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Take Better Digital Photos by Learning from Your Mistakes

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 11/20/2008

We all do it - take bad photos that is. When using film cameras, bad photos cost you. Not only that but you had to wait for developing before you could see your results. Now with digital cameras, the temptation is to erase "bad" images right away. But wait! You can learn from them - here's how.

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    What “Bad" Digital Photography Can Teach You

    One of the most distinctive advantages of digital photography over film photography is the ability to instantly see the image you’ve captured. You can decide on the spot to keep it or re-shoot the image to improve it. If you’re like most, the tendency is to hit the erase button sequence and simply re-shoot again, perhaps even a couple or so more times in an effort to get the “best" digital image that you can while on location. First off, there may be adequate justification to do so. You’re “on location", have a limited quantity of memory storage, need a generous quantity of images to cover an assignment, etc. But hold on there. If it isn’t absolutely essential to erase those “bad" digital images, why not save them for later? Why? I’m glad you asked. It’s because you can actually learn from those so-called “bad" digital images, using them as a basis to improve your digital photography skills by leaps and bounds, that’s why.

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    Let’s look at some digital photography tips with examples:

    1. Blurry, Out-of-Focus Images

    Now suppose you’ve shot a bunch of blurry, out-of-focus digital images. This should immediately tell you that you must address eliminating camera shake in all its forms and causes. Try to figure out why the images are blurred. Knowing or at least having an idea why can go a long ways in helping you to come up with remedies to reduce or even eliminate this problem in the future.

    2. Bad Composition

    IMG 5157 On the other hand, let’s suppose you don’t like the composition of some digital images. “Perfect" composition isn't always called for, you know. Thumb through any photography book or magazine glancing at the broad range of photographs therein. Are all of them “perfectly" composed and in razor-sharp focus with brilliant color and fine-tuning? I’ll bet not. Then again, a badly composed imaged might be able to be “salvaged by cropping or photo-editing techniques. You do know PhotoShop, don’t you? (o ye with the fumble-thumbs)

    3. Misuse of Flash

    Okay, so it happens to the best (and the worst) of us. The flash fires when you don’t want it to. The flash doesn’t fire when you need it to. Maybe you’re still even in the “I accidentally put my finger / hand over the flash" stage. Whatever it is, you can learn to develop some good, useful habits in camera maintenance from this. Assuming it’s not a camera malfunction (have your camera checked by a professional service representative).

    Digital Photography Tips: You need to consistently:

    · charge the batteries completely before each outing or assignment,

    · take a fully-charged spare set of batteries and

    · learn camera holds to steady the camera from camera shake, plus

    · keep your hands, fingers and camera strap “out of harm’s way"

    · have an auxiliary or “slave" flash unit available, charged and ready

    4. Your Digital Photography Images are Too Dark

    IMG 5161 This can be caused by a number of different factors such as having an overly bright, backlit subject. Having insufficient ambient light, not turning on the flash unit when required or problems with the camera’s metering system. Digital Photography Tips: If back-lighting is bugging you Bunky, then a creative solution might be to turn that to your advantage and shoot silhouettes. You could change your subject’s or your shooting position by moving closer to a window or other light source. Then again, make sure your camera and flash unit are in good working order. Also, the “too dark" images could be manipulated to some degree using digital photo editing software.

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    Other Digital Photography Problems

    IMG 5276 Certainly, there might be other digital photography problems which are creating what you might initially call “bad" digital images. Digital Photography Tip: By analyzing these as to cause or source, you can take the necessary steps to help reduce or completely eliminate the problem. This will start giving you better digital photography images almost at once. The original of this image was gray overcast with "washed out" colors caused by my having to shoot through a dirty bus window (which I couldn't open). I "corrected" the problem and improved the image somewhat using digital photo editing software.