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Tips for The Beginner Digital Photography Student

written by: Donny Yankellow•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/25/2010

New digital photography students come into class on the first day anxious to take pictures and start printing. However, it has been mine experience that many of those first shots are out of focus and blurry. There are several reasons for this, and this article will explain some of them.

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    How to make the first photos great ones

    I teach a digital photography class to high school students. In the first week of the class we go over a bunch of basics to make sure they are getting the most out of their cameras. Each student has a different camera from a different company. Some are digital SLR, some are point and shoot. However, they all benefit from these tips.

    Tip #1: Read the instruction manual. This seems boring and silly, but reading the instruction manual for your camera is important. You will find out things your camera can do that you may not have even known about. You will also find tips for taking a better picture with your specific camera.

    Tip #2: Make sure you focus your camera with every picture. Even with film cameras, point and shoot isn’t really point and shoot. You have to make sure the camera is focussing on your subject. With most cameras it is a matter of pressing the shutter release down part of the way until your camera indicates it is in focus. This might be with a beep or a light or boxes on your display. Just pointing and shooting will most likely give you results you don’t like. Of course, there are those times when you get a great shot by accident or when you want to fool your digital camera's focus lock.

    Tip #3: Make sure your camera is set to the highest quality settings for the best possible picture. This is usually the biggest problem I run into with my students. They come in with there camera in the default settings and are taking pictures that cannot be enlarged or cropped because the quality isn’t the highest.

    You want to make sure you check two settings for this. The first is the megapixels. Make sure your camera is set to take a picture at the largest megapixel possible. This will allow for blowing up images to larger prints and to allow for cropping and zooming in on sections when editing your photos and printing those areas larger. Keep in mind, the larger the megapixel, the more drive space a photo will fill.

    The second thing you want to check is image quality. I have found that many cameras have this set to the medium setting or the next to highest setting. Why it is not on the best quality by default, I don’t understand. Anyway, this will also help with cropping and enlarging and just give you a better picture to start with.

    Both of these are usually hidden in the settings menu of your camera. Of course, all cameras are different and this is one reason that reading those instruction manuals are important. If you can’t find the settings check your instructions manual.

    Tip #4: Finally, if you have a camera with image stabilization, I suggest turning it on. Image stabilization helps correct blurring from your hand shaking when you take your picture. Many DSLR cameras have it and most cameras with extra long zooms have it. While others don't like it, my experience with image stabilization is that it works great. I especially suggest it for those new to a digital SLR and not use to the weight of the body+lens together.

    The above tip applied to a student of mine who just got a DSLR. Her pictures were fuzzy and out of focus. I checked her stabilization setting and it was off. We turned it on and it made a huge difference.

    There you have it. My top tips for the digital photography student. They aren’t guarantees for fantastic photos, but they will make your photos better.