Create the perfect photos
Computing power, modern cameras and free software have now reached the point where anyone can produce professional-looking photos, given a bit of time and the will to do so. Software in particular has improved immensely, and the free packages now do everything that was once the realm of top-end professional suites. So, there’s no reason to settle for dull party snaps any longer.
Turn off the flash indoors
If you’ve just bought a new digital compact and it’s your first new one for a few years (or even ever), you should be delighted to see a sticker on it that says “low-light shooting”. Low-light shooting capabilities could refer to high ISO settings, image stabilisation, or a combination of both. Either way, they mean you can take pictures in lower light than the previous generation of cameras. And that means you can often get away without using the flash.
Indoor flash photography – if you use the camera’s built-in flash – is guaranteed to produce stark, lifeless photos
This is something you should take advantage of, because indoor flash photography – if you use the camera’s built-in flash – is guaranteed to produce stark, lifeless photos with harsh shadows. Almost every camera has a dedicated button to let you change flash mode without delving into the menus: it’s the button with the lightning icon. Press it and the camera will let you cycle through the flash options, one of which will be flash off (the flash icon behind the road-sign symbol to indicate it’s disabled).
With the flash switched off, the camera is forced to increase its ISO sensitivity, so that it can take a picture without a long shutter speed inducing shot-ruining blur.
Turn on flash outdoors
The funny thing about your camera’s built-in flash is that although you should never use it indoors at night if you can avoid it, you should use it outside during the day. You can force your camera to deploy the flash in the same way you switched it off above. This technique is called fill-in flash and it works best for fairly close-up portraits (outdoors, the flash is only really effective to a distance of about a metre).
With the flash forced on, you’ll find your subject’s faces are lifted from the background in a way that can be incredibly effective and give your shots a true professional look; almost all professionals will use flash or a light reflector to bring life to outdoor portraits.
Try out the scene modes
Camera manufacturers spend millions developing the features on their cameras, which the majority of owners then completely ignore. Neglected most of all is the raft of “scene” modes that modern snappers carry. Although some of these sound crazy (modes specifically for shooting food are bafflingly common) some of them make sense.
Pick of the scene modes
Discover which scene modes are the most useful and how to make the best of them
A scene mode for shooting in snow, for instance, is perfectly sensible, because once the camera knows it’s shooting in a wintry environment it can compensate for the glare of the snow by adding a little exposure compensation. That means you’ll get white snow and properly exposed faces of your loved ones enjoying their skiing holiday, as opposed to grey snow and dark, underexposed faces. This is, of course, all on the off-chance that we get a white Christmas.