Shooting Rainbows With Your Digital Camera

For an ordinary act of nature, rainbows seem to have an almost supernatural hold over us. A rainbow is really just a giant prism; water vapor in the air splits sunlight into its individual component colors. Yet seeing those colors arcing overhead is always an event; people never seem to tire of rainbows. If you've already tried your hand at flowers, silhouettes, fireworks, and night photography, perhaps you'd like to capture some rainbows. If so, keep reading--this week is all about freezing nature's prism.

Finding a Rainbow

No matter how much digital photography advice or photographic theory you get about rainbows, the first--and likely biggest--problem you'll encounter is simply finding one. If you're in rainbow hunting mode, it's not a bad idea to keep a camera in the car or otherwise carry one around with you.

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Taking Good Portraits at Night

During summer many of us--especially in warmer climes--tend to stay out later in the evening. Inevitably, that means you'll be taking more photos at night. If you've ever tried taking a picture of someone outdoors at night, you've probably discovered the results can be less than awesome. Just a few weeks ago, I explained some techniques for taking better pictures in low-light situations, but this week let's take a look at taking portraits of people at night in particular.

Modern Cameras to the Rescue

Just like a few weeks ago, when we looked at some cameras' handheld low light modes, we can take some inspiration for night portraiture from the built-in scene modes in many point-and-shoot cameras.

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Auto ISO, Making Stills From Video, and More Reader Q&A

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus. For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from April, May, and June.

When to Use Auto ISO or Change It Yourself

My camera lets me set the ISO on automatic. If I use a fixed ISO, are all of the other settings automated, or is everything fixed as well? When is it desirable to use the Auto ISO setting?
--Hugh Wright, Somerset, Massachusetts

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Master the Hidden Power of Your Camera's Program Mode

I occasionally teach digital photography workshops, and one of the first questions I ask my students is what exposure mode they use. Often, I'll hear, "I usually set it on auto and leave it there." But when I look at their camera, I find it's set on Program mode, not Auto. Those two settings (usually indicated by an A for Auto and a P for Program) sound similar, but they do different things. Since I recently wrote about the rules of photographic composition and how you can experiment with camera settings to learn exposure basics, this week I thought we should take a look at your camera's Program mode, and how you can use it to take better photos.

Program Is Not Auto

First things first: Your camera's Program and Auto modes are different. That's probably obvious in the sense that Nikon or Canon (or whoever made your camera) would be unlikely to put two modes on your camera that do the exact same thing. Many people, though, don't know how they're different--and tend to think of both of them as "the camera's automatic mode."

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5 Accessories to Take With You (and Your Camera) on Vacation

No matter where you go on vacation this summer, you undoubtedly plan to take a camera along, too. Perhaps you have your sights set on capturing panoramic landscapes, or waterfalls, or scenic nightscapes in a foreign city. Vacations are a perfect times to try all sorts of photos. But no matter whether you pack a convenient point-and-shoot camera or a bulky-but-trusty digital SLR, here are five important things you'll want to take with you on your trip.

1. Spare Batteries and a Charger

There's an inescapable truth about digital photography: Your camera will always run out of juice at the worst possible time. I've found this to be true both with point-and-shoot cameras that only get about 100 shots on a pair of AA batteries with a professional digital SLR that lasts 800 shots with a double battery pack.

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Play With an Online Simulator to Learn Camera Settings

Modern digital cameras make photography so simple that it seems like you just need to press the shutter release to take a good photo. While that might be true for snapshots, there are many situations in which a little knowledge of photography goes a long way to helping you get a better picture. Have you ever wanted to really understand how all the variables--focal length, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and so on--contribute to your photos? A while ago, I explained how you can use a simple point-and-shoot camera like a photo laboratory to experiment with exposure settings, but this week I've got something even cooler: a Web site that simulates the operation of a digital SLR. You can use it to tweak the settings and see the results instantly.

Getting Started with CameraSim

Ready to try it out? Surf over to CameraSim. You can start fiddling with the camera settings right away; there's no registration or anything else getting in the way. You'll see something like this:

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Reader Questions on Thumbtack, Background Blur, and More

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many questions as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus. For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from March, April , and May.

Selling Photo Services on Thumbtack

Recently, I received what appeared to be a personally targeted e-mail from a Web site called Thumbtack inviting me to join to start getting leads to sell my photos online. Is this legitimate?
--Cindi Endres, Sacramento, California

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