Getting the Most Out of Your Camera

Blog Entry: March 23, 2011
Zach Schierl
(with additional comments by Park Ranger Renee Rusler)

It's surprising how many people think that simply having an expensive camera and fancy equipment is the key to getting good photographs. In reality, equipment plays a relatively minor (and oftentimes non-existent) role in the quality of your images. My favorite photograph I've ever taken was a shot of Waikiki Beach and the Honolulu skyline at night taken with a $200 point and shoot camera and its won awards in several photo competitions. There are innumerable factors that take precedence over camera quality when it comes to taking good photographs hence the old photographer's adage: the best camera is whichever one you have with you. Here are share some tips on how you can take great photographs even with inexpensive cameras:

Know how to use the camera: I know this sounds vague, but even the cheapest point-and-shoot cameras come with a ton of settings and features. These are there for a reason: because they give you more flexibility and can make your pictures better, so, experiment with them! Read the manual and learn what the buttons do. Most camera features really aren't as hard to understand at it might seem and if you don't understand the manual, then go ahead and try it out for yourself! It's digital after all, you're not wasting any film. While there's no magic setting that will get you great results regardless of the conditions, I can guarantee that you're not going to get very many great shots with the dial glued permanently to the "AUTO" setting.

Through a trick of lighting, the words on the grave stone are only visible in the shadow of the photographer.
James Young Jr. and Lucien Saunders are two of the names listed on the Great Grave.

NPS - Renee Rusler

Renee's comments: I already use many of the settings on the park's camera, but when I read this tip I decided to take another look at the camera's manual.

I found many pre-set functions that I had forgotten about. I set off this morning to explore the park and try a few.

One of the photos I liked the best was actually an accident. While taking photos of the scenery around the Great Grave using the snow setting, I took a shot of my shadow falling across the memorial slab. With the high contrast created from that setting, only those names within the shadow are seen.


Take lots of pictures: This is related to the last point in that if you want to learn how to maximize your camera's potential, you're going to need to take a lot of pictures in order to do so. That's the great thing about digital, you can take 50 shots of the same thing if you need to while you figure out what works and what doesn't. Obviously, taking this many pictures takes time and it's always great to get it right the first time but the advent of digital makes learning photography so much easier because you can instantly see what works without having to wait days or weeks to get a roll of film developed. You can always delete bad images later on so don't be afraid to fill up that memory card to the max, delete, and then fill it up again! With digital, there's really no such thing as taking too many pictures, at least not in my mind.

Renee's comments: I agree! I always try to take several versions of what I'm going for. A small difference in the camera setting, lightening, or facial expression can transform a so-so image into a keeper.

More tips coming soon.


See more entries from the blog: The Photographer's Eye

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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