Quick Photography Tip
Remember, flash is not just for indoor shots
You have probably taken photos before just to find out later that they did not come out as expected. Although digital cameras are getting smarter there are still a lot of decisions that the photographer has to make. There are also many mistakes that the photographer can make. Here are seven common ones.
Many mistakes can ruin a photo. Here is a list of seven common ones. The first step to avoid these is to understand what they are and why they ruin a photo. The second step is to be aware of them when shooting your photos.
Out of focus: An out of focus photo looks blurry and has low contrast. Usually such a photo is useless and can not be corrected. Most digital cameras can automatically set the focus for you and in most cases they choose the right focus for the scene. Some scenes however are harder to focus on and can fool the camera's auto focus mechanism. If you are using an SLR camera you can make sure that the objects are in focus by looking through the viewfinder. Most cameras sound a short beep when the focus is locked and also display a green rectangle around the area that they focused on. Always make sure that this area is where the objects that you care about are. For example if there are two objects in the scene in different distances from the camera make sure that the camera focused on the object you want.
Blurry photos: Blurry photos are most likely the result of camera shakes. Learn how to hold your camera to minimize shaking: it should be held firmly with two hands and it should "touch" your face. If you are shooting photos using slow shutter speeds you should use a sturdy tripod to prevent shaking. If you can not guarantee that the camera will be stable - for example if you are shooting while you're moving - set the camera to shutter priority and choose a fast shutter speed (assuming of course that the light conditions allow such setting) - for example setting the shutter speed to anything faster than 1/250 of a second will most likely guarantee a non blurry photo even if the camera shakes a bit.
Photos that are underexposed look dark and lack details. The reason for underexposed photos is setting the exposure too low. Although the camera can measure ambient light and make the exposure decisions for you it can be confused by more complicated scenes. For example if there is a very bright light source in the photo it can confuse the camera to believe that there is enough light in the scene for a low exposure setting. The result will be a photo that captures the bright area but darkens all the others. Usually you can assume that scenes that have extreme lighting gaps between different areas confuse the camera - for example if a quarter of the photo is very bright and the rest is very dark the camera is likely to set the wrong exposure. In such cases you can manually correct the exposure.
Overexposed: Photos that are overexposed have blown out areas and sometimes are completely saturated and white. The reasons for overexposed photos are similar to underexposed ones. The camera makes an exposure decision that is incorrect due to complicated scene conditions. In such scenes you can manually correct the exposure.
Shaded objects: A good example of shaded objects is when taking a portrait photo in daylight. The camera measures enough ambient light to set a low exposure value. Although there is enough ambient light shades can appear on the object depending on the angle of the light source relative to the object. For example if the object's face is lit from the side the object's nose can create shades. Or maybe if the object is wearing a hat and is lit from above the hat can create shades on the object's face. The camera can not automatically correct such shades. By understanding what causes shades you can easily eliminate them by turning on the fill-in flash. Firing the fill-in flash (make sure that the object is within flash range) will remove the shades from the object.
Red eye: This is a very common phenomenon. When taking photos of people or animals using a flash in a dark environment the eyes have some red glow in them. There are a few things that you can do to prevent red-eyes: some cameras support a "red eye reduction" mode. In that mode the camera fires the flash a few times before taking the photo. Although this can help reducing red-eye it can also result in photos of people with their eyes closed (as they are blinded by the pre-flash their reflex is to close their eyes). Other ways to prevent red-eye is to use bounce flash (you can do that with special equipment or for example by pointing the flash to a white wall) and using more ambient light if possible (for example by turning on all the lights in the room). Some cameras include built-in image processing software that automatically removes red-eye from the photos or alternatively you can use many software packages on your home computer to accomplish the same.
Dark Silhouettes: When taking photos with a bright light source behind the object (for example when the sun is behind the object) the result will be a silhouette of the object. One example is taking a photo of someone on the beach against a sunset. The result will be a dark silhouette of the person with a good photo of the sunset background. This problem can be solved using a fill-in flash. The fill-in flash lights the object making sure that it is captured with all its details. Simply remember to use a fill-in flash when taking pictures of objects with a bright light source behind them. One limitation is that the objects must be within the flash range - otherwise the flash is useless and they will appear as silhouettes in the photo.