Home > Articles

Technical Details

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Learning Workarounds for Camera Settings

Digital photographers at all levels have an advantage shared only by those professionals who do their own color darkroom work. If you have to make compromises when you shoot your pictures, you can almost always improve your work after you upload it to the computer. Having said that, I should also point out that you'll be able to do much more with a picture if it's good to begin with.

Focus Workarounds

Rule number one for keeping your pictures in focus, no matter what kind of camera you use, is to hold it steady. If your exposure is likely to be longer than 1/60th of a second, find something to brace yourself against, use a tripod, or at the very least, learn the photographer's crunch.

This is a position that becomes second nature after a while. Begin by standing with your feet a little wider apart than normal, so you've got a good firm footing under you. Hold the camera with both hands, and press your upper arms and elbows into your ribs, as shown in Figure 3.13. If you need a low angle, sit, kneel, or lie down, with your elbows firmly braced. As you look through the viewfinder, rest the camera against your nose. If your camera uses an LCD view screen instead of a viewfinder, hold it at a comfortable viewing distance away, but again with your elbows and upper arms pressed tight to your body. Just before you press the shutter, stop breathing for a second or two.

If your camera has a fixed focus lens, you're going to need to do some experimenting. Start by memorizing the information that came with the camera about focus distances. You'll probably find something like "Focus Distance: two feet (0.5m) to infinity." Common sense tells you that nothing is going to be in perfect focus at both two feet and infinity. You can safely assume that they're referring to reasonably acceptable depth of field, rather than focal point. Knowing that, you can therefore determine that the actual focal point is probably somewhere around 6–8 feet.

Take a few test pictures with a subject at that distance, and see if they're acceptably sharp. Then try a couple at 4 feet and 10 feet, and see what differences, if any, you can notice. You can "sharpen" pictures in the computer, too, by using the tools in a program such as Adobe Photoshop Elements or Jasc Paint Shop Pro.

Figure 3.13Figure 3.13 Holding the camera steady.

Autofocus cameras have their own set of problems, as previously noted. The main thing to remember when you use an autofocus camera is that the focusing mechanism is aimed at the center of the frame. If you're shooting a couple, it's entirely possible that the camera may try to focus through the gap between the people. Focus on one or the other, lock the focus if possible, recompose, and shoot before you let go of the focus lock, so the subjects stay in focus.

If you know that your autofocus camera uses sonar focusing, don't try to take pictures through a closed window. The sound waves bounce off the glass, and give you a perfectly focused window, with a blur beyond it (see Figure 3.14). This sometimes happens with infrared autofocus cameras, too, although a few seem to be able to look past the glass. The best workaround for this is to open the window!

Figure 3.14Figure 3.14 D'oh! If I'd rolled the window down, this would have been a nice shot.


If you must shoot through a closed window, as on a train or bus, hold the camera so it's at an angle to the glass. Then, infrared or sonic waves from the focusing device will bounce away from the camera instead of back at it, and the camera will autofocus at infinity, which is exactly what you want it to do.

If you're shooting a group of people or a scattering of objects such as a field of flowers and need as much depth of field as possible, focus about a third of the way back. Doing so will take advantage of as much sharpness as your lens can provide. Similarly, if you have two subjects—one at 6 feet away and the other at 12 feet—your focus should be at 8 feet, in order to take full advantage of the rule that depth of focus extends one-third in front of the focal point and two-thirds behind it.

Flash Workarounds

Cameras with built-in flash are very useful in certain situations. Obviously, when you're shooting indoors and haven't enough light, the flash fills in. You can also use it outdoors when you need a little extra light on a subject that's backlit or in shade. Some photographers are reluctant to use built-in flash, for several reasons. Having the flash mounted on the camera produces a flat, head-on light with no modeling effect. The roundness of the subject is lost. This isn't so bad if the subject is a piece of furniture, but if you're shooting a portrait, the effect may make it look more like a mug shot (see Figure 3.15).

Figure 3.15Figure 3.15 Notice the shadow directly behind his head.

With built-in flash, there are no shadows to add contour to the face. In fact, the only shadow you'll see is cast on the background right behind the subject's head. It may even merge with the head to the point where you can't tell what's hair and what's wall. The cure for this is quite simple. Place the subject between three and six feet in front of the background. This gives room for the shadow to fall harmlessly out of the way, and still sheds enough light on the background so that your subject won't appear to be looming out of a hole (see Figure 3.16). To avoid the flat look, have the subject turn his or her head slightly to one side.

Figure 3.16Figure 3.16 Moving the subject away from the background keeps the shadow out of the picture.


Use the same trick described in Figure 3.16 if you're shooting outdoors in the sun. Move the subjects far enough away from vertical surfaces so that their shadows aren't part of the picture.

Another problem with the built-in flash is that it casts bright highlights on reflective subjects. Occasionally, this effect is good, but sometimes the highlight is just too much glare. To soften it, tape a single layer of tissue over the flash, taking care that the tape and/or tissue doesn't interfere with the lens, meter, or anything else. The tissue should diffuse the light just enough to block the glare, without darkening the picture noticeably. Figure 3.17shows before and after examples.

A related problem is called "red eye" when it affects people and "green eye" when it affects animals. If the subject's pupils are wide open, as they tend to be in dim light, and you take a flash picture, the light reflects off the backs of the retinas and into the camera lens (see Figure 3.18). It's easy enough to fix in an image editing program like Photoshop Elements, but it's easier still to avoid it. Simply have the subject look somewhere other than at the camera. If that's not possible, for example if the shot has to be face forward, turn up the room lights as bright as possible, so the pupils of the subject's eyes are already as small as possible.

Figure 3.17Figure 3.17 The picture on the left was shot without tissue. The one on the right used the tissue to diffuse the light. Notice the harsher shadows in the picture on the left.

Figure 3.18Figure 3.18 Red eye is caused by light bouncing off the subject's retinas and back into the camera.

Exposure Workarounds

In general in digital photography, it's better to underexpose than to overexpose. If your pictures are a little too dark, you can usually lighten them enough to bring out the detail. If you have overexposed your picture, there's frequently no way to save it. The detail just isn't there. Use "bad" pictures to experiment with special effects. The photo in Figure 3.19 was shot just about at dawn. In the uncorrected version on the top, the details are lost in the darkness. Photoshop Elements's auto correct brought back most of the detail, and saved this one.

Figure 3.19Figure 3.19 Lighthouse at dawn.

Remember that you can correct for color temperature. If all you have available is fluorescent light, use it. If your subject's skin tones pick up a greenish cast from the lights, you can fix it later. If you have a couple of clip-on lights, but only standard household bulbs, go ahead and use them. A warm portrait is better than a dark one.

If you're planning to shoot pictures outdoors, be sure to consider the time of day and angle of the sun. You won't get a flattering portrait at high noon with the sun directly overhead, but you get better architectural shots then. Shoot the scenery midday, and save the people pictures for later, as the sunlight warms up and the sun's angle casts shadows.

If your camera enables you to see what you have shot, always stop and check after one or two pictures in a particular setting. You may decide to turn on another light or open a curtain. If you're outdoors, you may decide to move from sunlight to open shade, or to move so that the sun is over your shoulder.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020