Simple tips to reduce the stress and frustration of poor digital photography experiences.

I am happy to see the popularity of digital photography growing. It seems that everyone has a digital camera at school plays, on vacation, at baseball games ect. It is no surprise to hear the cursing and complaints about ones’ digital camera. Why did I miss the shot? Why doesn’t my flash work? Why has the camera died I just added new batteries? Even though some don’t curse I often see amateur photographers using the camera inappropriately. For instance a friend of mine started to run out of disk space so without hesitation they increased the jpeg compression. This same friend couldn’t get close enough to the subject so they increased the digital zoom. Both are legitimate options with the camera however they have major consequences.
As a result of me being a nice guy I often chime in and make suggestions to friends and perfect strangers. With the help of a recent article by the NY Times I have put together a list of simple suggestions that will improve most amateur digital photos.
Read your camera manual. Most digital camera problems occur because the consumer is not aware of simple features available on the camera.
End shutter lag. If your camera has a shutter-lag problem, the prefocusing trick may be your best bet. Another option: many cameras offer a continuous-focus option that eats up your battery faster but also reduces shutter lag by focusing constantly as you aim the camera (or as the subject moves).
Newer and more expensive cameras tend to have the least shutter lag, and digital single-lens reflex, or S.L.R., models (the big, heavy, $900-ish cameras that take interchangeable lenses) have none at all.
Don’t believe the megapixel myth. More megapixels do not make a better camera.
Megapixels measure the maximum size of each photo. For example, a four-megapixel camera captures pictures made up of four million tiny dots. Trouble is, camera companies hawk megapixel ratings as though they are a measure of photo quality, and lots of consumers are falling for it.
In truth, the number of megapixels is a measure of size, not quality. There are terrible seven-megapixel photos, just as there are spectacular three-megapixel shots. (Lens and sensor quality are better determinants of your photographic results; too bad there are no easy-to-compare statistics for these attributes.)
Meanwhile, more megapixels means you have to buy a bigger, more expensive memory card to hold them. And you have to do a lot more waiting: between shots, during the transfer to your computer, and opening and editing.
Megapixels are something to think about only in two situations: when you want to make giant prints (20-by-30-inch posters, for example), and when you want the freedom to crop out a large portion of a photo to isolate the really good stuff, while still leaving enough pixels to make reasonably sized prints.
But if you don’t edit your shots and don’t need them larger than life, don’t get caught up in the megapixel race. Four or five megapixels is a nice sweet spot.
(Bonus tip: Photos intended for display on the screen – the Web, e-mail, slideshows – don’t need many pixels at all. Even a two-megapixel photo is probably too big to fit your computer screen without zooming out. High megapixel counts are primarily related to printing, which requires much higher dot density.)
Ignore digital zoom. In a further effort to market their way into your heart, camera companies also tout two different zoom factors: the optical zoom (usually 3X) and digital zoom (10X! 20X! 30X!).
Digital zoom just means blowing up the photo. It doesn’t bring you closer to the action or capture more detail; in fact, at higher settings, it degrades your photo into a botchy mess. For best results, leave this feature turned off. The optical zoom number is the one that matters; it means a lens that brings you closer to the subject.
Ditch the starter card. Unfortunately, it’s a universal practice to include a very low-capacity memory card with the camera-a teaser that lets you take a shot or two while you’re still under the Christmas tree. But it fills up after only four or five shots.
When shopping for a camera, therefore, factor a decent-size memory card – 512 megabytes, for example – into the price.
Beware the format factor. Memory cards come in an infuriating variety of sizes and shapes. The least expensive formats are Compact Flash (big and rugged, about $55 online for a one-gigabyte card; available in capacities up to eight gigabytes) and SD (about $70 online for a one-gigabyte card; maximum two gigabytes).
Most Olympus and Fuji cameras require XD cards (about $85 online for a one-gigabyte card, the maximum), and most Sony cameras require either the Memory Stick Pro (about $90 online for a one-gigabyte card; maximum four gigabytes) or the smaller Memory Stick Duo (about $115 online for a one-gigabyte card; maximum two gigabytes).
Note, too, that you can also find memory-card slots built into laptops, palmtops, cellphones, game consoles, printers, photo-printing kiosks and other machinery. They are most likely to accommodate Compact Flash or SD cards. Memory Stick-compatible slots are less common, and XD slots are downright rare.
Turn off the flash. A typical digital camera’s flash has a range of about eight feet. In other words, using it at the school play does nothing but fluster the performers.
Turn on the flash. On the other hand, here’s a great trick for when someone’s face is in shadow: turn the flash on manually. Forced flash or fill flash brings your subject’s face out of the shadows, and rescues many a portrait that would otherwise turn into a silhouette. (On most cameras, you turn the flash on or off by pressing a lightning-bolt button.)
Use a Tripod. Tripods provide stability to while taking pictures in low light or when the shutter speed is slow. Pictures without a tripod can often be blurred by unsteady hands and dim lighting. Little tripods are small enough to place on a table and carry in your camera case.
Turn off the screen. The back-panel screen is, of course, one of the joys of digital photography. But it’s also the No. 1 consumer of your battery power. If you’re comfortable holding the camera up to your eye and peering through its optical viewfinder, turning off the screen while shooting can double the life of each battery charge.
These are just a few tips on who to help you take better pictures. If you have any questions or additional tips please let us know at USA@fotolia.com.