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Picking my next camera

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

I have the basic little family camera which has been fine but I want to upscale my photography skills to take CLEAR, detailed pictures of flowers, birds etc with fine detail.

I currently have Kodak EasyShare ZD710 digital. I want to replace/upgrade to digital with enough pixils (i assume) to get the detail I want without spending $1000.

What recommendations do you have for a camera and books for easy tips on photography??

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)


For what you want to do, it will be difficult to stay in your budget. Flowers are easy. Many of the point and shoot (P&S) cameras on the market now will do fantastic closeups with lots of great detail. But, in order to get sharply focused, detailed photos of birds, you really need an SLR camera. Once you get the camera (around $600 and up), then you need lenses. A long telephoto lens capable of getting close up photos of birds with all of the nice feather detail will cost close to $1000 all by itself. And that's on the low end. The one I want costs $8000.

Now, if you can get very close (10 feet or less) to the birds you are photographing, that P&S will do just fine as long as it has a good OPTICAL zoom (at least 10X, but preferably more.) I stress the word optical because DIGITAL zoom is just marketing baloney. Ignore it. It does not make the camera better.

And you are right that megapixels do matter. The more you have, the more you can crop that photo and still be able to print it without a lot of pixelation and loss of detail. And you can really crop a lot if you just want to present the photo on the web or in e-mails. But if you get that really great shot and you want to blow it up to a big wallhanger print, you really need that optical zoom (or telephoto lens) to be able to get as close as possible and not have to crop too much.

As far as recommendations, I don't use P&S cams, so I'm not the best for that, but Miss Mary on the Photo Editing forums uses a Nikon Coolpix L110 and she gets fantastic closeups of critters (butterflies,etc) and flowers. It has 12.1 megapixels, so that's good and it has 15X zoom. I'm not sure they still make this one, but the newer L series Coolpix cam that Nikon makes (Coolpix L120) is a 14.1 megapixel cam and it has 21X zoom! It uses Nikon glass which is really good.

I'm sure others that use P&S can give you better recommendations though.

As far as books and tips, I prefer learning from an instructor so I can ask questions, so I took some classes to get some good basic info. They are offered at some of the camera stores in Houston and also at an organization called Leisure Learning as well as the community colleges. I don't know if there are similar ops in your area or not. I go to a lot of the photography forums and read, read, read. There are lots of tutorials on the web. Just google.

Hope this helps.

Have fun looking!


Rochester, MN

Not only can you stay with in your budget, you don't even need a new camera. I did a search for the camera that you said you have. The camera you have is not a point and shoot. It's what is called a bridge camera. They are the mid point between a point and shoot and the real DSLR's. I was going to point you in that direction, but you are already there, and the camera you already have has some decent #'s. 7mp, 10x zoom. It wasn't so long ago that you had to spend $1000+ to get a DSLR like that.
Here is a camera that would double the mp's and zoom that you have now for $400.
Fuji also makes some bridge cameras that are really good.
Now to be honest with you. The zoom on the L-120 would help with birds, but what you have right now is more than enough to give you good details in flowers. For most people it is not a matter of a better camera, but a matter of better skill with the camera they already have. 10x zoom is the equivalent to about a 250-300mm focal length lens. You could find tons of bird pictures online from that focal length lenses.
Do you have a tripod? That will help you quite a bit. Details in flowers and bird shots are at two different ends of the spectrum, focus on one (flowers will be easier and more accessible and you already have a fine camera for it ). Check your bookstore or library for some books about the picture taking you decide on. Check your camera store for photography classes. See if you can find your camera on flicker or some other photo sharing site. See what other people can do with your camera.

This message was edited Jun 16, 2011 9:03 AM

Talihina, OK

My message is that I agree with niceguy learn learn learn you might check with your local public library as they sometimes offer photo classes and work shops at our local library we are blessed with a wonderful librarian that is always getting something started and we will soon have a class on digital photography..We plan for it to be a semi competive show/judged format with assigned subjects each week and she even has some grant money for prizes ..I am the instructor only because she can always get me to do something and my other choice was to teah a bunch of pre teen kids in an art and crafts thing (SHUDDER)

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks for doing the research. I do need to take classes but have had this camera for 3 years or so and I guess lighting is a big issue for me. If I take pictures of birds while sitting on the deck I'm about 20 - 25 feet away from this shot - not enough focus or something.

While this isn't a bad shot it does not give the fine detail or closeness I would like.

This message was edited Jun 17, 2011 9:51 AM

Thumbnail by shihtzumom
Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

The foxtail lilies are stunning. I want to capture them in great deal and tried several shots with several settings yet I could not caputure it. I had a photo printed and it was just to blurred that I put it in the trash. I want clarity, detail -

I don't have a tripod but love walking around my yard for flower shots at different times of the day. As for birds I can set up a tripod but need a zoom that will get me the close up I desire.

Thumbnail by shihtzumom
Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

Lumix FZ-35 was suggested to me. I understand the lens on this camera is high quality. They suggested a book to get regarding lighting which I will order. But I'm just not sure if this is my camera not having the details I need or if it's user problems.

The clematis flower shows great detail but I'm still hit and miss with my shots after 2-3 years.

Thumbnail by shihtzumom
Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

I think you would benefit from a class to get the basics down. Your camera should be able to take the flower photos sharp and with a great deal of detail without any problem. I think the main thing to learn is the relationship between Aperture, Shutterspeed and ISO setting. That will help you when you want to stop action (wind), blur out backgrounds, compensate for backlighting and other situations. Once you have that down, I think you can use your camera to take excellent photos of closer subjects. However, you would still need more reach for the birds.

As far as getting that extra reach, you have two suggestions here. There are many, many more cameras. I would suggest that you visit a camera store and play with some to see how you like them. Some are a lot easier and more intuitive to use than others. Also look up the features and the specifications of each and compare the 35mm equivalent focal lengths to see which will get you closer to those birds.

Also, do your homework and stick to what you want, not what some salesperson in the store will suggest. Just looking at the two cameras that were suggested for you, the Panasonic Lumix and the Nikon Coolpix L120 that both Niceguy2 and I have mentioned, you can see some differences. The Nikon has more reach (25 to 525mm as the 35mm equivalent) compared to the Lumix (27 - 486mm), so that will get you just a tad closer to those birdies. It is also more megapixels (14.1 vs 12.7) which will help for cropping. It isn't a huge difference, but those two features would make me lean to the Nikon.

Hope all this helps and doesn't add to the confusion. There are just too many choices out there.

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

Here is what one person told me:
Leica lens: Leica is a super top quality manufacturer of lenses and cameras and they are considered one of the best in the world, far above Nikon and Canon.

So now I am very confused....was before tho. In my mind a camera that has more zoom will get me closer to the birds - right or wrong?

One with more megapixels will be more detailed and cropping will be easier to save the actual picture I want - right or wrong?

Just trying to get down a few basics. I would love to keep the camera I have and save the money, as I also need classes and will be buying a few books. I want to be able to reach out to those beautiful birds and capture the movement picture that are always so amazing. I'm reading all of your comments and greatly appreciate your time and hope it continues to pour in more info on this thread for suggestions, details, and book suggestions as well. I really want to capture the best picture for the best dollar.

Thanks to all of you

Rochester, MN

>>>I would love to keep the camera I have and save the money,... >>>

Perfect! Forget everything that is confusing you. I could point you to a group on Flicker for almost all of the popular cameras and you would look at the pictures and say WOW that's what I want.. BUT I there is a Flicker group for the camera you have right now and you couldn't tell the difference between the camera you have now and any new camera you could buy. Looking at Flicker groups for different cameras will lead you to go out and get a new camera, and leave you with the same quality of pictures. Looking at the Flicker group for your camera will show you what you can do if you get a better understanding of photography. If you can be happy with the camera you have that's great.

Birds... You are a bit short with the camera you have, BUT you haven't maxed out what your camera can do with even that shot. The image can be much improved. Maybe move the bird feeder closer.

Definitely check out some classes. I wouldn't go overboard on books. Most of what you can get from books you can get for free on the Internet or at the library.

Here is the Flicker group for your camera,

Her's the group for the L120,

This message was edited Jun 17, 2011 1:06 PM

This message was edited Jun 17, 2011 1:09 PM

This message was edited Jun 17, 2011 1:09 PM

Talihina, OK

I think that the lumix uses Leica lens not sure of that if so then it is not the high end Lieca lens you were told about ,not at the price of the Lumix ..Now that said I do just about what you are saying your main interest are and I use a Nikon but for the extreme zoom that you are wanting in a Nikon or most any high quality camera this will cost a cool 1k$ I looked at the birds at the feeder and the background seems to be just a tad sharper than the birds which suggest to me that there is some problem with the focus on this camera or just maybe a little bit of wind ..For my backyard birds I use a cheap blind I sit in it and let the birds come to me (feeder) but whatever you use get a tripod ,this pic is with a short lens but I was very close and used a very fast shutter as I recall

Thumbnail by grits74571
Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Excellent advise from Niceguy2. I really think you should learn more about photography before you buy another camera. Then you will know better what you need and will be able to make a better choice later if you find you really need that extra reach for the birds.

But, to answer some of your questions...

Yes, more zoom gets you closer, but you have to look at more than just the zoom. You have to look at the 35mm equivalent focal length. Here's why:

If you have a zoom lens that starts at 15mm and is 10X, it goes to 150mm.
If you have a zoom lens that starts at 35mm and is 8X, it goes to 280mm. So, the 8x actually has greater reach than the 10X, but it will not be as wide angle on the small end. Pay attention to where they start. Always look at the 35mm equivalent focal length so that you are comparing apples and apples.

Yes, more megapixels will allow more cropping and lose less detail. There is more to this regarding pixel density and noise though, but probably too confusing so I won't go there.

GLASS - This is just my opinion here. Everyone has one... ^_^
Leica does make some of the finest glass in the world. They do have a great reputation for cameras and glass, but that reputation was established back in the film days especially with their rangefinder cams. They are still in use today and those that have a Leica M8, for example, love them. They have a digital version of that camera and it does have a niche, but it is not for me and it hasn't really been a big seller.

As far as I'm concerned, Leica is behind when it comes to the digital world. They have partnered with Fuji in the past and just rebranded the Fuji cams and put their big red L on them. Now more recently they have partnered with Panasonic to put their glass in the Panasonic digital cameras. The Leica glass does make the Panasonic camera better, but Nikon, Canon and Sony are the leaders in digital cameras. In my opinion, they have far better sensors and more importantly far better algorithms that convert the digital information collected by the sensor into what you see. They have better high pass filters and better image stabilization and many other features that in my opinion blow Panasonic out of the water. And as far as the quality of the glass goes, Nikon and Canon (can't speak for Sony - don't have any) have made huge improvements in their glass, especially in coatings. They are not that different than Leica and could even be better by now for some lenses.

The small difference in Leica glass and Nikon/Canon glass is not worth buying a camera based just on that. There are so many other things to consider.

But many photographers are very brand loyal, similar to motorcycle fans or car fans. If you ask my DH, if it isn't a Harley, it isn't a motorcycle. LOL. I haven't been at it long enough to have a favorite.All of my digital equipment is Canon. So, even though I am a Canonite, I don't hesitate to recommend that Nikon. There are good and bad features on all the cameras.

Just learn to use the one you have. Read the manual and play with all of the settings. Once you can get good shots out of it, you will know exactly what you want for your next camera.

Also, to comment on Niceguy2's advice about getting closer to the feeder. Check out Alan Murphy. Look at his blog ( ) and consider getting his CD ( ) regarding photographing birds in your back yard. He has some awesome tips that make for really good, clutter free, bird photos.

Another Alan Murphy tip:

Much of what is in the CD you can find on his blog or on other sites, but I do enjoy having all that info in one place on the CD.

Whew, that was way too wordy. When I get wound up on camera stuff, I can't stop.


Rochester, MN

Thanks Patti,

Kathy, if you have desided to keep your camera, let's get you started with a plan. I know you said that you enjoy walking in your garden taking pictures, but this is for more focused on learning. You can do the walk around pleasure photos, but think of this part as more disciplined picture taking. Get a tripod. You want control over your focus point so that the information you get from your camera and how it makes adjustments each picture is the same. Second. Do you have Picaso or some other photo editing software that you can download your pictures to? You want something that will give you accecss to a historigram of each of your pictures.

There used to be a game show on TV years ago. I'm sure you would not be old enough to remember it :) It was called 'Let's Make A Deal'. The last play of every show usually had people choosing from a choice of three curtains. There is a thing on all cameras called a command wheel. It has letters and symbols on it like A,Av,Tv,P,etc, and there are symbols like a mountain, a flower, a girls head, a runner,etc. Each of those is like a curtain on that TV show, and everyone has a winner behind it somewhere. A winner being a perfect picture.

If you set your camera on a tripod, set your ISO to one setting, maybe 200, and to one of those modes on your command wheel, and made all the possible adjustments you could make in that mode you would eventually make a nice picture. You could do that in all of the modes on your command wheel.

1. Use a tripod to get the same focus point in each picture. You can move the camera and tripod around to differant things in your garden, but you want to take a group of pictures with the camera set to just one mode and one ISO and make all the possible adjustments you can make each time. It's about 10 or 15 .
2. Download your pictures to Picaso. When you take your pictures you are only going to use one mode on your camera. So when you download your pictures create a file for each of the modes on your camera.
3. When you do get that perfect picture you can look at the historigram and see what the settings your camera wer e when that picture was taken. Then you can set your camera to those settings and go out and try to duplicate your success. W or w/o the tripod if you like.

Sorry, but I worked until 2AM last night and I have to go back now in an hour. There was something I know I forgot to mention, but I can't remember it now. I know there are somethings to be corrected with the instructions here, anyone else please feel free to do so. Thanks

Oh, it was to say that you should chose one of the letter symbols on your command wheel, not one of the pictures.

Patti, please post any ideas you have.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Quote from shihtzumom :
Lumix FZ-35 was suggested to me. I understand the lens on this camera is high quality. They suggested a book to get regarding lighting which I will order. But I'm just not sure if this is my camera not having the details I need or if it's user problems.

The clematis flower shows great detail but I'm still hit and miss with my shots after 2-3 years

I have a Lumix FZ-40, the FZ-35s predecessor. Lumix cameras have Leica lenses. I was told by my photography instructor that the Leica lens is one of the very best (Leica cameras are professional grade and start at around $700 for the cheapest of the cheap and run on up into the 10s of thousands from there.)

I love my Lumix. If you're getting soft focus issues my guess would be the problem is camera shake. Image quality with my FZ-40 is great, and there are some folks who say the FZ-35 is actually better in that regard. It's hard to get a good macro shot without a tripod, so if you're not using one that would be something to try. The same goes for using a long lens--camera shake can really be an issue. A tripod will help. I set up my scene and use the auto timer so that I'm completely hands-off when the shot is taken.

Here are some photos I've taken with the Lumix FZ-40:

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

Love all this detail and can't wait to see what I can do with the camera I have.

I checked out the pictures and yes, my camera can do just as well as the L120 in that comparison of pictures.

The tripod would make a huge difference and I agree reading my manual after all this time will help 'remind me' of things I forgot or overlooked while being so anxioud to take pictures. The books that I ordered from Amazon will provide additional techniques as well.

One thing I do not like about my camera is how slow it is to take the picture and worse - taking the 2nd shot. I can hit the button and it's just to long before the camera actually snaps the picture. Even longer when I want to snap a 2nd shot of the same thing. That is a major problem with my camera.

I use Picasa for all pictures.

I do try taking the same shot with different settings. However I haven't paid much attention to the 3 buttons on top of the camera where there is an arrow, a flower beside peaks, and a multiple or rewind type icon. I use the wheel and button to choose flower in bright light, candle light, snow scenes, or even camera adjusts for me. Lots to learn and taking time to read my manual now will be the starting point.

(51 here and I LOVED "lets make a deal")

Lots to consider

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

Got my manual out and started to learn more about it. I went to Amazon and found this deal:

Deluxe Accessory Kit with Deluxe Padded Carrying Case + 4GB High Speed SDHC Card + Charger with 4 AA Rechargeable Batteries + Tripod + DB ROTH Bonus Accessory Kit for Kodak EasyShare Z650 ZD710 Z712 IS Z812 IS Z885 Z1275 & Z1285 Digital Cameras by Deluxe
Buy new: $58.49

The tripod alone is $25. I currently have a 1 GB card that came with the camera in 2007 but I normally load my pics right after taking them. So not sure how much use the extended memory card would be. As for the battery I normally use the $10 camera battery from walmart that isn't rechargeable. It's fine and I've tried store brand rechargeables and really wasn't pleased - however these are Kodak -

what's your thoughts? I want to see what I can get out of my camera with the tripod, reading and resetting my camera etc before making a big purchase

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

I would avoid that package deal, but that's just me. I think that at some point you will want to upgrade your camera to one that has more reach and that doesn't have such a long lag time (that time between when you push the shutter and the camera actually trips the shutter.) The card could possibly still be useful depending on what you upgrade to, but the batteries will not. I never put my tripod in a case, so that would not be of use to me.

I went to a few review sites and see that your cam is in the 0.3 to 0.4 second range for shutter lag. The Nikon Coolpix L120 is reported to be 0.1 seconds lag time and the Lumix is even faster - approaching dSLR speed as per the reviewer, so that would be a good reason to consider the Lumix. When it is time to upgrade, if you can, go to a store, and take a photo with the cams you are interested in. For bird photography, it is important to have a short lag time.

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

Here is a picture I took this morning after 5 minutes adjusting a couple of settings, without tripod -

Thumbnail by shihtzumom
Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

another of the sweet pea

Thumbnail by shihtzumom
Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

my clematis

I use the pictures for enjoyment at home and would like to print some for wall decor but otherwise, I'm not sure at this point that I need to upgrade after giving some thought to reading my manual, adjusting, getting a tripod, and reading a few basic books. I've never done any of those things. I'm hopeful to get this camera down to where I'm happy -

Thumbnail by shihtzumom
Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Wow! Those are fantastic! I think you are well on your way to mastering that camera. Those shots are very sharp, detailed, great color and exposure and the last one is a very lovely composition. You have some great models to work with. ^_^ I do think that you can get a lot of mileage out of your camera now that you are learning what it can do and taking over control rather than letting the camera decide how to take the photo, especially for flowers.

Once you get the technical aspects of the camera down, work on your compositions. You will learn about rule of thirds, leading lines, and many other tricks to make the images pleasing to the eye.

One of my favorites when possible is to try to isolate my subject and make sure nothing is close to it in the background. At times that isn't possible though. Sometimes I am in the dirt shooting up against the blue sky. People think I have lost my mind, but it works. If you can keep any distracting objects (telephone poles/wires, (the trees in your first two shots) out of the shots, it helps a lot to make the viewer see what you want him/her to see and not have them wonder what kind of trees those are, etc.

Here's another thing you can try - Blur Background using shallow Depth of Field

If you can get a flower isolated and just have green grass or blue sky behind it, another trick is to use a large aperture (small f-stop number) to blur the background.

Here's how to do it with your camera if you want to give it a try.

Look on pages 37 to 38 of your manual regarding the PASM mode settings. Set your camera for the A (Aperture Priority) mode.

Put some object (vase of flowers for example) on a stool or something in your yard so that the background is at least 20 feet away. Farther is even better. Get around 4 or 5 feet away from your object and take a photo on the largest f-number you can set on your camera and take another one around mid-range and take one on the smallest f-number.

Look at the background on the different shots.

One way to remember how this works is that Big f Number - Lots of things in focus from foreground to background, Small f number (like f2.8) - less things in focus. At times, you can get the Depth of Field (DOF) too small and you can't even get all of your subject in focus. It takes lots of experimenting to know how to set it up.

Another thing to remember is that the closer your camera is to your subject and the farther away your subject is from the background, the more you can blur the background.

Don't forget to put that mode back where you had it when you are done.

Hopefully I'm not giving you too much all at once.

Have fun,

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

this is amazing info and something I will need to read more than a few times to grasp. I understand the bluring background theory. The tree in the first 2 shots has the sweet pea clinging to it. See the top of the first picture - where the davesgarden logo is - you can see the green arms holding on to the tree.

Going to pick up a battery for that camera while it's 93!!! HOT

Can't wait to learn more. You guys are all wonderful to help and explain things in beginner terms.

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Kathy, You are a joy to help. It's so nice when someone is enthusiastic and willing to try things.

I can see that it wasn't possible to avoid those trees. So, you did the best you could and got some wonderful photos. Sometimes thats just the way it is. I have lots of photos that I wish I could have been a little farther to the left or a little closer or ...

I can't wait to see more of your shots.


Rochester, MN

>>>Here is a picture I took this morning after 5 minutes adjusting a couple of settings>>>

People often say that when you go on a vacation,it's safer if you can try not to look like a tourist. Photography is a bit like that.

There are a couple things you can do each time you start out taking pictures that won't make you look... more importantly FEEL like a tourist.

1, There is a rule called the 'sunny 16' rule. The rule doesn't change only the conditions you are taking your pictures in. trust the rule and make changes according to the conditions.

2. There is a thing called 'bracketing'. You have automatic modes on your camera where the camera selects the settings and there are manual modes where you select the settings. Learn which manual mode you would use to copy the the settings from the automatic modes. After that try taking a picture in an automatic mode and try to set your camera manually to those settings. Then you can start manually bracketing the settings of the automatic modes. Keep the same ISO, but change the f-stop up and down in one group and then change the shutter speed up or down in another group.

Confusing?It's like cooking and tweaking a recipe. You add the same amount of water each time, but if the recipe calls for a cup of sugar, you try to use only 2/3s of a cup one time, next time you try 1-1/3 cup. Next time you change the flour, or butter.

Take a picture in auto or any of the auto modes, then change your f-stop in one group up or down in a manual mode. Next time keep the same ISO and change your shutter speed up or down.

Great pictures. Waiting to see more.


Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

OH my gosh - was that confusing. LOL I'm still trying to keep in mind what the f-stop is- after looking at my manual only once and making a few adjustments. I'll do over it again and see what I can do.

Going back to the manual! See - I'm really in need of basic info on my camera that could make a difference. I want to learn to operate my camera first and see what I can get before spending another pocket of money and get mad because the pictures still suck! LOL

Thanks to all and watch for more.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I bought this book for my mom and read through it (I know it's cheating) before giving it to her. It's a really good tutorial on the basics. And whatever the book asks you to do, you can consult your owner's manual for help on how to do it.

And this one's sort of the next step up, after you've got some of the beginner stuff down:

My photography teacher taught me 3 principles that have served me better than any other thing I've learned about taking good pictures (and I'm by no means a great photographer, but I've improved drastically since learning these things):

1.) LOOK FOR THE LIGHT. Photography is all about light. The word photography literally means "writing with light." For flower photographs, your best lighting conditions are "bright overcast"--a cloudy day where the cloud layer is fairly thin and the light is soft and diffuse. If your camera has a viewfinder--use it instead of the LCD screen. Looking through that viewfinder you'll get a better idea of how you're framing your photograph and just how the light looks. Notice where the light is striking your subject and use different angles to make the most of the light. Don't see how light's making a difference? Set up a tripod. Look at your subject as is, and then prop a piece of white cardboard or paper next to it (trying to catch the sun's reflection) and look again. You should see a big difference. Try propping a piece of yellow or gold-toned paper (a manilla envelope, perhaps) there and look again. Voila! Different light. (Not necessarily better, but different. You're the judge of what looks better.) One of my favorite photographs where I feel I caught some lovely, soft backlighting is this one:

2.) PAY ATTENTION TO TEXTURES. Textures make a photograph interesting. When I discovered that I liked texture I got some really cool shots. Some of my favorite photos are texture-based. ( And texture also plays off light. You can't have intriguing shadows if the surface you're shooting doesn't have some texture. Just being aware that there are fascinating textures everywhere will make you a better photographer.

3) USE THE RULE OF THIRDS. No rule is hard and fast, but this one is a golden basic and learning it will help you take better pictures. Rather than me trying to explain it, here's a good tutorial: (And that site is also full of lots of super beginner information plus a great deal of advanced stuff for when you get better at wielding a camera.)

Hope that helps (and also simplifies things a bit.) :)

This message was edited Jun 22, 2011 10:46 AM

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

The Sunny 16 rule is setting the camera aperture at f/16 and 1/ISO for your shutter speed on a sunny day. If your ISO is set for 100 then your shutter speed would be 1/100 of a second. This is a good rule if your exposure meter is not working. Most times you will never need this except when taking pictures of a full moon or some other bizarre lighting condition.

Bracketing is moving your shutter speed (or aperture) up or down from normal exposure. If your exposure is given as f/8 at 1/100 and you move your f stop to f/5.6 and leave the shutter speed alone (manual mode) then you increase your exposre (overexpose) and if you move the f stop to f/11 then you decrease your exposure (underexpose). You can also move your shutter speed and let your f stop alone and get the same effect (typically this is how it is done).

But the easier way to do this is use exposure compensation (let the camera do the heavy lifting). You should be able to compensate in 1/3 stops from -2 to +2 with the right combination of certain knobs/dials. This way you keep what the camera thinks is the right exposure but you are compensating to what you think looks best.

There is also auto-bracketing where you can take 3 pictures or more (depends on camera make and model) of the same scene but vary the exposure for each shot. This way you can pick the best or combine them (look at HDR for instance) for getting all the details in shadow and bright spots.

One other point is tones. The camera tries to average a scene to mid gray. If you shoot a snow scene and it comes out grayish then you need to overexpose to get the white colors. If you shoot a black cat and it comes out grayish then you need to underexpose to get the black colors.

Rochester, MN

In between going to Flicker and looking at the pictures people took with different cameras and then going out and buying the different cameras thinking my pictures would get as good as the ones on Flicker, I bought different books thinking I would get the same results w/o having to get a new camera. :)

I couldn't tell you how many times I have been trained in on a new job or a new machine, went through all the training, got left in 'the fog of training', JUST able to do the job. 6 months later a light would go on about how to do something and THEN I would remember back to my training and think THAT'S what he was talking about.

Many people would find learning photography easier if they;
1. Learned JUST what each of the automatic programs stands for.
2. Learned which of the manual programs is best to copy the settings a camera would choose in each of the automatic modes.
3. Learn how to JUST COPY the settings from an automatic mode to the best manual mode.
4. Learn how to COPY and BRACKET from the automatic settings.

Learning in that order eliminates the unknown. There is always the auto modes to go back to.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Good advice, niceguy.

For me, I wanted to learn about composition first, so I worked strictly in my Lumix's Intelligent Auto mode at first, or used auto presets for macros, sports mode, etc. Once I had a better understanding of composition and lighting my photos improved by leaps and bounds. I got a few bad shots (90% of the time the bad ones had blown out highlights), but most of them were good enough to make me feel like I'd accomplished something.

I didn't want to get lazy, though, so I started working in manual mode once I had the hang of things. That's where I am now--trying to fiddle with manual mode to do interesting and creative things or improve my shots. But if I'm in a hurry or don't have time to fiddle with my camera, back into manual mode I go.

I'm a firm believer that developing your eye first is essential to taking nice photos.

Rochester, MN

KaylyRed, I was a bit worried that you might take some offence to my post after your recommendation of those books. I kind of undercut your post.

I was thinking about this last night at work and a thought came to mind.

Adults have a whole different mindset about photography than kids do about playing video games. An adult buys a camera and has all the thoughts about getting books to help learn different things, but a kid gets an Xbox and their only thought is to plug it in and turn it on. Some kids lose interest in it pretty soon, but they don't struggle with it for years thinking they need a new or better player or a new book like adults do with photography. There are so many books for all the aspects of photography, lighting, composure... but try to find a book about balance and momentum on rollerbades or a skateboard. :)

Learning photography IS challenging. Why is it though you can give a kid a camera, cell phone or any kind of electronics and they master it in a few months and the adults struggle with it for years and fall into all these quagmires of thinking they need a better one or a book about it? I think the only thing most people need is some simple instruction to get them to a place where they can function with their camera.

If a person can go from the girl icon to Ap mode and figure out that if they set the 'f with a number after it' higher or lower it will make their pictures lighter or darker,how much of a difference does it make if they don't know they are changing their exposure? Children build a vocabulary before they learn grammar, but the way we teach photogrhphy is just the opposite of that. For a lot of people that doesn't work. It just sells a lot of cameras and books.

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Niceguy1, I think you have hit upon something very important. Everyone learns differently.

I have taken several education courses since I have to do a lot of teaching in my job. One of the things that they taught us is that the most successful teachers know how their students learn best and when possible they teach each individual a little bit differently.

I am a very graphically oriented person. I like graphs and charts and pictures to learn. My sister just wants to read words. Charts confuse her. I like to take classes so I have an expert that can answer my questions. My husband hates taking classes and just wants to read books to learn. I can ask a teacher a question and get an answer in a few minutes. He would rather read for 3 hours searching for his answer rather than listen to a teacher drone on in class. So, to each his own.

I am very technically oriented. I never felt that I had control of the camera until I understood the relationship between aperture and shutterspeed. I know that smaller apertures (big f stop numbers) let in less light, so to get the same exposure you need a slower shutterspeed. I know how the aperture can affect the depth of field. I've read my manual several times and refer to it all the time. But, I know people that don't have a clue about the technical aspects and they take incredible photos. So, there is no right or wrong.

I think that it is good that several of us with very different points of view are offering help.

Kathy, You have the hard job - picking and choosing between all of the advice to see what works best for you. And based on the results from your last photos, I think you are doing great!

Keep shooting!


Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

You are all amazing and I'm so thankful for your input. Maybe knowing me would help you understand my view point.

I'm very creative and love seeing things as something they are not.
Reading instructions to put something together sucks! I prefer looking at the picture to put it together.
I am educated, worked as an administrative assistant at Va Tech for 23 years and the last 4 years were for VP level - but yet never spell check my comments on DG - it is what it is. (sorry)
For me - I need basic info at this point because I'm the kid who picked up the xbox and didn't read - just plugged it in. Instead of getting tired of it I'm becoming more interested in it.

I want to know what my buttons mean, I have no concept at the point of f - anything. I'm really the 101 girl. I think I have the ability to find the right shot - I just need to know my camera and lighting techniques first. I really have a problem getting a good shot of white clematis for example. It's never clear, always to bright, making for a white flower but without detail.

My 2 books arrived today so reading will begin. My camera manual is also printed. Knowing the basics like NICEGUY said is what I need most help with at this point. I love seeing the links and what amazing picture you all have captured. Keep the info coming as you have time and I WILL be coming back to this thread as I learn. This will also be helpful to so many others in my situation. A thread that will go down in history at DG.

Thanks to all

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Kathy, That helps!

Here's what's happening on your white flowers.

Unless you set them up for a different meter (spot for example) most default camera meters will do some type of average of the entire scene you are photographing. If your white flower is not a huge part of the overall scene, the camera will expose for everything else and the white will be overexposed (called "blown out" by photographers). I have this same problem when I am photographing a white egret in the middle of a dark pond. If I don't compensate, the bird will be a white blob with no feather detail. And just the opposite, if I shoot a bird against a bright sky, the bird will be a black silhouette.

Here's an exercise for you. Take a photo of a white flower the way you normally would. Now, set up your camera as on Page 38 of your manual where they talk about Exposure Compensation. Decrease the exposure and take the same photo. See if it makes a difference. If it is too dark, set the compensation somewhere in between and do it again. If not dark enough to see detail, decrease it more.

The more of the flower in the scene, the less compensation you need. After you experiment a while, you will just know that you need to dial in some compensation.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

If it is a white flower you want then you may want to increase exposure to keep it white instead of making it a grayish flower. Detail should not be lost except in the shadows (if you meter on the white petals).

Here is a good article of keeping a snow scene white instead of gray (same principle applies if the scene is mostly white flowers or clouds or whatever).

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)


Good information on getting the exposure correct on snow. And I agree that if the scene is mostly white (flowers or whatever), that would work. However, in the case of the flower that Kathy says is too bright, I don't think it will help for a couple of reasons. The flower is already too bright and Kathy's camera doesn't have a spot meter.

Metering on the white petals and increasing the exposure compensation (EC) to keep from getting the gray color will only work if you have a spot meter on your camera. Best I can tell from the manual, Kathy's camera does not have the option of changing meters, so it probably just uses center weighted average or some other averaging algorithm for metering. When you have a white subject (flower, bird or whatever) as only a part of the scene and not the dominant part, the camera meter will "see" all of the darker part of the view and will expose for the average which will overexpose the white resulting in loss of detail as Kathy said she is seeing.

Hard to tell not being there, but I think that the best way to get the correct exposure for the white flower with Kathy's camera is to use the Exposure Compensation feature. The rest of the photo will be somewhat dark, but the flower will be correctly exposed if she decreases the exposure some. Trial and error will tell how much is needed.

Hopefully this makes sense.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Agreed on if the flower is only part of the scene but if it is the major part of the scene then it doesn't matter if the meter is center weighted, spot, matrix, or any other mix - the camera will still try to go to mid gray.

Rochester, MN

I hope this doesn't confuse you, maybe it will help.

What exposure is could also be thought of as saying to make a combination. Exposure means to create a combination. The two elements that create this combination are aperture and shutter speed. When you see f-whatever that is referring to your aperture. Lets call aperture a different name, OPENING. When you see 1/whatever that is referring to your shutter speed, lets call that TIME.

Imagine yourself in a room with window. Inside the room it is hot, outside it is cold, but you don't like to be hot or cold, you like your EXPOSURE to be warm. So the best thing for you to do is stay inside the room and cool the hot room with cold air using the window. How fast you get warm can depends upon how wide you OPEN the window or on how long (TIME) you open the window. Makes sense?

Cameras only see color. We see grass, cameras see green. We see sky, cameras see blue.

Let's make this the simplest we can, let's talk about black and white. Black and white is to your camera what hot and cold was to you in that room earlier. Cameras try to make your pictures grey. Grey not in the sense of plain like a grey sheet of paper, but grey in the sense of balance. Maybe someone can explain that better. Your white clematis is mostly leaves with a white flower. The camera sees that as mostly dark black with a white circle (talking only black and white) So to make a grey(warm) picture it is going to let in more light(cold) either by OPENING the window wide for a short amount of TIME, or a just a crack for a longer amount of TIME.

Hang a dark towel over a chair to make a dark background for a light colored object. Do that again with a light colored towel and a dark object. If you came record what the camera settings were for each picture post the pictures here with the settings and some of the people here can try to explain to you what the #'s mean and what the camera was trying to do. It will help you understand what is happening with your white clematis.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

I took this recent picture of a zinnia with my Wife's old point-and-shoot Kodak model Z712IS. One of my hobbies is raising and breeding zinnias. The "IS" in the model name stands for Image Stabilization, and that is very handy for me because a tripod is cumbersome in my garden, so I hand hold all of my shots. (Some day I might try a monopod.) The camera has no screw threads to attach a close-up lens or filter, so that is a limitation. But it does have a "Flower Mode" that lets it focus closer, so I use that for most of my flower pictures.

Some day I hope to get an SLR (probably a Canon or a Nikon) and a good macro lens for it, but for the time being my Wife's old point-and-shoot is "good enough". I continue to be surprised by the effectiveness of its image stabilization. (And how frequently I have to re-charge its batteries.)


Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

This is helping and I am getting a notebook to make notes for my 101 info - as the hot room story makes sense to someone with no camera experience -other than point and shoot and tweek with picasa.

Here is one of MANY pictures of several white clematis/flowers that turn out this way. Doesn't matter if it's in daylight, dusk, dark. I have tried setting for low light, candle light, no flash, snowy scenes, etc. I don't write down the numbers, or didn't prior to your teachings. But the pictures all turn out this way regardless of settings -so far!!

Thumbnail by shihtzumom
Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

this is a different clematis

Thumbnail by shihtzumom

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