The single cheapest way to improve your photography


in Geek stuff, Photography

There seem to be a lot of people out there who are succeeding at producing appealing and artistic images using low-cost photographic equipment. A case in point are the lowest cost Canon point and shoot digital cameras. They cost less than $200, brand new, and yet it is certainly possible to produce museum quality photography with them, if you have enough creativity and awareness of light.

Arguably, the worst thing that ever happened to popular photography was the emergence of the on-camera flash. It has given too many photographers the idea that light doesn’t matter. After all, they have brought along their own tiny flashbulb.

In the great majority of cases, disabling that flash is an excellent first step. The second step – alluded to in the title – is buying yourself a little tripod. Personally, I use a $10 UltraPod mini, kept constantly attached to my $180 A570 IS camera. While everyone else was making hopeless attempts to light up the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral or the Blue Mosque with their on-camera flashes, I was getting decent photos of them by bracing the tripod on walls, the floor, or furniture.

Anyone who is serious about photography with a small camera should buy one.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Woodsy November 17, 2008 at 6:16 pm

I recently started taking one picture with flash and one without – without flash is often the best shot… Light and shadows – so important to me in a photo.

Milan November 17, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Philip Greenspun describes this well in his free online textbook:

“Our eyes rely on shadows to recognize shapes.” There are no useful shadow cues if all the light comes from the same angle as the lens. You can’t establish a mood with on-camera flash. You can’t emphasize a feature with on-camera flash. You can’t narrow a fat face. You can’t really do anything except capture a scene that never existed (unless you are a coal miner and walk around with a headlamp all day).

Anonymous November 17, 2008 at 6:30 pm

The ‘single cheapest way’ might actually be reading free online textbooks…

Hilary November 18, 2008 at 7:24 pm

YOUR FLASH CANNOT LIGHT THE NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL!!!!!!!!! and other lessons learned in Paris…

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