digital photography

for beginners

My tips for beginners with Digital Cameras

No, I'm no pro and have a lot to learn. Hopefully, that will happen. Meanwhile, I love practicing with my digital camera. If you have not yet taken the step to move to digital, there may be a few useful tips for you here. Some of my older pictures live at:
and my trip to B.C.:

Why I won't use a DSLR:

In June 2005 I added a CANON EOS-20D D-SLR camera, 8.2 Megapixels. It did not work for me; it is an SLR camera and the shutter makes so much noise it frightened the deer. So I was forced to go back to a "Point-and-Shoot."

My motto: "A computer without a digital camera is only half a computer."

FIRST, all my comments, very briefly:

(Note the superscript numbers at the end of a line to indicate that there is more detail in the bottom section of this page)

1. Reasons for a Digital Camera:

2. What to look for when buying a digital camera:

3. A few TIPS for taking good digital pictures and using them:

4. About your OLD pictures and slides; taken on FILM:

5. How you can "fix" your pictures:

Once you realize all the neat things you can do with digitized pictures, you should start "building a toolbox of photo tools"16

the most common "effects" that I apply to pictures are:

6. Some ideas for subjects for your pictures:

clouds, waterfalls, (fall) colors, snow/ice, sunsets and sunrises, (family) activities, birds, animals, insects, flowers, rocks, buildings, mushrooms, roads, spiderwebs, fields with crops, lightning, fire etc. etc.


NOW, (some of) the above again, with more detail and examples:

1. for example, my 1Gb SD Card will hold about 400 pictures, each 2560x1920 pixels

2. sharing your pictures: the more you share them with friends and family, the less danger of losing them in case of a disaster such as a house fire. AND who does not like to receive a CD with a slide show?

3. A computer can crash and if all your pictures are only on your computer, you can lose everything. You should put at least your more important ones on CDs and store these so that if your computer was stolen or crashed, or if you house burned down, your pictures would be safe someplace else.

4. you can even make an "automatic starting" slide show that will run on any computer

5. the Spot Meter: This is something I'd never go without. When you aim your camera at, for example, a baseball player on the field and the sky behind him is very bright, the camera will say, "Hey, this is a very bright situation, I'll use a small aperture and a fast shutter on this one." Result: a picture of a nice - looking sky with a pitch-black ball player. No way to recognize him. A Spot Meter allows you to avoid this. Turn it on and you'll see a small "+" in the middle of your viewfinder. Set the + on the ball player and the camera will say, "Hey, I have to set my shutter and aperture so that the ball player is exposed properly and just ignore everything else." Result: ball player is recognizable but the sky is over-exposed. I hope to show the result of such a situation here:

digital photography digital photography digital photography
Here I put the + of the spot meter on the plywood wall; the result is that the wood is properly exposed at the expense of the outside being grossly over-exposed. Here I put the + on the open window with the result that the outside is properly exposed but the inside walls are grossly under-exposed. Here I did not use the spot meter at all; outside is over-exposed and inside is under-exposed

6. There is a lot of hype about the more megapixels the better. Bottom line is that if you want to print out enlarged photos, more is better. See also footnote 1.

7. When I set my camera to "Play" and a picture is displayed, I can use the "zoom / wide-angle" slider to enlarge the picture and the main menu button to move the picture around so I can see it all. This is very handy for making sure a picture you just took is clear.

8. The "digital zoom" in a camera is garbage. The quality is so bad you'll never use it. Trust me.

9. Pushing the shutter button partway down: Using my own experience, I wish I'd learned this sooner. I was trying to take pictures of beavers for my beaver site at and wanted a picture of a beaver slapping his big, flat tail on the water and diving. Every time I looked at the resulting picture, all I got was a bit of wave action. The picture was taken later than when I pushed the button down. THEN I learned and now here is what I do: aim the camera at the beaver as it is swimming and press the shutter button half-way down. I follow the beaver and the moment he slaps his tail, I press the button the rest of the way down. No more problem. Here is one resulting picture:

digital photography

10. for more information of the proper way to use e-mail see

11. You can get a FREE slideshow program called gPhotoShow from and it can use your own photos and your own music. Note that the latest version of the free one is 1.7.0 as of April 30, 2012. Speaking of this, here is an idea: if you have an elder member in your family, and you also happen to have (or can buy) an old computer, put all your (family) pictures and this screen saver into that computer and put that into the family member's apartment for an all day slide show.

12. The idea of the plastic bag is simly this: If you use your camera outside in a cold place and then bring it indoors where it is warm and where the relative humidity is higher, moisture may condense inside and on the outside of the camera. Avoid this by putting the camera into the plastic bag when moving back into the warmer, more moist area.

13. If you are into taking a lot of pictures and sharing them, you might consider a "BLOG" site; my son does this; he travels a lot and updates his blog constantly, no matter where he is in the world. You can see his excellent pictures at and he would probably appreciate any comments you might wish to leave there for him.

14. your picture's "depth of field": SOMEtimes it is good to have the main subject of your picture close to the camera and in focus and have the background blurry so as not to distract from the main subject. Other times you want everything clear and sharp, whether close to the camera or far away. You can control this by manually setting the aperture: the size of the hole that lets in the light: The smaller the hole, the greater the depth of field. F11 means the aperture hole is very small; F2.8 means it is open much larger. If you set the aperture (hole) to a small size, the camera will automatically adjust so that the picture will not be too dark; it will leave the shutter open a bit longer.

Here is an example; on this "Natural Totem Pole" I wanted, in the first picture, to show as much of the pole as possible, clear and sharp so I manually set the camera to use a very small aperture opening: F11. The camera decided to set the shutter to be open for 1/30 of a second.

In the second picture, I wanted to show only a short distance of the pole to be clear and sharp so I set the aperture at F2.8. This is quite a large opening, letting in a lot of light in a hurry, so the camera decided to leave the shutter open for only 1/500 of a second.

digital photography digital photography

15. Use the "series" method of numbering: Your camera may number your pictures automatically with file names such as "DSC00082.JPG." Then you download your pictures into your computer and clear the camera's memory and start over. Next day you go to download the day's pictures into the computer (same folder) again and you have a problem: that folder ALREADY has pictures with those file names. You might be able to overcome this problem if you can set your camera to number them "in series" instead. If you do that, it will remember the last number used and next time, start at the next sequential number. Then you can download pictures every day into the same folder.

Speaking of this, I like to rename my pictures to use "lower case" only; no capital letters. This is because some webhosts cannot handle upper case file names and uploading them to a website there will cause problems. Plus, I like to stick with the old "8.3" file length again because some places cannot handle the newer, longer file names. For some wonderful FREE software to rename files, get Jan Falke's "RenameFiles version 2.42 at It is wonderful.

16. there is lots of FREE computer software available on the internet for doing all sorts of neat things with/to your pictures; here is my toolbox:

My Photo Toolbox:

(a) IRFANVIEW; my all-time favorite. See my notes about it at (Freeware)

(b) PaintShop Pro (NOT free) from has an incredible feature for fixing photos instantly. Strongly recommended. I made some notes which live at HONESTLY, 98% of all the pictures I take look MUCH better with ONE CLICK of the Paintshop program; it is like MAGIC. Much more about some of the things I do with Paintshop at my page at

(c) JPEG Cleaner: a tool to remove all "Non-Picture information" in a picture file. A photo saved as a JPG has a lot of information saved with/in that file besides only the picture. This free tool can remove it or part of it. With a test picture, the original picture was 273,311 bytes and after running it through this program, it was reduced by 58,409 bytes. This extra information about the picture is called the "EXIF data." This free tool comes from To see what EXIF data is saved with your pictures, use Irfanview.

(d) Rejpeg: (free) This is a "Must Have." Free from and written by Ryan Rubley. I realize this website is in French; the program is not so you'll have no difficulty with it. What it does is amazing. It will reduce the size of the picture file to whatever level of compression suits you. Frequently you can cut the file size by 50% or more. BUT; KEEP your originals too! Compressing a picture file is very important if you want to put the picture on a website. The larger the file size, the longer it takes to download.

(e) DCE or Digital Camera Enhancer: FREE from

(f) Picasa: I'm told that Picasa, free from Google, is excellent.

(g) Noiseware Community (free) Edition Standalone 2.6 for removing "noise" very excellently.

(h) Resize by Peter Bone. Version 2.7 was available last time I looked, October 2010. Get it from Peter at

(i) ExifPro Image Viewer: is one you might like; check it out at

The Paintshop Pro "instant fix" tool for photos is virtually a "requirement" for anyone using a digital camera; even pictures which you thought were perfect, can probably be improved. Here is an example:

beaver beaver

Getting Digital Cameras can be Addictive!

There is always a "Better" camera than the one you have. That's life. For me, a "point and shoot" camera, rather than a "Single Lens Reflex" is the answer because I do NOT want the shutter noise to scare away the animals I tend to photograph. As new, better cameras come out, I tend to get them. I've even played with the tiny $10 cameras but found them to be pure garbage. I've tried sub-$100 cameras too but did not like them well enough to keep. At October 2010, I had these:
digital photography

from left to right:
- Sony FD97 which can record on a memory stick or onto a regular old 3 1/2 inch diskette
- Panasonic Lumix which is a fine camera with 5 Megapixels and 12x optical zoom
- Canon S5 IS with 8 Megapixels and 12x optical zoom
- Kodak Easyshare which I bought for its tiny size to take on a cruise BUT it eats batteries like you would not believe!
- Tasco trail cam; it spends ALL its time hanging on a tree way out in the bush at my cabin
- Bushnell trail cam; it spends ALL its time hanging on a tree way out in the bush at my cabin
- Canon SX30 IS: This came out in October 2010 and has 14.1 Megapixels and 35x optical zoom; YES! 35!! BUT note my comments on this camera below
- JVC camcorder to use as my "Dashcam" to record every road-trip

Late 2009 Discussion:

In September of 2009 I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Jan Tyler. Dr. Tyler is, among other things, a professional photographer and you can see her at She and my son Dave got to discussing cameras and all related matters including selling of photos. A few of their comments went like this and may be of help to YOU in your quest for better photos.

David: My slr has a great sensor on it - super clean images of a fairly high resolution, but clearly not as dense as some of the newer cameras. As Jan very wisely points out, the megapixel race has become a bit silly from some perspectives and isn't really the thing to chase. Canon I think gets it - their G11 is 10mp and their previous incarnation the G10 was 14.5 mp. That camera is targeted to the prosumer who probably also gets it.
My sx200 is a super fun little camera, but it's very obvious to me that the images at 1:1 resolution are too noisy, so selling those images would be unlikely.
There's two reasons I've almost stopped using my Rebel XT. First, it's a pain in the neck to take with me. I have the body and 3 lenses in a small backpack which works well, but it means that to use that camera, it must be pretty darn intentional, and that takes a lot of the fun out of the whole idea. Second, as I've said before, the constant switching of lenses was driving me mad, especially knowing that every lens switch brings more opportunity for dust to find its way to the sensor. The camera already has a few dust spots. That's probably another reason I don't use it - it has a handful of dust spots that I need to clean up in photoshop for every photo I keep. the collective hassle was just too much for me. I was hardly taking any photos anymore and the fun had gone out of it. With my sx200 I'm shooting like crazy again. I was also able to sell the old video camera, and now I shoot all the family videos in 720p with the sx200 - what fun!
The problem is that I've taken a step backward in quality, and that's disappointing. My belief is that in a year or two there will be a new breed of cams with a decent zoom (10x or more) and a good quality sensor and RAW, and 720p or better movie mode. That's the camera I'm looking/waiting for. Canon's SX1 looks great specwise - has a cmos, 20x zoom, HD, RAW etc etc, BUT the images are still way too noisy. So, I feel like I'm purposefully taking a few years off as it were, having some fun again, but waiting for a camera that will fit the bill. I just can't go back to the backpack and swapping lenses around.
Make sense? I suppose if I was making a living at it, I wouldn't even be having this discussion. The hassle would be overwhelmed by the income.
Like last night - I was at work all day at the tradeshow here in Chicago. On the way back to the car I saw this really cool rusty pipe sticking out of a wall, so I just reached in the laptop bag for the sx200. There's no way I could bring an slr with me every day to the tradeshow. Even packing it on a trip means that either my camera bag or my laptop bag would have to be checked as luggage, neither of which is appealing. I NEVER check luggage. my rule is if I can't carry it on the plane, I don't travel with it. Anyways, that's my rant for today. Might give you some insight into where my thoughts are at.

Dr. Tyler: The only other thing is to consider cameras that will give you the RAW option and 8-10 MP minimum. More MP does not always make for better images. It is all about the CMOS sensor. On any camera you use for doing pictures for IS, you want to turn off any in camera processing such as sharpening, noise reduction, increased saturation, etc. These tend to produce artifacts and degrade the image at 100% resolution.

As for selling photos, Dr. Tyler said:
IS (iStock) was begun in 2000 by some designers in a garage in Calgary as a file sharing site because they could not afford to pay the very high prices for images on Getty Images, the world's largest provider of images for advertising and media use. More and more people began to upload images and as the years went on digital cameras became better and the image quality kept getting better. The prices increased and the library grew. Because of the low cost IS and followers were called Microstock companies. IS particularly, along with other sites began to give some problems to the traditional stock sites of Getty and Corbis. In 2005, Getty Images purchased IS for $50 million! When I started with them we made $.10/image royalty. Even though we sold a lot that was not very much. The prices continued to rise and IS continued to grow. There are now over 5 million images on line. The highest royalty you can receive is $28 if you are exclusive (don't contribute to other sites) and have reached 40% royalty (after 25,000 downloads). here is a lot of information on the site about how to apply, standards of submissions, releases, etc. You can look at some of the Forums where questions are asked and answered by contributors and administrators. Every image is inspected at 100% resolution and has to be technically perfect, i.e. no noise, no artifact like chromatic aberrations, well composed, well lit, and properly released. There can be no labels, logos, or other kinds of branding. You need to be reasonably good in Photoshop as most images need some post-processing.
You will get out of it what you put into it. I am Exclusive and at the Diamond level (over 25,000 downloads) and at 40% royalty. Exclusives at this level are probably making between $1500/month to $1,500/day for those at the very top. There are many hobbyists who are making enough to pay for their equipment.
Mostly people are successful by putting up a lot of images with a lot of variety. But there are a number of very successful contributors with small portfolios of specialized or "niche" images.

A tip regarding the "aspect ratio" of pictures:

If you do not already have a "widescreen" TV set, then I would guess that before too long, you will have such a toy. I am learning a lot about how to use mine. NOW, I wish I had known long ago that this was coming. If I had, I would have shot my "still" pictures in WIDE format, i.e. in the 16:9 aspect ratio. When I put my photos onto a USB flash drive and stick that into my TV, the images show VERY well, BUT the left and right sides of the screen are not used, so are black. NOW, I have set my camera to shoot in wide format so the pictures show on the FULL TV screen. Here you can see the difference on my LCD TV; the first picture is in the format I used to shoot: 4:3 aspect ratio and the second is in the wide 16:9 format.

making movies making movies

Having said all that, I confess there is more than one way to skin the cat; Don Pratt said:

Ken, I got a widescreen monitor in 2006. Since then, I only used wide images on all my web pages. Digital camera widescreen modes, in effect, crop the shot in the camera. I prefer to shoot in the regular 4:3; then crop off the top or bottom space in post processing - myself.

A PaintShop "preset crop" makes it widescreen before the final resize. Then adjust up or down depending on the best look or composure.

A last chance to compose a better image. Keeping that in mind when taking pictures, allows more flexibility in framing. So, I absolutely never use the camera in wide shot mode.

Lost Photos:

If you have, for example, reformatted the card in your camera and then realized that all your photos are gone, you might be able to recover them anyway. There are tools for this; some of them free. Look at my Database page, under "Recover Lost Files" and note that "recuva" works for that too, even though it is not listed under "recovering photos." That page lives at

Canon SX30 IS:

Canon SX30 IS

I got mine at Futureshop the day it became available, October 11, 2010:
Camera: C$429.99
Battery: C$19.99
Sandisk 8Gb SDHC EX III C$89.99 (class 10)
add 5% GST ("Gouge and Screw Tax") to all that

Unfortunately, it will not shoot in "RAW" mode and will not take "AA" batteries.

1. When using the tripod or any other solid base to keep the camera steady, and you will want to do that when using that powerful zoom, turn off the IS ("Image Stabilization"). In the forum, "ljfinger" was kind enough to explain it to me this way:

IS can drift around slowly while the camera is in a fixed position. This can cause substantial motion blur if you are shooting a long exposure.

IS only removes higher-frequency vibrations. At low frequencies it's not only ineffective, it causes trouble.

2. Use a fast SD card particularly if you like shooting video (movies). I got the Sandisk, 8Gb, Extreme III, Class 10 card with mine.

3. Carry an extra battery.

4. The Canon Talk Forum is at People use various acronyms and here are a few that you may not be familiar with: CA = chromatic abberations; IQ = Image Quality; FLs = Focal lengths; BIF = Birds In Flight.

5. LOTS of info about it at

6. Video about it at

7. downloadable manual at

8. Some good info about the camera, with a movies, at

I returned my SX30:

Sadly, the IQ ("Image Quality") is not very good. I DID like the movie mode though. This view was shared by many others. In the forum at note the comment:

All digital cameras can be good and bad, so trade offs are part of the game. I own the SX20 and have used the new 30. They both have OK Image Quality. Neither impresses me as outstanding in IQ. I like the 20 a lot as a good versatile camera; and will be keeping mine.

I figured the 30 electronic viewfinder couldn't be THAT bad. It is that bad! Hard to use and it takes the enjoyment out of the camera. I'm a fan of flip LCD's, but in the real world I mostly use the EVF. I'd be surprised if anyone says it is good. That "very tiny view screen" was a deal breaker for me. I returned the 30.

Of those two cameras, I suggest first putting your eye on the SX30 viewfinder... then purchase an SX20.

Laugh if you can.

A warning:

Buying digital cameras can become addictive. Seems every month (week?) there is a "new, improved" version of the camera you now have. Here is my collection in April 2012, and I did NOT INCLUDE my webcams, my trail cams nor my video cams:

seven cameras

Some of these are probably for sale; email me.

A note about memory cards:

Rather than make this complicated, we'll keep it simple. Most cameras use SD (Secure Digital) cards to store the photos. In my opinion, there are several things to watch for when you go to buy an SD card:
1. Get it at a reputable establishment; there are a lot of junk fakes out there
2. Get a good brand; not some unknown brand
3. Get one that will hold LOTS of photos, even when you shoot at the highest resolution your camera can take
4. Get a fast card; look for the "Class 10" icon on it as the one below shows:

SD card

A few tips that worked for me:

Shooting the moon:


I still have not done a good job of this daunting task but I think I'm on the right track.

Here is what I've done so far. Use a tripod for sure. I'm talking about using my Nikon P510 here, by the way.

Turn the dial to "Night landscape" and set the Menu to "Tripod" and use "Fine." Then use the self-timer and set it to 2 seconds so that there is absolutely no vibration caused by pressing the shutter button. Using "Monochrome" instead of color might be a good plan too. Lastly, it might be best to lower the exposure setting so the moon is not too bright.Maybe I should have used the Spot Meter. ALSO, I should have turned OFF the "Vibration reduction."

YOUR OWN Property:

If YOU are an outdoor enthusiast, as I am, and are looking to buy, or lease or sell a "Recreational Property" then this page will interest you:

how to get Diamond Willow

in fact, tell EVERYBODY!

Diamond Willow Sticks

back to page top