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Match the tool to the picture-taking task
Do you know your digital camera’s strengths and weaknesses? They can vary so let’s look at a few critical areas to make sure you aren’t losing image quality because you aren’t compensating for your camera’s weaknesses.
Match megapixels to task
How many megapixels does it have? The more megapixels it has the more loosely you can compose a picture and crop it later in Adobe Photoshop, giving yourself more options. But if you regularly make enlargements 11 x14 or bigger, you’ll need to compose tightly and minimize post production cropping.
My camera reveals heavy noise when I shot at ISO 640 at this bonfire.
Test your camera at different white balance settings, including automatic white balance. During the test place a white sheet of inkjet paper in the scene. If it appears on the computer monitor as a neutral white (and is verified by Photoshop when you place the cursor over it and look at the RGB values (they should be roughly equal) under Window>Info then you’re in good shape. If it shows too much color, create a custom white balance setting (see your camera manual) for any lighting situation you commonly photograph in.
Exposure Accuracy: You should get at least a basic read of the accuracy of your camera’s exposure system. Varying exposure by ½ stop, take a series of pictures of an “average” scene that your camera should easily be able to handle. Look at the camera’s histogram or at the Photoshop histogram to determine if your best exposure is the camera’s recommended setting.
Handholding for sharpness
For a non-stabilized lens, take pictures at shutter speeds 1X, 2X, and 4X the focal length of the lens (for a 100 mm lens, take pictures at 1/100, 1/200, and 1/400 second). Take pictures of a subject that’s fairly flat, and has some distinct lines that you can evaluate. Review the images at 100% in Photoshop by double clicking the magnifying icon and determine the optimal shutter speed for handholding the camera at that focal length setting.