Thursday, November 8, 2007

Zoom-zoom: A Simple Concept Can Make a Big Difference

Zoom is Your Friend

One of the most fundamental principles of photography is the use of zoom. Zooming does not only make the subject bigger--it also makes the photo more dynamic. If the subject is too small, then people will feel distant from the subject. Below is an example:

Images (c) Jang Photography

These photos are both exactly the same except for the way they are cropped. The bottom one is more dynamic because the flower fills up more of the frame than the first one. Usually, you want to zoom in as close as possible to your subject, unless you purposely wish to show space or a panoramic view. I also like to zoom out a bit when shooting photos with the mood of melancholy/loneliness/depression. However, even in those cases, you cannot make your subject too small, or the photo will lose its impact.

Here is another example (photo of yours truly):

Which photo is more interesting?

(c) Grace Chai. Used with permission

The photo on the right is cropped a lot closer and is much more dynamic than the one on the left. A person viewing the image on the left will not be as drawn into the photo as a person viewing the image on the right. One thing to keep in mind when zooming in on a portrait is to make sure the head is not cut out. If you are going to crop some of the head, then make sure that the head is cropped out on two sides of the frame (like the photo on the right). Also, be careful not to crop a picture at the joints of a person--in other words, don't have the frame cropping out part of the person's arm at the elbow.
What To Keep in Mind When You're Shooting
You will want to crop a picture using the zoom on your camera rather than computer software because cropping with software will make you lose pixels and thus, information. Therefore, utilize the zoom function on your camera! This is an important principle to remember; when you're taking a photo, ask yourself, "Will this look better if it is cropped? If so, how much should I zoom in?" Experiment with the zoom to see which length is the best--or, if you're not sure, just take the same photo at differen lengths. You can always determine which one is the best when you download your pictures onto your camera. With digital photography, you can take as many photos of a scene as you want and then pick out the ones you like. This is one of the great advantages of digital photography.
Happy shooting!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Megapixel Myth--And What Really Matters

Today, we will look at the digital camera megapixel, some misconceptions, and what factors affect it's performance. First off...

Some Common Misconceptions

People generally think the more megapixels a camera has the better it is. With the advancements in noise reduction, this might seem to be the case. But the number of megapixels is not the main factor behind the level of detail and the dynamic range (the ability of the sensor to capture the dark and light parts of a picture—a sensor with better dynamic range will be able to record more information in the shadows and the highlights (the bright parts) of the scene). The dynamic range and the level of detail are also affected by the size of the pixel.

Pixel Size?

Yes, the size of the pixel makes a difference. The larger the pixel, the more information it can record. Thus, a digital SLR pixel will record more detail than a pixel in a compact digital camera (because it has larger pixels). In addition, the dynamic range of a photo taken by a digital SLR will be better than that of a compact and in terms of detail, a 6-megapixel dSLR will have about the same amount as a 10-megapixel digital compact. The size of the pixels (and of the sensor) is the main difference between the digital SLR and the digital compact and the one of the factors distinguishing between them.

6-megapixels vs. 10-megapixels

What? Isn't that unfair? A 10-megapixel camera clearly has more megapixels and and it follows that it would be a better camera. The answer is: not necessarily. The more megapixels you squeeze into a camera, the more "noise" there will be in a picture. Noise appears as blue/purple/reddish spots in the pictures. A camera with more megapixels tends to have more noise than one with fewer megapixels. As you go up in ISO (sensor sensitivity), the noise difference between a 10-megapixel camera with the same sensor size as a 6-megapixel camera will increase; the 10-megapixel one will be much noisier. This is the tradeoff for more megapixels in a camera. However, noise reduction technology is improving greatly, so this difference is becoming almost negligible.

Why not just make all sensors bigger?

Because it costs a lot more to produce a camera with a larger sensor. The main reason a digital SLR costs more than a digital compact is this.

How does this affect me?

What type of camera you wish to purchase depends on your needs. If you are seeking to become more serious about photography or you want more detail and sharpness in your photos, you should buy a digital SLR. If you only want a camera to record family memories or just for casual shooting, you should purchase a compact. In the latter case, because you probably won't be making prints larger than 8"x10", it is recommended you purchase one with 10+ megapixels. All your functions you need would easily be met and the number of megapixels would be just about right for the outputs. On the other hand, if you are truly interested in photography, you should look into purchasing a digital SLR; the flexibility of a digital SLR and the quality of the photos would offset the price.


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know, and happy shooting!

Friday, November 2, 2007


Welcome to my blog on digital photography! If you love digital photography but you don't have a lot of experience in it or if you just want to take better photos in general and you need some advice or information, then this is the place to start. Topics I will cover include: understanding your camera (ISO, shutter speed, aperture--the basics), composition, the digital darkroom etc. I may also include some news from time to time, so be sure to subscribe to this blog or check regularly for updates! If you ever have a question, you can always leave a comment on my blog. I hope that you will find digital photography as enjoyable as I have and that you will be able to learn new things by reading this blog. Have fun and happy shooting!