I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the Fishing Monthly Group and Australian Fishing Network.
I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published January 26th 2015
Fourteen basic tips when buying and using a digital camera.
I have been using cameras since I was a teenager to photograph anything I could think off. From surfing, fishing, sports, birthdays, school projects, uni assignments, plus much more.
Over the years I have owned approximately a dozen cameras from Polaroids, Instant, SLR's and now Digital. Some have had built in lenses, fixed lenses and multiple inter-changing lenses. There have been standard lenses, zoom lenses and wide angle lenses.
With my earlier cameras (pre digital) I use to use colour, black and white, film and slides and the problem that I found with them was that you didn't really know whether you had captured (except for Polaroids and instant cameras) the correct shot until you finally got them developed. I hate to think of how much I spent on colour, black and white film, slide film, mounts, development, slide viewing devices and the rest.
One of the greatest things about taking digital photos is that you get to instantly see whether you have got the shot you are after.
You get to see whether you have accidently stuck your finger in the photo, whether you have let your shadow creep into the shot or whether the subject has their eyes closed. All you need to do is take the shot again.
Not that I am by any means the greatest photographer, but I do manage to get some very good shots. So in this article I am going to outline fourteen suggestions that will hopefully help budding photographers to buy a digital camera and also some of the little tricks that I have learnt along the way.
1. Have a good think about what you want the digital camera to do.
Do you want to use the camera for all outdoor work, just for portraits, maybe you only want to take sports photos with a large lens, underwater shots or close ups. Sure you can get a camera that would do all I these things, but what you will need to do is decide what you want to get out of the camera.
At the time of putting this article together I have two cameras. An Olympus digital E-PL3 with an Olympus M.ZUIKO digital 14-42mm, 1:3.55.6 lens and an Olympus M.ZUIKO digital 40-150mm, 1:4-5.6 lens for distance shots. I also have a fully waterproof Olympus Digital Stylus Tough-8010 with a built-in 5.0 x wide optical zoom 50-25mm 1:3.9-5.9 lens for using when it's raining, while fishing in rough weather and underwater to 10 metres.
An Olympus digital E-PL3 with an Olympus M.ZUIKO digital 14-42mm camera
2. Set aside an approximate budget for the purchase of the camera.
Cameras can be extremely expensive as we all know. I set aside a budget of no more than $800 for each of my cameras and I shopped around for the best price I could get. I brought one from Myers and the other one from Harvey Norman for well under a thousand dollars each. With the money I saved I was able to buy a number of accessories. A floating fully sealed waterproof, extra zoom lens, a pressurised carry case and a small tri pod for those timed and Macro shots.
3. Surf the web for the different types of cameras in your price range.
I spent a few weeks surfing the web for a camera that would do what I required it to do. It wasn't until I was watching a sales TV show about cameras that I saw one of the cameras that I was after. So I Googled it and read through the finer details to see if it met mu needs.
4. Decide whether you want a camera with inter-changeable lens and flash unit or not.
The one disadvantage of having interchangeable lens on a camera is that the outfit is a bit harder to carry around with you. My Olympus Digital Stylus Tough-8010 just fits in my pocket while I have a carry case for the other Olympus.
Bigger flash units will allow you to stand further away from the subject.
A shot showing what happens when there is not enough light.
Over the years I have owned Minolta's, Cannons and now Olympus cameras. It is entirely up to you what you want.
6. Pay a visit to your local camera shop and ask to have a look at what you have decided on.
Once I decided on what camera I wanted I paid a visit to my local Harvey Normans shop to ask to have a look at the camera and asked a few questions about the camera. By doing this you get the feel on the camera in your hand, how heavy or light it is, how big the viewing screen, is it too bulky and it is easy to use.
While there you can also ask for the best price they will sell you the outfit for. Some shops will price match. I would prefer to shop locally as long as the price is right. I wouldn't buy one online.
7. Once you have purchased your camera, make sure you read the instructions.
One thing that most males do when they purchase or are given something new, they don't tend to read the instructions first. So what I make sure of is I read the instruction booklet in stages while trying out the camera as I go.
Firstly, how to charge the battery! You have to be careful that you make sure that you fully charge the battery before you use it and then completely use the battery up each time. This will give you more battery life.
Secondly, go to the pages that detail the different parts of the camera and try to memorise them. Don't worry if you can't as you will always have these pages to return turn to remind you of what they do.
Thirdly, as you read each section you should then try using it to see how it works. For example on my latest camera there is a button that gives you five different ways to shoot; single shots, sequential shooting H-5 shots a second, sequential shooting L-3 shots a second, self timer for 12 seconds and self timer for 2 seconds.
This photo was taken with the SPORTS function on while using the sequential H shooting 6 shots a second and the Olympus M.ZUIKO digital 40-150mm, 1:4-5.6 lens.
I have found that shooting an action shot with the sequential H shooting 6 shots a second function, rather than the sequential L shooting 3 shots a second function it gives you a much better chance of getting a non blurred shot of the action. The great thing is that you can erase what doesn't work.
8. Practice on subjects at home to get use to the camera.
Your point and shoot camera may be more flexible and powerful than you know. As time goes on and you use it more you will find things you dudn't know the camera could do.
After practicing with my camera at home I found that even though the in-built flash was very good, in some circumstances the flash was not strong enough to project far enough. So to compensate I had to work out how far away from the subject that I could be to avoid making the subject look like a ghost or blacked out.
One of the many features that I have on my camera is the Scientific setting. It has 22 different functions built into it; Sport, Landscape Portrait, Landscape, E-Portrait, Portrait, 3D photo, Macro, Wide Angle, Fisheye effect, Beach and Snow, Fireworks, Panorama, Documents, Sunset, Candle, Nature Macro, DIS mode, Low Key, High Key, Children, Night Portrait and Night Scene.
Practice on subjects at home to get use to the functions of the camera.
For example the Fireworks setting was suitable for shooting Fireworks at night, buy using a slower shutter speed than in normal shooting or the Night-Portrait for shooting both the main subject and illuminated background in the evening or night. Shutter speed is slowed and the flash pops up automatically.
9. Whenever you go out, make sure you take your camera with you.
You never know when a photo opportunity will come along. It will be when you least expect it to happen. If you can keep your camera relatively simple and fairly transportable you might be in the right place at the right time to get that photo of a life time.
I can remember a few years ago I was on an overseas trip to Canada and out of nowhere came a bear. All I could think of was to stand as still as possible and take as many photos as I could.
10. Decide on what type of subject you would prefer to start photographing
At a very early age I started to learn how to ride a surf board and fish, and it was the same time when I first started to learn more about using a camera to make a record of where I use to surf and fish. Now days I take pictures of just about everything, from plants, animals, land scapes, action shots, fireworks, food and fishing. My love of fishing and the outdoors has led to me writing five books on fishing.
11. Take hundreds of photos.
You can't take enough photos. I literally take hundreds of shots. Sometimes I might take at least twenty shots of one subject, especially when it comes to fishing or plants.
If it is an action shot, for example of someone landing a fish or a racing car goes speeding by I will use the camera in the Scientific/Sport mode while in the sequential H which will shoot 6 shots a second. So what if you take 30 shots, but it only takes one of them to be the one you are after.
12. Handy Hints to remember when taking a picture.
When taking a photo of a person holding an object and that person has a hat on. Use the Fill in Flash function as this will show up the persons face rather than it being in the shadow of the hat.
By using the fill in flash function it will get rid of the shadows on the persons face when wearing a hat.
13.Work out a storage system on your computer for the photos.
If time allows, I try and download onto my computer the photos I have taken that day. This way I have at least two places where the photos are stored. I will then find the time at a later date to sit and sort out the photos into folders. These will be stored on my computer and a back up hard drive.
I have folders inside folders. For example I write for a magazine called NSW Fishing Monthly and have been doing so for just on twenty years. The photos that have been used for the monthly columns (usually 3 to 4) that I write are stored by the year. Then in that folder I have a folder for each month. So yes this means at the moment I have over 720 photos inside a folder marked NSWFM. This way I can make sure that I don't re-used an old photo.
14. Enjoy using your camera.
The best part of having a hobby/job like photography is never running out of things to learn. Look at everything with the eyes of a photographer and you'll see opportunities you never noticed before, but most of all enjoy using your camera and don't turn it into a chore. And last, but my no means least take thousands of shots, because remember it's a digital camera and you can delete them.
Below are a few of my landscape shots using the LANDSCAPE function.
Check out the reflection on the water. How clear is it?