Shoot Like a Pro
One of the benefits of using digital media instead of film, says Ratcliff, is the photographer's ability to shoot and preview hundreds of photographs before deciding which ones to print—an advantage that can make it possible for even a novice photographer to capture images like a professional.
Though it's easy to delete unwanted shots and inexpensive home computer software programs offer correction for things like red-eye, incorrect exposure, and even blurriness, Ratcliff says that the trick to capturing artful, fun family photos is to read your camera's user manual and become familiarized with the symbols and settings before trying to capture spontaneous magic moments.
"Digital cameras have little symbols on them, and it's not readily apparent what they mean," he says. "The symbols are not universal, and they differ from one brand to another as to their meanings, so learn them. Learn the knobs. Learn the screen settings."
Ratcliff says many digital cameras are equipped with auto-focus sensors, selective focusing grids or infrared pre-flash settings that will eliminate red-eye, but the technology, although helpful in certain situations, may not be conducive to getting the best shots of your family.
"In the sense that your subject could react to it, a red-eye, pre-flash could ruin your photograph, especially if you're photographing a young child," he says. "Some of the red-eye flashes go on too long, and some are much quicker, so it's important to research the various modes on your camera before shooting."
Ratcliff recommends against running out and purchasing a color printer, since many drugstores and wholesale chains offer inexpensive direct printing from digital memory cards or CDs. For the digitally challenged, he says, any sort of mentoring can be helpful. "Talk to the people who make your prints, and ask them why things are too light or too dark. Maybe they can give you some ideas," he says.