Basic Techniques

The digicam dance: moving from film to digital

Written by Uncle Frank

Learn why so many experienced SLR users get frustrated when they first use a digital camera.

DanceYou can excel at dancing the Rumba, but if you try to use the same steps to Tango music, you’ll fail miserably.

You can be a top notch photographer with an Single Lens Reflex 35mm camera, but still trip over your feet when you first begin using a compact digital camera (digicam). The rhythm is totally different.

Let’s take a look at the steps basic to both photographic dances: Compose – Focus – Shoot

1-2-3 rhythm

With an SLR, the rhythm is 1-2-3. Once you find a subject, you first compose, then focus, and shoot. Actually, since SLR Auto-Focus systems are so fast, 2 and 3 are generally regarded as a single step.

Humming birdThat dance sequence fails miserably with a digital camera, which is why so many experienced SLR users get frustrated when they first use one.

They complain about unworkable “shutter lag” but the real culprit is the contrast based Auto-Focus system, which for some cameras can take over a second to lock on to a subject.

Using the 1-2-3 sequence, by the time the camera records the picture, the subject may have moved completely out of the frame!

2-1-3 rhythm

FlowersThe Digicam Dance is done to the rhythm of 2-1-3. Find a subject and then focus, compose, and shoot. Once you’ve focused, the actual shutter delay is less than 100mS, which is less than your brain delay (reflex times).

You just need to pre-focus, using the half-push-and-hold technique, on the area where the action will be. Wait for the right moment, and then push the shutter-release button the rest of the way down. You’ll be amazed at how little “shutter lag” there is, and at how easily you can stop a moving subject.

The three photos in this article are samples of action shots taken with my Nikon CoolPix 5700 using the digicam steps.

See? It’s as easy as 2-1-3. Happy shooting!