Do you ever see a photo and just drool over it? Wish that you could take a picture just like that? Well the truth is, that even those of us who aren't professionals can achieve professional looking results too.
1. Camera - you don't have to have a professional camera to achieve professional results. I've seen some amazingly incredible pictures from a simple point and shoot disposal camera. The truth of the matter is, it's less about the camera and more about the person behind the camera.
That said, don't allude yourself into thinking that any ole' camera will do. Do your research. Compare! Compare! Compare! Go into the store - be it Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, etc, and feel the camera's - hold them - act like you are taking pictures. Does it fit your hand? Is it comfortable to hold? Can you imagine holding it for a long time while you take picture after picture? Keep in mind what features are important to you. You don't need to have a 12 mega pixel camera if you are only printing up to an 8x10 photo. So take that extra you would have spent on getting a 12 mega pixel and put it towards making sure that you get other features you want. Make sure you understand the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom - they are two very different things.
2. Manual and Tutorials - read your manual front to back. When you get your camera, you are going to need to charge the batteries to full power and so you will have plenty of time to get reading that manual. If you don't understand something, Google it. Watch tutorials on YouTube. Read books. Start out in Auto till you get a feel for your camera and then start branching out and take it for a spin. I know I learn best hands on or by watching. Find what works best for you and your learning style and then learn about your camera and photography in general.
3. Be mindful of your background. I know sometimes it can't be helped - you have what seems like a perfect picture, then by all means shoot it and worry about the background later. But when given the opportunity to be a bit more mindful of that background, do so. I recently had the opportunity to go into my daughters preschool and do a class portrait and portraits of all the children. I am by no means a pro, my passion is just a hobby, but I knew I wanted these memories for my daughter. Well in all the commotion of the day, having 7 2-3 yr olds touching all your equipment, asking questions, hanging all over you, and suddenly the background wasn't even thought of and what do you know - I got a bit of a lamp in the background of some pictures. I was disappointed at my rookie mistake, but under the circumstances, I did the best I could. The parents are happy and that is what matters.
4. Don't be afraid to edit your images. Again, if you don't know how to do something, Google is your best friend. Just Google it and you'll find a wealth of knowledge just at your fingertips. Whether it be red-eye removal or adjusting the curves of a image, there will be a tutorial out there for it. There are some really fabulous programs out there that you can use to edit your digital picture. I am a huge fan of the Adobe Photoshop and Elements programs! If you have no aspirations to become a professional photographer, then I'd say that Photoshop Elements would be a wonderful tool to have in your arsenal.
5. Duplicate! Ok, this is a biggie for me. Before you begin to play with your image - duplicate it then close the original and play with that copy. See, if you alter it and then save that alteration, you've forever lost that original and what happens if 6 months down the road you realize that you don't like that edit? You can't go back to it if you saved it as a .jpeg and redo it. I always keep my original photos in tact and just play with the duplicates. Jpeg images lose quality every time they are opened, edited and saved. It's really important to keep the number of editing sessions to a minimum. To read further about this, you can check out this link here: JPEG Myths and Facts
Just following some basic steps can have you too on the road to beautiful digital photographs. Once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless. I use my digital photographs and Photoshop to create digital scrapbook layouts such as this:
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About Adobe Photoshop Elements:
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More info: http://www.adobe.com/digitalimag/explore/