In the last decade, the digital camera and personal home computer have changed the way we take and share our photographs. Modern technology has granted us the tools and freedom to capture, share online, and the ability to digitally enhance our photographs entirely from the comfort of home. Unlike the film camera, the digital camera has liberated us from the number of photographs we can take and computer imaging software has evolved into a digital darkroom capable of manipulating pictures with a myriad of effects.
When it comes to taking photographs today one doesn’t need to comprehend the technical aspects of the camera to capture a truly remarkable image. In fact, it’s never been easier to take a multitude of pictures to develop ones photographic eye. With the simple click of a button, any inexpensive automatic digital camera will always render the best image for every lighting situation. In addition, many of the free imaging software programs available for PC’s, Mac’s and Linux computers can re-crop, re-size, color correct, sharpen, blur, tint and even completely distort a digital photograph. Anyone with a minor proficiency with computers can create these effects and more with the simple click of the mouse.
By gaining a basic understanding of light, color and composition anyone can improve their photo capturing abilities with the most basic digital camera. Light is a photographer’s best friend and when used in conjunction with color and composition it can really give a photograph its wow factor. In essence, one could say that light sets the tone for the image and color sets the mood. The amount of light available directly affects how we interrupt color and ultimately how we feel. For example, a photograph that is taken in the pre-dawn hours or on a cloudy day will produce cooler shades of color than a photograph taken at sunset when the colors are warmer and friendlier.
Over the last twenty years, I have taken thousands of film and digital photographs and the compositional “Rule of Thirds” has helped me to develop my photographic eye. The theory behind the “Rule of Thirds” is that the human eye naturally gravitates to a point approximately two-thirds of the way up an image. Imagine, if you will, a grid that is divided into equal horizontal and vertical thirds exactly like a tic-tac-toe game. The cross sections of where those lines intersect create visual points of interest that appeal to the human eye. Elements placed along the horizontal or vertical thirds can create balanced and symmetrical photography with stunning results.
Photography has taught me how to open my eyes to the beauty of life that surrounds us. I take photographs because it restores my spirit and over the years I have learned the importance of making a lot of mistakes in order to improve my skills. When I get behind the lens I mentally become an outsider to the world seen within my camera frame intuitively searching for that rare moment of pure luck where everything is perfectly aligned. With the digital camera I have the capability to take a plethora of photographs and the freedom to experiment with light, color and composition, and I only have to keep the images that appeal to my photographic eye.
If you would like to learn more about how to use your digital camera and computer imaging software, stop by the Oliver Wolcott Library to check out:
Fundamentals of Photography by Joel Santore- This amazing DVD collection featuring twenty-four lectures covers every aspect of digital photography from using automatic and manual digital camera settings to composition and lighting. This lecture series also offers invaluable tips to taking landscape, wildlife and close-up photography.
Digital Art Photography for Dummies by Matthew Bamberg and Using your Digital Camera by George Schaub. These two books simplify the art of digital photography and breaks it down step by step so you can concentrate on learning aspects of digital photography that most interest you. Chapters include outdoor, indoor and night photography, tips on photographing people and animals, and how to use Adobe Photoshop for image manipulation.
A Comprehensive Guide to Digital Landscape Photography by John Clements and The Digital Photography Handbook by Simon Joinson. Both of these books will introduce you to the numerous advantages of combining digital photographs with computer imaging software without a lot of technical jargon. Each book is geared toward visual learners interested in learning the basics of Adobe Photoshop.
Photoshop Elements 10: the Missing Manual by Barbara Brundage. If you are serious about learning the technical complexities of digital image manipulation then this is the book for you. Written for both Windows and Mac software versions this comprehensive book has it all from basic image adjustments, how to use the tools at your disposal, creating layers and masks, adding special effects, retouching digitized photographs and even web sharing.
Tricia Messenger is the Library Assistant and Publicity Coordinator for the Oliver Wolcott Library.