Tag Archives: digital cameras

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Set the Scene

We’ve all gotten used to using filters and camera apps on our smartphones to produce interesting photography for our social-media lives. But if you’ve still got a separate stand-alone camera and are only using it in its Automatic setting (where you just snap the photo and go with minimal fuss), you may be missing out on some handy built-in shooting and exposure modes that can give your photos more zing when you actually take them.

modedialMost decent point-and-shoot models have these modes, which you can usually find on a dial or in a menu in the camera’s controls. On the dial at the top of your camera, you may find settings for Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual and whatnot. There may also be a dial setting to take you into Scene Mode — or you may find that in one of the camera’s menus. The scene modes have names like Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Macro, Night and so on. The names typically refer to the type of photo you’re trying to take, and the camera’s settings are adjusted accordingly.

menus

Take Portrait mode, the one you would use when you’re trying to capture an image of someone in the middle of the frame. In most cases, switching to Portrait mode will have the camera switch to a large aperture to narrow the depth of field — which means your subject is nicely in focus and commanding attention, but the background and any distracting elements are blurred.

Other modes adjust the flash, shutter speed, exposure settings and more to capture the gist of the situation. Sports mode, for example, kicks up the shutter speed to capture more of the action in focus.

Your camera’s instruction manual should have a full explanation of the settings and shooting modes your model offers. (Some of the better cameras even have an automatic setting that picks the scene mode for you based on the shooting conditions it senses.) If you’ve chucked or lost your manual, worry not.
You can usually find copies:

On the manufacturer’s website. Look for a PDF download — Canon, NikonSony and others usually have them posted.

• In the app store you use with your mobile device. You might luck into a free electronic version or manual viewer.

Around the Web. The comprehensive  ManualsOnline.com quite possibly may have your model’s guidebook.

Or, you could do what many nerds do: Just fiddle around and press buttons until you get the machine to do what you want.

Episode 59: Welcome to SNARK WEEK!

This week J.D. shares tips on how to use the web to get the perfect digital camera then she and Pedro discuss the recent announcement that veteran British actor Peter Capaldi will take a turn as the time travelling Time Lord, Doctor Who. In the news Comcast is working on a new system urging users to download copyrighted material legally; CBS and Time Warner Cable continue their Battle of the Gargantuans; Samsung maybe inching closer to unveiling a smartwatch; the FBI may be targeting Firefox users on the TOR network; and not even your toilet is immune from the hacking scourge.

Snap Decisions

Digital cameras are great, but there are so many of them out there and photo quality varies greatly among the different makes and models. If you’re in the market for a new camera and want to see samples of what a particular device can do, check out the Flickr Camera Finder page. Here, you can find the most popular camera models in the Flickr community and see what the serious photogs are toting. (Flickr has graphs on the Camera Finder page that break it down even further, for the most popular cameraphone and point-and-shoot cameras.) Click on a model or brand on the Camera Finder page to see sample photos taken by that type of camera — thanks to the EXIF tags embedded in the posted photos.

Like Flickr and want to hang around? Not only do you get a ton of free space to host and post your pix, you can join photography groups that display and discuss photos on specific topics or themes — like the New York City subway system, fruit portraits or Kermit the Frog in action. Not sure what’s out there? You can search for groups by keyword. The groups you join will have their own discussions among the members, where you can chat with your fellow photographers on technique and tips.

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Flickr also has a blog that highlights different themes, photography-related news or picture sets. (Flickr’s developers have their own coder blog as well.) If you want to see photo samples form around the world, there’s also the Flickr Commons, a collection of pictures from international photography archives.

Reading thorough reviews of new camera models can also give you a good understanding of each one’s strengths and weaknesses. Check out the Steve’s Digicams site, which also posts product news and announcements about services and software. The Photo.Net site has camera reviews, photographer forums and how-to articles, as does Digital Photography Review.

Doing your homework this way may take some time, but hey, it’s not like you have to go find a parking spot at the mall and spend the day fiddling with demo models. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words of well-written review or tutorial might just help you take a better picture.

Episode 16 News: The World Is Flat

Well, the first flurry of Apple fall product announcements finally hit this week with the revelation of the iPhone 5, a revamp of a few iPods and a sneak peak at the next version of iTunes. The iOS 6 software and the phones will be out next week, but everything else isn’t available until October. Google, wasting no time after Apple removed the built-in YouTube app from the iOS Home screen, released its own free standalone iPhone YouTube app.

Amazon certainly wasn’t waiting around for Apple to hog all the limelight either, announcing big updates to its Kindle line of tablets and e-readers last week. (While all the new Kindle Fire HD tablets were going to include spam — whoops — Special Offers on the Home screen, Amazon says users can now opt out of that for $15.) A slight upgrade to Amazon’s original Kindle Fire tablet is now selling for $160. This is just $10 more than the new tablet-for-kids announced by Toys R Us this week.

Also on the Apple front, as a follow up to last week’s story about 12 million Apple device ID numbers that were not hacked off an FBI computer — it turns out the compromised machine belonged to the Florida-based app developer BlueToad, which assured and apologized to its customers in a company blog post. (GoDaddy, the domain-name and site-hosting service was thought to have suffered a hack attack itself earlier this week that took many of its sites offline for hours, but the company said it was an internal glitch that keelhauled all those Web sites.) When it is not defending itself from false hacking claims, the FBI has found time for a billion dollar upgrade to its biometric identification technology systems, although some privacy advocates are feeling a whiff of the Orwell on this one. The FBI has some info about its Next Generation Identification technology here.

Now then, contrary to popular reports, other hardware besides smartphones and tablets is headed to stores this fall. Pentax announced new mirrorless and DSLR cameras. And thin is in at Western Digital — the company has just launched a super-skinny 5 millimeter thick hard drive for ultrabook laptops.

Hey, remember the Bookmobile rolling library coming to your neighborhood? It’s the 21st century and now there’s a Digital Bookmobile sponsored by OverDrive making the rounds;  check the calendar here.

Housed in an 18-wheel tractor trailer, the Digital Bookmobile travels around the country and shows people how to use e-book lending services from their local libraries with instructional videos, interactive workstations and a gadget gallery with all the popular e-reader models. There’s also a section for audiobooks inside the truck. Remember kids, reading is fundamental, no matter how you do it.