MP: Digital photography, photo production and sharing

This tutorial involvesUnderstanding photography and its importance in message communication Getting/buying a good camera Tips for better photography Photo editing softwares Simple tips for editing photos Organising photos Sharing the photos


Photos and good photography is key for storytelling and effective communication of messages. Photos do not only show authority, but can display empathy, humility and passion thus boosting the understanding of the message you are pushing across.

Whether a photo is accompanying a piece of editorial or article, to be included in an advert or as part of a competition, the power of good photography should never be underestimated. Yet technological developments have brought good photography within the reach of many ordinary people- including you.

In today’s hi-tech, multimedia led world, use of photo cameras has become both cheaper & much more widespread. But From home use to professional use, basic camera skills training dictates the difference between achieving amateur looking or professional (at least good) looking results.

Our emphasis is on digital photography because many people use digital cameras because of their many advantages.

What you need 

  • A camera. Whatever you have, or can borrow, will be good enough.
  • The biggest memory card you can get, if you’re on digital, or as much film as you can afford to have developed if you’re not.



Getting/buying a good camera

Always, always remember to consider these factors when buying a digital camera:

  • Battery Life
  • Number of Megapixels
  • Zoom Lens
  • Exposure Control
  • User Controls

Battery Life

This has got to be one of the most overlooked features in digital cameras. I know many people who go for the latest and greatest digital cameras which are short in the battery life department. If you want to take good photos, your camera needs to powered for extended periods of time. I’ve found that cost and battery life don’t go together – many cheap cameras have good battery life, while some high-end models drain your battery really fast. Make sure you choose a camera that has good battery life.
Number of Megapixels

The megapixel rating of a digital camera determines how much fine detail you can capture in your shots. Typically, the number of megapixels can range around from 2 megapixels to 8 megapixels. How do you decide how many megapixels you need? As a rule of thumb, if you’re only interested in taking small snapshots to send via email or for posting on the Web, you won’t need more than 2 megapixels. If you want large print outs of your gorgeous photographs, then you’ll probably want to get 5 megapixel cameras and above. You may want to refer to this guide for more information.
Zoom Lens

You’ll definitely want a camera with decent optical zoom. Now the keyword here is optical zoom (as opposed to digital zoom). Optical zoom physically moves the camera lenses to zoom in on a subject. Digital zoom, however, digitally averages and magnifies the image within the camera’s microchip – resulting in poor picture quality. Many manufacturers’ advertisements talk about digital zoom instead of optical zoom – so do be careful when choosing. I’d recommend getting at least 3x optical zoom in any camera you buy.
Exposure Control

The ability to control exposure settings such as shutter speed and lens opening is critical to professional photographers. Cheaper digital cameras only allow you to shoot photos in automatic mode – just press the shutter release and voila, your picture is taken. More advanced users prefer to tweak the shutter speed and aperture to capture fast moving objects or blur the image background. Choose a camera with good exposure control if you foresee yourself taking on photography as a serious hobby.
User Controls

If you are getting a point-and-shoot camera, make sure you find one that’s easy to use. User controls to set resolution, macro mode, flash and exposure should be within easy reach. Of course, if you’re a serious photography buff who wants to take the time to tweak all sorts of manual settings, then this many not be so critical.

General Tips for Better Photography

There are common practices that you need to bear in mind to take good and even great photos that enhance your purposes.

Know Your Camera

Does this sound familiar? You buy the latest digital camera out there, come home, rip off the box, then proceed to fiddle with the device. You briefly flick through the hundred page camera manual and then never look at it again. Not a good idea! If you buy a digital camera, you owe it to yourself to understand its ins and outs. Learn how to control exposure, how to use different camera modes and how to use the flash. The knowledge you gain about the camera will be invaluable when you’re out in the field taking those special photos.
Learn to Control the Flash

One of the most important things you need to know about digital photography is to control the flash. Many people rely on the automatic flash that comes with the digital camera. Depending on the situation, you may need to switch off or switch on the flash.

For example, when taking outdoor photos, it is sometimes good to turn on the flash to illuminate the subject, especially if he or she is in the shade. On the other hand, you can also choose to turn off the flash when taking indoor shots. Sometimes, using the flash indoors will result in unnatural skin color and harsh glare in your photos.
Play with the Macro Mode

Almost all digital camera these days have a macro mode. This setting is ideal for taking close up shots of objects like flowers or insects. What you do is to pick a subject, turn on macro mode, then get as close to it as your camera will allow. Make sure you allow the camera to focus properly before depressing the shutter button fully.
Hold the Camera Level

A basic rule of photography is to hold the camera level. Since most digital cameras come with a LCD, you can use it to properly frame your shots. Next time you’re taking a shot, try to look for the horizontal lines and use them as guides. A good example is to make use of the horizon when you’re taking a photo of a sunset.
Keep still.

A lot of people are surprised at how blurry their pictures come out when going for a close-up, or taking the shot from a distance. To minimize blurring: If you’re using a full-sized camera with a zoom lens, hold the camera body (finger on the shutter button) with one hand, and steady the lens by cupping your other hand under it. Keep your elbows close to your body, and use this position to brace yourself firmly. If your camera or lens has image stabilisation features, use them (this is called IS on Canon gear, and VR, for Vibration Reduction, on Nikon equipment).


Use The Tripod

Camera tripods are an essential tool in your photography arsenal. When will you need a tripod? Well, it’s useful if you’re taking shots under low-light conditions or trying to capture fast moving objects. Always try to look for a tripod that’s convenient to carry around. For personal use, you don’t need a huge one – just a simple compact one that’s easy to pack.
Play with the ISO Setting

The ISO setting of camera controls it’s sensitivity to light. If you’re taking a photo of a still object, like a flower, then always use a low ISO setting. It allows for a longer shutter speed and produces a cleaner image. If you’re shooting a moving object, like a baby playing with a toy, then a higher ISO setting of say 400 would be better. Do take note, however, that a higher ISO setting gives a faster shutter speed and requires less light. This will produce noiser photos.

Your camera’s ISO speed number stands for the sensitivity of the digital sensor. Slower ISO speeds result in less noisy pictures — even on a digital SLR; but this is especially important on a point-and-shoot camera.


Have Enough Memory Capacity

Just like you must have enough rolls of film when using traditional cameras, make sure you always have enough memory capacity in your digital camera. It’s terrible to go upcountry say in Kabong to great photos and suddenly realizing you’ve no memory space left. Carrying your laptop computer along (and a memory card reader) is also helpful. Here are some general guidelines for digital camera storage.

  • 2 megapixel cameras – get at least a 64MB card
  • 3 megapixel camera – get at least a 128MB card
  • 4 megapixel camera – get at least a 256MB card
  • 5 megapixel camera and above – get at least a 512MB or 1GB card

Take many Pictures:

With digital cameras, you don’t have to worry about spoiling film so take many pictures of the subject from as many different angles…if you go once in the field, this is especially helpful for you to come back with as many usable photos from a trip.

Snapping a subject in both landscape and portrait is advisable as some publishers will prefer either.

But don’t be snap happy…take as many photos as necessary. Remember you are spending your battery and filling your memory card.

Composition rules:

We all dislike rules, but the rule of thirds is one worth learning. Lots of images look better when following this rule. Imagine the image you’re composing split into three segments horizontally, and three vertically. The grid image below illustrates the point; the horizon line is roughly a third of the way up the frame. The sky fills the other two thirds. The lighthouse is also a third of the way in (roughly) from the edge of the frame.



Take your camera everywhere.

When you have your camera with you all the time, you will start to see the world differently; you will look for and find opportunities to take great photographs. And, of course, you will end up taking more photographs; and the more you take, the better a photographer you will become. So whether you are going for a workshop, field meeting or research, carry your camera along as you might meet the best photo opportunity to illustrate what you want to communicate.

Start off with setting your camera to one of its automatic modes, if you have a choice.

Most useful is “Program” or “P” mode on digital SLRs. Ignore advice to the contrary which suggests that you operate your camera fully manually; the advances in the last fifty years in automatic focusing and metering have not happened for nothing. If your photos come out poorly focused or poorly exposed, then start operating certain functions manually.



Get outside and take some photos

Motivate yourself to get out and take photographs in natural light. Take several normal ‘point and shoot’ pictures to get a feel for the lighting at different times of the day and night. Go outside at all times of day, especially those times when anybody with any sense is sleeping, eating, or watching television; lighting at these times is often dramatic and unusual to many people precisely because they never get to see it!

Keep the lens clear of caps, thumbs, straps and other obstructions.

It’s basic, yes, but it can ruin a photograph completely. This is less of a problem with modern live-preview digital cameras, and even less of a problem with an SLR camera. But people still make these mistakes from time to time.

Set your white balance. Put simply, the human eye automatically compensates for different kinds of lighting; white looks white to us in almost any kind of lighting. A digital camera compensates for this by shifting the colors certain ways. For example, under tungsten (incandescent) lighting, it will shift the colours towards blue to compensate for the redness of this kind of lighting. The white balance is one of the most critical, and most underused, settings on modern cameras. Learn how to set it, and what the various settings mean. If you’re not under artificial light, the “Shade” (or “Cloudy”) setting is a good bet in most circumstances; it makes for very warm-looking colors. If it comes out too red, it’s very easy to correct it in software later on. “Auto”, the default for most cameras, sometimes does a good job, but also sometimes results in colours which are a little too cold.[2]

The white balance dramatically alters the tone of a picture; these four photos were taken at the Auto, Daylight, Cloudy (or Shade) and Tungsten settings.


Ignore the advice above. Regard the above as laws, which work much of the time but are always subject to judicious interpretation — and not as absolute rules. Too close an adherence to them will lead to boring photographs. For example, clutter and sharply focused backgrounds can add context, contrast and colour; perfect symmetry in a shot can be dramatic, and so on. Every rule can and should be broken for artistic effect, from time to time. This is how many stunning photographs are made.

Fill the frame with your subject.

Don’t be afraid to get closer to your subject. On the other hand, if you’re using a digital camera with plenty of megapixels to spare, you can crop it later in software.


Try an interesting angle.

Instead of shooting the object straight on, try looking down to the object, or crouching and looking up. Pick an angle that shows maximum color and minimum shadow. To make things appear longer or taller, a low angle can help. If you want a bold photo, it is best to be even with the object. You may also want to make the object look smaller or make it look like you’re hovering over; to get the effect you should put the camera above the object. An uncommon angle makes for a more interesting shot.



Poor focusing is one of the most common ways that photographs are ruined. Use the automatic focus of your camera, if you have it; usually, this is done by half-pressing the shutter button. Use the “macro” mode of your camera for very close-up shots. Don’t focus manually unless your auto-focus is having issues; as with metering, automatic focus usually does a far better job of focusing than you can.


Consider not using a tripod, especially if you don’t already have one. A tripod infringes on your ability to move around, and to rapidly change the framing of your shot. It’s also more weight to carry around, which is a disincentive to getting out and taking photographs in the first place. As a general rule,[5] you only need a tripod if your shutter speed is equal to or slower than the reciprocal of your focal length.[6] If you can avoid using a tripod by using faster ISO speeds (and, consequently, faster shutter speeds), or by using image stabilisation features of your camera, or by simply moving to somewhere with better lighting, then do that.

If you are in a situation where it would be nice to use a tripod, but you don’t have a tripod at the time, try one or more of the following to reduce camera shake:

  • Turn on image stabilization on your camera (only some digital cameras have this) or lens (generally only some expensive lenses have this).
  • Zoom out (or substitute a wider lens) and get closer. This will de-magnify the effect of a small change in the direction of the camera, and generally increase your maximum aperture for a shorter exposure.
  • Hold the camera at two points away from its center, such as the handle near the shutter button and the opposite corner, or toward the end of the lens. (Do not hold a delicate collapsible lens such as on a point-and-shoot, or obstruct something that the camera will try to move on its own such as a focusing ring, or obstruct the view from the front of the lens.) This will decrease the angle which the camera moves for a given distance your hands wobble.
  • Squeeze the shutter slowly, steadily, and gently, and do not stop until momentarily after the picture has taken. Try putting your index finger over the top of the camera, and squeezing the shutter button with the second joint of the finger for a steadier motion (you’re pushing on the top of the camera all along).
  • Brace the camera against something (or your hand against something if you’re concerned about scratching it), and/or brace your arms against your body or sit down and brace them against your knees.
  • Prop the camera on something (perhaps its bag or its strap) and use the self-timer to avoid shake from pushing on the button if the thing it is propped on is soft. This often involves a small chance that the camera will fall over so check that it does not have far to fall, and generally avoid it with a very expensive camera or one with accessories such as a flash that could break or rip off parts of the camera. If you anticipate doing this much, you could bring along a beanbag, which would work well for it. Purpose-built “beanbags” are available, bags of dried beans are cheap and the contents can be eaten when they begin to wear through or get upgraded.


Relax when you push the shutter button. Also, try not to hold the camera up for too long; this will cause your hands and arms to be shakier. Practice bringing the camera up to your eye, focusing and metering, and taking the shot in one swift, smooth action.

Avoid red eye. Red-eye is caused when your eyes dilate in lower lighting. When your pupils are big, the flash actually lights up the blood vessels on the back wall of your eyeball, which is why it looks red. If you must use a flash in poor light, try to get the person to not look directly at the camera, or consider using a “bounce flash”. Aiming your flash above the heads of your subjects, especially if the walls surrounding are light, will keep red-eye out. If you don’t have a separate flash gun which is adjustable in this way, use the red-eye reduction feature of your camera if available – it flashes a couple of times before opening the shutter, which causes your subject’s pupils to contract, thus minimizing red-eye. Better yet, don’t take photographs which require a flash to be used; find somewhere with better lighting.


Use your flash judiciously, and don’t use it when you don’t have to. A flash in poor light can often cause ugly-looking reflections, or make the subject of your photo appear “washed out”; the latter is especially true of people photos. On the other hand, a flash is very useful for filling in shadows; to eliminate the “raccoon eye” effect in bright midday light, for example (if you have a flash sync speed[7] fast enough). If you can avoid using a flash by going outside, or steadying the camera (allowing you to use a slower shutter speed without blur), or setting a faster ISO speed (allowing faster shutter speeds), then do that.

  • If you do not intend the flash to be the primary light source in the picture, set it up to give correct exposure at an aperture a stop or so wider than that which is otherwise correct and which you actually use for the exposure (which depends on the ambient light intensity and the shutter speed, which cannot be above the flash-sync speed). This can be done by choosing a specific stop with a manual or thyristor flash, or by using “flash exposure compensation” with a fancy modern camera.


Go through your photos and look for the best ones.

Look for what makes the best photos and continue using the methods that got the best shots. Don’t be afraid to throw away or delete photos, either. Be brutal about it; if it doesn’t strike you as a particularly pleasing shot, then ditch it. If you, like most people, are shooting on a digital camera, then it would not have cost you anything but your time. Before you delete them, remember you can learn a lot from your worst photos; discover why they don’t look good, then don’t do that.

Practice, practice, and practice. Take lots and lots of photos — aim to fill your memory card, (or to use up as much film as you can afford to have developed, but don’t mess with film until you can get decent pictures frequently with a simple digital camera: until then, you need to make many more glaring mistakes to learn from, and it’s nice to make them for free and find out immediately, when you can figure out exactly what you did and why under the current circumstances it is wrong). The more pictures you take, the better you’ll get, and the more you (and everyone) will like your pictures. Shoot from new or different angles, and find new subjects to take pictures of, and keep at it; you can make even the most boring, everyday thing look amazing if you’re creative enough about photographing it. Get to know your camera’s limitations, too; how well it performs in different kinds of lighting, how well auto-focus performs at various distances, how well it handles moving subjects, and so on.


More tips

  • Your camera doesn’t matter. Nearly any camera is capable of taking good photographs in the right conditions. Even a modern camera phoneis good enough for many kinds of shots. [8] Learn your camera’s limitations and work around them; don’t buy new equipment until you know exactly what these limitations are, and are certain that they are hindering you.
  • Pick up a big-city newspaper or a copy of National Geographic and see how professional photojournalists tell stories in pictures. It’s often worth poking around photo sites like Flickror deviantARTfor inspiration, too. Try Flickr’s camera finder to see what people have done with the cheapest point-and-shoot cameras. Look at the Camera Data on deviantART. Just don’t spend so much time getting inspired that it stops you from getting out there.
  • When shooting photos of children, get down to their level! Pictures looking down at the top of a child’s head are usually pretty lame. Stop being lazy and get on your knees.
  • If you shoot digital it’s better to underexpose the shot, as underexposure is easy to correct later on in software. Shadow detail can be recovered; blown highlights (the pure white areas in an overexposed photo) can never be recovered, as there is nothing there to recover. Film is the opposite; shadow detail tends to be poor compared to digital cameras, but blown highlights are rare even with massive overexposure.[9]
  • Get your photos off your memory card ASAP. Make backups; make several backups if you can. Every photographer has, or will, experience the heartbreak of losing a precious image/images unless he or she cultivates this habit. Back-up, back-up, back-up!
  • If the camera has a neck strap, use it! Hold the camera out so that that the neck strap is pulled as far as a can, this will help steady the camera. Furthermore, it’ll also stop you from dropping the camera.
  • Install photo-editing software and learn how to use it. This will allow you to correct color balance, adjust lighting, crop your photos, and much more. Most cameras will come with software to make these basic adjustments. For more complicated operations, consider buying Photoshopdownloading and installingthe free GIMP image editor, or using NET, a free light-weight photo editing program for Windows users.
  • Keep a notebook handy and make notes about what worked well and what didn’t. Review your notes often as you practice.
  • Upload to Flickr or the Wikimedia Commonsand maybe one day you will see your photos used on wikiHow!
  • To find an interesting angle at a tourist location, look where everybody else is taking their picture, and then go somewhere completely different. You don’t want the same picture as everybody else.



  • Beware of taking photographs of statues, artwork, and even architecture; even if it is located in public places, in many jurisdictions this can often constitute a violation of the copyright in these works.[10]
  • When taking photos of people, their pets, or even their property, ask for permission. The only time you clearly do not need it is when you are capturing a crime in progress. It is always polite to ask.


Editing/touching up the photos

Taking good photos is one part of the equation in ensuring desirable photographs. The compositions you make and quality of photo might not meet the desired standards. But thanks to photo editing software, you have a chance to improve your photos.There are free and paid for photo editing programs you can use e.g. paint, windows fax viewer, GIMP or buy Photoshopdownloading and installing or Paint.NET among others.

Start Up Your Image Editor

The first step, of course, is to fire up your favorite image editing program. For beginners, it’s best to get a program like paint of fax viewer. You will be amazed at how much you can achieve with such a free photo editing program.

Ok – with your image editor ready, open the picture you want to edit within the program and save a backup copy.
Remove Red-Eye

If you’re taking photos of people, chances are you may have taken a photo with red-eye problems. This is easily removed with image editing software.

Rotate and Crop

If you’ve taken a photo in a wrong orientation, it’s easily corrected with little loss in quality by using a rotate tool. You’ll also want to do some cropping of your photo to remove cluttered surroundings that draw attention away from your subject. Cut away the two sides of the picture and you have a much more professional look.
Play with Color

Don’t be afraid to experiment with colors. Image editing programs put a lot of power in your hands. You can make the leaves purple, change the entire photo to black and white, add a sepia effect – almost anything you want. A good photo editing program will have automatic color balance options to adjust color defects in your pictures.
Blurring Effects

What you can do here is to select areas of the photo which are unimportant and blur them out. This will bring more attention to the main subject of your photo. For example, if I had a picture of a flower and I wanted to play down the details in the leaves in background, I might add a blurring effect to the background.
Sharpen Up

Sharpening the image is the next step in the photo touch up process. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t actually sharpen an out of focus image.


Depending on your needs, you may want to resize your photo. If you’re emailing a picture to a friend, you’ll want to resize the picture down to a much smaller size. If you’re printing the photo on a greeting card, you can scale down the image to the size of a 4×6 print.
Save Your Work

Ok, you’re pretty much done. Remember to save your work in the appropriate image format. Use the large TIFF image format if you want to retain all details for subsequent image editing. On the other hand, you can use the JPEG image format if you want to just send the picture via email or upload them to your website.
Organising your photos

Get a Good Photo Management Program

The first step in organizing your precious photos is to get a good photo management program. Some people maintain that you don’t need a dedicated program to organize your photos – they prefer to use native Windows XP features to do the organizing. Windows 7 computers can really do a great job of this in their Windows Live photo gallery. But you can have other programs like picassa to organize your photos

There are a number of dedicated, commercial grade program that may be more user friendly and there are a host of extra features (e.g. the ability to catalog and backup your photos).

Download your photos to an Album

Now the next thing you need to do in the organization process is to import those pictures into Photoshop Album. If your pictures reside in your camera, then make sure you hook up the USB cable between the camera and computer. Then click on the Get Photos button with Photoshop Album. If your pictures are already in your computer’s hard drive, then click on From Files and Folders in the menu.

I guess it’s appropriate to introduce my folder structure for digital photos. I use a very simple folder hierarchy. In my computer’s C: drive, I have a folder called ‘Photos’. Under ‘Photos’, I have 3 subfolders.

  • Raw photos
  • Edited photos
  • Unsorted photos

The ‘Raw photos’ directory stores all original versions of my pictures. This means they have been untouched by any image editing program. Assuming I had 50 photos in my collection, I’d name the photos here in running order using filenames likePIC0001.jpgPIC0002.jpgPIC0003.jpg … PIC0050.jpg.

The ‘Edited photos’ directory will contain only the edited versions of my images after perform edits like cropping, sharpening or red-eye removal. Following the above example, if I only edited PIC0001.jpg and PIC0003.jpg, then only these two files would appear in this folder.

The ‘Unsorted photos’ directory is sort of a temporary area I use to store any new pictures imported from the camera. After I import the pictures, they may have funny names like IMG001.jpgIMG002.jpg, etc. What I usually do is to rename them according to my convention in the ‘Raw photos’ folder. In the above example, I would name the photos in the ‘Unsorted photos’ directory as PIC0051.jpg,PIC0052.jpgPIC0053.jpg, etc.
Edit Your Photos If Necessary

You can perform basic image edits like rotation within Photoshop Album itself. Basic image editing functions like rotation, cropping and red-eye removal are readily available at the click of a button.

Backup All Your Photos Regularly

You will want to get a CD burner, DVD burner or even an external hard drive to cater for this purpose.
Sharing your photos

Essentially, there are four main ways to share digital photos:

  • Printing the photos
  • Storing the photos on CD and DVD
  • Emailing the photos
  • Uploading the photos to a website

Printing the Photos

Just like film-based photography, you can share your pictures by having a hardcopy printout. All you need to do is get a good photo printer and some quality printing paper, then print away!

Of course, if you don’t have a printer, you can still approach a photo kiosk to do the job Make sure you do some shopping around first – digital photo printing services don’t come cheap.
Storing the Photos on CD and DVD

Storing your photos on CD and DVD is a very good option for sharing photos, particularly if you have a immensely huge photo collection. The downside, of course, is that your family and friends need to have a CD player or DVD player to view the content.

These days, CD burners and DVD burners are very affordable. A single CD-R stores 650MB and a DVD stores 1.7GB. That is an amazing amount of storage space for your photo collection.
Emailing the Photos

Of course, one option for sharing photos is to email them to a co-worker or boss. A good alternative to emailing photos is to upload your photos to a website, then simply email the website link to your boss, or co-worker. This avoids the problem of huge email attachments.
Uploading the Photos to a Website

One of the best ways to share digital photos is to upload them to a website. There are many online photo storage sites available.,, are some of the best photo sharing sites. It allows you to upload photo albums and determine who can view those albums. In addition, you get links or embed codes to share in your websites.


More resources

Ten easy steps to advanced photography

By Trey Ratcliff (aka Stuck in Customs), one of the most famous and renowned HDR photographers on Flickr. In his article Trey describes some professional insights and useful photography tips that he collected over the years of his career.

Digital Photography skills

Basic Photography Skills is a course designed to broaden skills and add photography as another element to your journalism or communications practice. Includes Audio training manual

Definition of photography and what it entails-from Wikipedia

Beginners Photography: Top Tips for Taking Better Photographs
Beginners Photography: Discover the art of taking breath-takingphotographs with the best of beginning photography tips.
Photography Composition: Learn the Basics for Spectacular Results
Use our photography composition tips to create images that work.
Basic Photography: Digital Photography Made Easy!
Exposure, Apertures, Shutter Speeds and ISO explained, with dozens of expert tips to apply to your basic photography skills for astonishing results.
Digital Photography Tips and Techniques
Tired of mundane shots? Learn how to take your photography to another level with our Digital Photography Tips and Techniques.
Digital Photography Free Tutorials: Make your Photos Sparkle!
Top tips for taking stunning images in our Digital Photography Free Tutorials.


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