Last weekend when I went the photography expo, I had the chance to sit in on one of the mini photography classes offered. Geared towards beginners, the class touched on simple photography tips that would improve images taken on either a digital or dslr camera.
The number one most important thing the instructor stressed was to try and get the picture as close to perfect with your camera settings before taking a photo. Sure you can adjust brightness, colour, etc in post processing, but quality is lost. The more changes made to the original image, the more 'noise' will appear in the photograph. Here are a few things I learned;
Exposure Compensation (+/- symbol)
Used to darken (minus sign) or brighten (plus sign) a scene, this setting can help capture colour accurately in back lit scenarios, scenes that are very bright (beach or snow scenes), and sunset/sky photos. For example, a sunset scene without exposure compensation can look washed out. Darkening it (under exposing) makes it look a lot better.
This setting helps in capturing colour accurately. For example, images dominated by dark, rich foliage can look washed out in auto mode. Darkening in camera can make things look better and the colours more true to life.
Using The Flash
The built in flash is not just for taking photos in dark situations. In auto mode the camera determines whether or not to use the flash based on how much light is available. Sometimes the camera will decide it doesn't need to use the flash (for example in a back lit situation) and the photo will turn out too dark. In a situation like this, forcing a flash (using the zigzag lightening symbol) will light up the subject and fill in the shadows.
Using the auto flash to photograph a large area of space in a low light setting doesn't work because it only lights up a few feet in front of the camera, leaving the rest of photo in shadows. Turning the flash off actually forces the camera to read the ambient light. However, in order for the picture to turn out you will need to use a tripod or some sort of stabilization device because hand held photos come out blurry. For best results, using the self timer on the camera is key, because it allows the camera on the tripod to readjust from the slight disturbance of pressing the button. You may not think this would cause much shaking, but it makes a world of difference.
In low light situations where you'd like to capture a subject and a bit of the background, use a slow sync flash (night or party mode). This setting tells the camera to shoot with a slower shutter speed as well as fire the flash. This produces a clear image of your subject along with some light from the foreground and background.
The mini course touched on some more advanced techniques like ISO and aperture settings, but I found the topics above most useful to me at this time. Along with blogger resources like How to take your own outfit photos (which thankfully I haven't had to do yet!) and How to tweak your photos, I can definitely see an improvement in my pictures from when I first started blogging!