Now, we’re all aware of the beautiful images that dSLR cameras can produce. Smooth images with razor sharp clarity and beautiful depths of field that make the subject matter really stand out. While we all pine to be able to afford the few thousand dollars for the SLR setups that would allow us to take these sorts of images, the fact of the matter is that most of us will not make the transition from the compact but quite limited point-and-shoot cameras, and perpetually look at our equipment with disdain, putting the poor-to-average images down to the camera in hand.
How wrong we are.
Whilst point-and-shoot cameras will never have the quality or the ability of SLR cameras (after all, those cameras are expensive for a reason!), by learning a little about how digital cameras work, as well as some of the basics of photography, we are more than capable of using our little point-and-shoots to take some stunning images in our own right!
Case in point: Beef stroganoff comparison photos
There are a million and one photography guides out on the internet, but while I was learning I found that almost none were written exclusively for the beginner point-and-shoot user, full of terms and concepts that I had never heard of before and that were far too technical for me to understand. After continuously hassling a few photographer friends of mine, I gradually came to understand the medium, and decided that a guide needed to be written in layman’s terms, that anyone and everyone with a point-and-shoot camera could understand – and so this guide was born!
Of course, learning your equipment backwards and forwards won’t suddenly give you amazing photos – as my friends say, photography is 99% about the eye behind the camera, and 1% about the equipment…and while this may be true to some extent, understanding the equipment in your hands will certainly go a long way to helping improve your shots!
And now, onto the lessons!
Lesson 1 – Learning about white balance
Lesson 2 – Working with your natural light, ISO and exposure compensation
Lesson 3 – Using your on-camera flash effectively
Lesson 4 – How to manage focus and Depth of Field (DoF)
Lesson 5 – How to choose a camera and a basic setup for shooting small objects
Right, so you’ve read the guides, your camera’s user manual, and you’re ready to shoot? Here’s your action plan as it should go:
- Concept – think about the shot you want to take. What colours does your object/dish feature, are they mostly light colours or dark colours? For example, does the cake have a white icing? If so, you probably shouldn’t shoot it against a white backdrop – the icing and shape of the cake will be lost. Instead, try a few contrasting colours to really make the cake stand out.
- Light – check out the available light sources in the area and the direction the light is angled at. Remember, light casts shadows, so try and angle your plate so that you don’t get any shadows that are too deep in areas of important detail, such as the inside slice of a pie.
- Set up & Controls – set up your shot and adjust your camera settings for the environment you’re shooting in!
- Angles & Focus – looking through the camera lens, test out a few different angles and distances from your dish and also play around with focusing on different areas. Which angle will make the dish look 3D and not flatten it out? Where should you focus in order to get the best/most-appetizing depth of field? You’re using digital, so don’t be afraid to fire off as many shots as you need, checking after each one to see whether you like it and whether it is clear and in focus. If not, you can always take another! (If it’s any consolation, I generally take between 10 – 35 photos of every dish I cook…and even then, I may decide later that I don’t like any of them and do a reshoot later!)
- Post-production – upload the photos to your computer and give them a proper look-over. Are you relatively happy with them? If you have about 10 minutes to spare, pull them into an image editor to tweak them a bit, proper post-production can take an OK photo and turn it into something quite pretty!
For now, you can download and try any of the image editors I’ve listed on this page, and once my studies are done, I’ll write a detailed guide on how to effectively edit your photos!