming the flash -- the light can be bounced off other
objects for a more subtle effect. Also, objects which are
closer to the flash will appear brighter.
Not all flashes are created equal. They are available in
various strengths, and the power of the flash determines how
much area it can light up. Most manufacturers specify the
maximum range of a flash. This distance can be achieved when
the aperture of the camera is fully opened.
Shop flashes and digital cameras at: