Know Your Digital Camera
ISO - The ISO indicates how sensitive the camera's sensor is to light. A low number, is best when taking pictures in bright light and a high number is best for low-light. Using a high ISO can help you take a picture in low-light without using a flash.
Depth of Field (DOF) - This is the distance from the foreground to the background of the photo that is in sharp focus. You can focus on a particular subject and blur unnecessary clutter by using a decreased DOF or you can capture a clear shot of the person standing nearby you as well as the distant background using an increased DOF.
Focus - For a decreased DOF, focus on an object close to the camera. For an increased DOF, focus on an object far way.
Zoom - For a decreased DOF, you will want to zoom in on your subject using a telephoto lens. For an increased DOF, you will want to use a wider lens. For high quality pictures, you will want to use "optical zoom" and not "digital zoom".
Macro mode - This setting allows you to stand just inches away from your subject. It is good for taking close-ups of flowers, insects or other small objects. Macro mode decreases DOF, allowing you to focus on the smallest details. Do not zoom in or use flash when using this setting.
Aperture and Shutter speed - Aperture is how wide the shutter opens. A wide opening, like f/2, allows more light to enter than a narrow opening like f/22. A wide opening decreases DOF and a narrow opening increases DOF. Shutter speed is how long the shutter stays open. A slow shutter speed, like 1/4, allows more light in than a fast shutter speed like 1/1000. Using a slow speed can catch motion and using a fast speed can "freeze" motion.
These two settings work together. To prevent over and under exposure, a wide aperture will cause the speed to be fast and a narrow aperture will cause it to be slow. When using a slow speed, you are at risk of camera shake which can blur your picture. To prevent this, you will need to support the camera with a device like a tripod. If you don't have a tripod, you can place the camera on a flat sturdy surface. When you don't want to use a tripod because of its inconvenience, hold your elbows close to your body, hold your breath when pressing the camera's button and don't let go of the button until the shot is finished.
Picture courtesy of Nebrot
Tips on Taking Pictures of Flowers
Many of us have taken a picture of a flower and thought it was perfect - that is until we saw it enlarged or on a computer screen.
Another problem many new flower photographer enthusiasts find is that their pictures come out blurry and out of focus.
Blurry or poorly composed pictures are all things that are easy to avoid if you know what to do.
The first thing to do is plan to take your flower pictures when the lighting is good and the wind is still. Even the most gentle breeze can cause enough of a quiver in the stem to create blur in a close up. Usually the calmest time of day is around dawn. Dawn is also the time when you can usually find the best lighting.
But if you don't want to get up early, you can still get great flower pictures. Other good times for lighting are the hour before sunset and anytime there is high overcast (bright overcast). These times offer soft light without the dark, harsh shadows. The times just after dawn and before sunset add a warm glow. And if it's a little windy, you'll need to set up a blind or a temporary windbreak.
The other main cause of blurry or out of focus flower pictures is the camera, more specifically taking a close up without the proper setting. Depending on how close of a shot you want, set your camera to Portrait or Macro. The macro setting lets you shoot from within an inch up to a foot depending upon your camera (check your camera's manual). If using manual settings, choose a wide aperture (small F-stop number). All of the above settings sharpen the subject and put the background out of focus, even blur it.
Let's look now at turning that pretty flower into the perfect subject for your photo.
* Look for a flower with pristine undamaged petals. Or if you find a flower that's almost perfect, except for a ragged petal or two, simply remove them. If removing the petals will leave a gap then leave it alone and move on to another flower.
* Look for tiny bugs and loose particles like dust, and then remove them with a soft, makeup or artist's brush.
* For a dewy look, gently sprinkle or spay the petals with a few drops of water.
Next it's time to compose your picture.
* Look at the flower from different positions to see what angle looks best in your viewfinder or preview LCD. Make sure to look for shadows and other things in the background that may not look good in your picture. Notice how the light plays from different angles. You should also look at taking your picture from different angles or vantage points. Try standing directly above the flower and then try lying on the ground to see which angle looks best.
* Make sure that if you're leaning over the flower you don't cast a shadow on it. And if the flower is backlit (which can create a nice, iridescent effect), avoid lens flare by using a lens shade or wearing a broad brim hat to prevent light from entering the lens.
* Also look at the tones in the background. Contrasting tones will make your image pop.
Once you find the best angle to take the flower, fill the viewfinder with the flower and use classic composition methods like the "rule of thirds" to position the flower in the best position in the camera frame.
Then focus on the part of the image you want to be the sharpest - this could be the stamen, a ladybug, etc. Then keeping super steady, press the shutter down.
As you can see, flower photography is all about detail. And how you display your flower photo also makes a difference so make sure to display it in a picture frame that compliments it.
This article is courtesy of Autumn Lockwood
Picture courtesy of Chris Malcolm
Tips on Taking Pictures of Butterflies
The only equipment I use is a digital camera. The two most important features of a camera for photographing a butterfly, your subject, is a high optical zoom (don't confuse this with digital zoom - optical produces a higher quality picture than digital) and macro mode (with macro mode you can focus in clearly with your lens just inches away from your subject). Both features allow you to close in on your subject sharply and will blur the background, eliminating distractions, thus drawing one's attention to the butterfly's eye-catching designs and colors.
When photographing butterflies, be creative and bring your pictures to life. Use different angles. Shoot from the front, sides and back of your subject. Shoot at eye level or try an upward shot. Catch the butterflies in different poses. Shoot when they are in flight or flapping their wings. Experiment. If your camera offers manual controls, use a slow shutter speed to blur the movement and a fast shutter speed to freeze it. If you can't adjust your shutter speed, the more light in your picture the faster your speed will be. If the opportunity allows, look at your subject and background closely through the view finder before clicking. Sometimes just moving your lens a tad bit will make a big difference in how your picture turns out.
Lighting is another way of bringing your pictures to life. The best time of the day to shoot is when the sun is not harsh, such as in the early morning and in the evening but don't let this stop you from shooting on a sunny afternoon though. Try taking a picture with the sun behind your subject. This can give a wonderful silhouette look to your picture. Flashes can have a benefit or two, but I don't use one. I feel nature's light is the best!
Practice makes perfect. Take a lot of pictures. Many of mine are deleted - great thing about digital cameras. When you spot a butterfly in the distance, I suggest taking a picture where you are, step a little closer (slowly and quietly), take another picture and so on until you get that perfect close-up or the butterfly flies away. A lot of times the first picture you take may be good enough to crop. It may not be as large of a print as you would like, but it can be a wonderful memory to hold onto.
Picture courtesy of Kelvin Lok