Capturing the moment

Photography is no longer restricted to those with expensive equipment and access to a darkroom — it has become a means of expression for our generation.

With websites like Facebook and MySpace, we are invited into many aspects of our “friends’” lives, and pictures have become a staple in this ongoing communication.

From baby pictures to prom and wedding photos to remembering nights out or family events, photos have become commonplace in our culture, with the accessibility of digital photography furthering the ease with which we can cherish our memories. However, simply owning or desiring a digital camera is only the first step. Often many of the potentially beneficial features of cameras can be overlooked.

When seeking to capture the perfect photo of the sunset on a beach vacation or the perfect action shot at a sporting event, we often need to learn to take a step back and fully utilize the advanced technology available to us.

For many, this means going back to the basics — where shutter speed, aperture and megapixels can be found.

Generally speaking, the more megapixels a camera has the higher the image quality, and the easier it is to manipulate the image with post-production software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Most cell phones are equipped with a 3 to 5 megapixel camera, most point-and-shoot cameras are between 10 to 14 megapixels and digital single-lens reflex cameras can be upwards of 20 megapixels, with some even shooting HD video.

Knowing the basics can be an important part of owning a digital camera, but understanding how the presets on a camera work can quickly increase versatility and enhance the final product.

Helpful tips

Shutter speed is how long the shutter or “eye” of a camera stays open for, or the length of the exposure. A longer exposure or slow shutter speed allows more light in and shows motion, and a shorter shutter speed limits the light and stops the action. Aperture is how much light is let in during the set shutter speed; a wider aperture lets in more light and is useful in low light settings, while a narrower aperture lets less light in — the idea is very similar to the pupil in your eye. A more narrow aperture allows for a greater depth of field, best for landscape, and shots taken from a distance. A pixel is the smallest unit produced in an image; a megapixel is equal to one million pixels.

Automatic

What it is: The shutter speed and aperture are chosen by the camera, taking into account the available light and motion of subjects and offering the best settings for a given situation. This setting can be used with or without flash and is the most versatile.

When to use it: Everyday photos, parties and events, can be used without a flash at concerts with some cameras.

Action

What it is: A fast shutter speed is used for freezing moving objects or people. Ideal in well-lit settings, as the use of an in-camera flash can create a slight delay, causing the moment of action to be missed.

When to use it: Sporting events, pet or wildlife photography and the always difficult “jump-shot.”

Manual

What it is: The shutter speed and aperture are chosen by the camera user; tips and tricks for different techniques can be found online. The manual setting can be used in any situation with practice. Often once a photographer goes manual they find the automatic setting constricting.

When to use it: Anywhere and everything depending on your comfort level.

Landscape

What it is: Where macro has a shallow depth of field, landscape gives your camera an unlimited, or “infinite,”setting for depth of field. The landscape setting allows the camera to choose the narrowest aperture possible to accommodate the “infinite” depth of field.

When to use it: Hiking, a day at the beach, a perfect way to capture those breathtaking vacation photos.

Macro

What it is: Using the macro setting changes the point of focus or “depth of field” on your camera from its usual distance of greater than a foot to a couple of inches. Using macro is similar to switching from binoculars to a magnifying glass — it allows for a closer focus as well as sharper details. Best used in well-lit situations.

When to use it: Flowers, insects, jewelry, anything up close.

Five photography websites worth a ‘shot’

flikr.com

Search by a type, or click “explore” to be immersed in a variety of photos uploaded by the photographers themselves. Photos can be added to groups or commented on and you can create your own account for free.

1x.com

A variety of breathtaking and awe-inspiring photos contributed by photographers from around the word.

photography.nationalgeographic.com

National Geographic has been wowing us for decades with its high-quality photography. Take a look at the photos of the day or browse the galleries; they will not disappoint.

awkwardfamilyphotos.com

A website that shows us how important posing and wardrobe choice — among other factors — can be for a photo.

ifoundyourcamera.net

As the website claims, “Every photo on this website comes from a lost camera or memory stick or roll of film somewhere around the world.” ifoundyourcamera has set out on the mission of returning these lost memories to their owners.

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