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Digital Photography

7 Ways to Get the Most from Your Older Digital Camera

SUMMARY: Ideas to help you take better photographs with older digital cameras and equipment.

Newer digital cameras may allow for faster exposures, larger printouts by taking photos with more megapixels, and increased photographic opportunities with enhanced zoom abilities. While new digital cameras seem to be released every month, with today's worrisome economy it may not be possible to take advantage of these technological advancements.

Though it may be frustrating when you cannot purchase newer digital cameras, think about this: have you really taken advantage of what you own? There are ways to take better photos with your 'older' digital camera that require minimal or no cost. In fact, here are seven of them.

1. Photo Quality is Not All about Electronics

While advanced electronics are great and can help amateur photographers take better photos, there are some principles in photography that remain the same no matter what digital camera you use.


Photo taken at Georgia Aquarium, 2006



Experiment with composition - look around your environments for different angles, natural frames, and details you may have previously missed. Try adjusting your lighting by shooting outdoor photos at different times, especially around dusk and dawn. When possible, move existing lighting around indoors to allow for clearer, brighter shots.

2. Clean Your Camera

Dirt and smudges can ruin your photographs, no matter if the camera is a <$100 compact or a multi-thousand dollar digital SLR. Safely clean your lens with a LensPen, camera blower brush, lens cleaner, and/or other appropriate cleaning equipment. Wipe your LCD screen and/or viewfinder to make it easier to see when composing photographs. If you are using a dSLR, consider taking your digital camera to a local digital camera store to get a professional sensor cleaning. This can help remove dirt and smudges that may appear in photos, especially when taken with f-stops such as f/16 or f/22.

3. Steady Your Camera

If you just cannot get usable shots in low-light situations without noise or blurriness, attach your digital camera to a monopod, tripod, or other bracketing device when allowed. This should allow you to take longer photos at lower ISOs, allowing for clearer images with less noise.

You don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a top-of-the-line model, just make sure the one you buy is sturdy. However, in some situations, you may be able to steady your digital camera just by placing it on a beanbag on a sturdy surface!

4. Really Cheap Photo Manipulation Software

Can't afford Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, or Corel Photo-Paint or Paint Shop Pro to tweak your images? There are a few completely free alternatives that perform much of the same functionality, allowing you to adjust tone curves, sharpen images, perform strategic replacements of subjects, and more. They may require a little more time to learn as documentation may be incomplete in parts, but free is free, right?


New York, 2006



Paint.Net for Windows - http://www.getpaint.net/

GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program, available for multiple platforms - http://www.gimp.org/

5. Fake Your Megapixels in Printouts

Do you just need a couple more megapixels of detail in your photos to create larger printouts? Consider the following software packages that claim to support more-realistic image resizing than what you may find in the above software or even more expensive applications. Note that your experiences with these applications may vary:

Alien Skin Blow Up - http://www.alienskin.com/blowup/

onOne Software's Genuine Fractals- http://www.ononesoftware.com/detail.php?prodLine_id=2

6. Lens Adapters

Some digital cameras support lens adapters, allowing you to attach a telephoto or wide-angle lens to your camera. This can be a less expensive way to increase your zoom capabilities versus spending money on a whole new camera.

For example, the Canon PowerShot Pro Series S5 is (or depending on when you read this article, was) an eight megapixel digital camera with a 12x optical zoom. With a lens adapter, you can attach a teleconverter lens that increases the focal length by approximately 1.5x, changing the original maximum telephoto zoom of 432mm (35mm film equivalent) into one of approximately 648mm. Of course, in these zoom situations you almost certainly will need a tripod or other steadying device.

7. For Those Who dSLR, Switch the Lens

If you're using a dSLR camera, you have a better option since you can switch out lenses altogether instead of investing in a new camera body. If you have a little more cash, you may even wish to spend money on a lens with a wider maximum aperture, allowing you to take faster photos in lowlight conditions without introducing noise. In some situations, you may actually take better photos than those shot with a higher-megapixel dSLR camera with a slower lens.

Newer digital cameras are always being produced, but our incomes may not always match our desires. Instead of fretting about the newest digital camera you cannot afford, think about how you can take advantage of the camera you already have. Learn more about photography basics, keep your digital camera clean, and steady it for more-impressive photos. Use free or low-cost image manipulation application, and consider purchasing high-quality image resampling software instead of plunking down money for a camera with more megapixels. A lens adapter may be all you need to support wider or narrower zooms with a prosumer camera, and for those with dSLRs, a replacement lens may allow you to take better photos than if you purchased a whole new digital camera body. With these free and low-cost ideas, you can get the most out of your current digital camera without spending money on the "latest and greatest".

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The MalekTips website was created in 1998 by Andrew Malek of Envision Programming. The page's goal is to freely disperse computer-related tips, hints, and informative articles. Tips are organized to be easy to find, and are presented clearly, in easy-to-understand language. MalekTips also provides information and links to public-domain, open source, freeware, shareware, and commercial software available for download.