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Home > Tutorials > Take Great Photos - No Problem!

You bring your digital camera along everywhere you go, snapping photos of people, places, and things that are important to you (even if just for the moment). Problem is, you can't seem to capture the image you were hoping for and you're frustrated! Sound familiar?

With a few tips and a little knowledge about your digital camera, you can start capturing those special moments in a way that is both practical and gratifying. I'll start with the problems, briefly explain why they occur, and follow up with some real-life solutions. In no time, you'll be on your way to taking better photos!






Dark Faces and Harsh Shadows

It's a beautiful sunny day outside, so why do your subjects' faces look so dark and shadowy?

Explanation: The more bright light captured by a digital camera's image sensor, the greater the chance for shadows and contrast.

Solution: There is an easy way to shed more light on your subject—use your on-camera flash. Use it outdoors in bright light to even out shadows and light up faces. First, take control of the flash by setting the camera to program mode, usually labeled as P on most Canon cameras. (This is an advanced version of automatic mode, giving you a few more options for specific features, particularly the flash.) Cycle through the flash options on your camera by pressing the flash icon—usually designated by a lightning bolt symbol—until you see a single lightning bolt (a mode commonly referred to as forced flash). Stand back from your subject at least four or five feet (but no more than twelve feet) and zoom in to fill the frame. When the shutter is pressed, the flash will cast light on the scene and even out the contrast between light and dark.

Flash Off              Flash On


Missed the Shot Again!

When you looked through the viewfinder or at the LCD display, the subject was framed perfectly, smiling beautifully. You composed the shot and pressed the shutter quickly, but the photo shows a subject slightly out of frame or blurred.

Explanation: Blame it on shutter lag, the delay between pressing the shutter and capturing the image on the media card. It's been a common problem with digital cameras since day one, especially with consumer models.

Solution: Technology is improving, but you may experience some shutter lag with a point-and-shoot camera. Help speed things up by pre-focusing your shot, which is accomplished by pressing the shutter in two steps. First, compose the shot. If you anticipate movement, get ready to follow the action with your camera. Press the shutter halfway to lock in the focus and hold it until the desired action happens. Quickly press the shutter the rest of the way to capture the shot. I typically recommend keeping your camera set to the highest resolution possible (every camera is different, check your menu settings) however, a high-resolution image takes more time to record to your memory card and that may slow things down. If you know you won’t be printing your images any larger than 4” x 6” and you want to reduce the shutter delay, adjust your camera settings to a lower resolution.


Less than Stellar Appearance

Ever wonder why most people don't like to have their photos taken? You guessed it—fear of looking terrible in a picture that could end up anywhere; framed, the family scrapbook, or (gasp!) posted online for all to see. A nose or other body part that looks larger than normal in photos might not be the best way to entice friends and family to have their photo taken again.

Explanation: The closer anything is to the camera, the larger it appears.

Solution: Unless you're intentionally going for the big-nose look, step back a few feet from your subject and use the camera's zoom capabilities to fill the frame. This perspective will appear to compress space and is much more flattering. People will now look better in your photos and, hopefully, they won't run and hide the next time you whip out your camera!


Red-Eyed Monsters

It's dark outside, but the inside of your home is beautifully lit with candles and soft light—everyone looks beautiful. So why do those same people end up with ghastly red eyes in your photos?

Explanation: Red-eye occurs because low-light conditions cause pupils to enlarge and the on-camera flash is close to the lens. The flash goes straight into the eyes and reflects the blood red color of retinas back into the lens. Have I gone way too scientific? Just remember that enlarged pupils plus flash equals red eye.

Solution: You can help to reduce red eye in a number of ways. First, use your camera's red-eye reduction feature: Cycle through the flash options until you see the red-eye reduction icon (usually a lightning bolt with an eye). This feature sends out a pre-flash before the image is captured to decrease the size of the subjects' pupils to avoid that nasty reflection. If you're framing a posed shot, tell your subjects to stay in position through all the flashes, otherwise they will think photo-time is over after the pre-flash and you will likely capture them either looking away or walking out of frame. Keep in mind that on-camera red-eye reduction is definitely worth a try, but it doesn't always work 100%. You could also turn off the flash altogether—cycle through the flash options until you see the no-flash icon (usually a lightning bolt with a diagonal line through it). Take a few photos and see how they look on your camera's LCD display. Sometimes you can capture the ambient light of the moment this way, and the subsequent blur is part of the artistic effect. If it's too dark and blurry, try adjusting the ISO level—this is another way of letting in more light while retaining a fair level of sharpness and contrast. Every camera is different, so unless you've become really familiar with your camera's features and capabilities, now would be an ideal time to reference your user's manual. Experiment with the ISO settings—take the camera out of the automatic ISO setting and raise it to 600, 800, or 1600. Another solution? Turn up the lights. This may temporarily ruin the romantic soft-lit mood, but your images won't have red eye. If everything fails and you still end up with red-eyed monster shots, remove the red eye using image-editing software. As you can see, there are many options!


Off-Color Moments

The photos you take inside your house have a golden cast; the ones from the office have a greenish cast; and the pics taken outside in the shade look a bit blue. Artistic effect aside, you'd prefer that the color of your photos reflected exactly what your eyes see, but how?

Explanation: There are many different types of light and each light source has its own color spectrum. (Who knew?) Our eyes automatically adjust to various light sources and compensate for the colorcast, allowing us to see white as white in most situations. Unfortunately, cameras don't see it that way.

Solution: On digital cameras, the automatic white balance (AWB) function performs the color compensation, but the automatic setting doesn't always make the best guess regarding your particular conditions. You need to take control! Digital camera settings vary so consult the user's manual and find your camera's White Balance setting. Scroll to the white balance options—daylight, cloudy, tungsten, etc.—and pick the one that matches your specific light condition.

BadColor                          Good Color   


Boring Photos

You show people vacation photos that you think are pretty exciting, but your friends lose interest quickly. How do you make your images as stunning as the moments themselves?

Explanation: Everyday pictures can be boring unless you create some visual interest.

Solution: There are many ways to compose an interesting photograph. Beauty may be subjective, but here are a few basic ways to help ensure that your photos possess a little pizzazz. First, follow the rule of thirds—think of the scene on your viewfinder or display as a tic-tac-toe board and mentally divide the image into thirds. Try not to place people or things right in the middle of the frame, but instead place something of interest at one or more of the tic-tac-toe intersections. The middle is great for the perfunctory passport and driver's license photos, but it’s not very exciting for most other image opportunities, so place your subject off-center.

Another way to create visual interest is to get close and fill the frame with your subject to eliminate background distractions (like poles or plants that could appear to be mysteriously rising out of heads). Photographing your subject up close draws the viewer's eye into the scene. (Remember to stand back and zoom in if you don't want distortion!)

Tell a story—pictures taken from different angles and varying distances are much more compelling than the same old straight-on perspective. Think about how cinematographers shoot and edit a movie or television show: They take a combination of wide shots capturing the vista or entire room, medium shots, and detail close-ups that they present next to each other. Try doing the same with your photos.


Blank Walls

You’re the King/Queen of online photo sharing, but your tables, mantel, walls, and scrapbooks are missing your personal photo-touch. Where are all of your photos when you need them?

Explanation: If your photos are on a computer or server somewhere, you’re not allowing your images to live up to their fullest potential.

Solution: Beautify your surroundings and show off your photos by printing them out. It’s easy to do with the Canon lines of PIXMA and SELPHY printers - and remember to use Genuine Canon Photo Paper to help your beautiful photographs endure the test of time.



I hope this tutorial has explained some common digital image problems, alleviated your photo frustration, and inspired you to express yourself in new ways. Now, show off your newfound skills by sharing your images with family and friends!



- Erin Manning





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