Random Thoughts

Digital photography “secrets”

Written by Gail Bjork

I really don’t have any special knowledge that other seasoned photographers do not possess. But I can share some of how I think and what I do.

Sunrise at the beach

Photo by Gail Bjork

I was recently complimented by a photo forum participant about a photo I took with a true point-and-shoot camera, the Canon SD700. The reason I use the word “true” is that it has no manual controls.

The person wrote:

“You accomplish such wonderful results with your SD700 and this photo (of the sunrise) is yet another great example! You’ve got to share your secret.”


I really don’t have any special knowledge that other seasoned photographers do not possess. But I can share some of how I think and what I do.

Photo composition

As the famous photographer, Ansel Adams, said: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” It sure is!

Composition plays an important role in distinguishing between just a snapshot and a photograph. Not that you have to get it perfect at the scene but close enough so you can get a good crop when editing. Cropping, like all photo editing, is quite subjective. But with a careful eye, cropping can improve composition.

There are many principles of composition that can be used as guides, not hard and fast rules.

When shooting a scene like a sunset, I always try to include a foreground object. The scene looks more interesting and gives it context.

Exposing a photo

I decide how I want a photo exposed. Why leave it up the the camera?!

I frequently use the two step-shutter release button to lock exposure and then recompose. If necessary, I use AE-Lock and/or AF-Lock, very useful exposure features found on a number of digital cameras (check your manual)

In the sunrise photo, I locked exposure near the sun not on it so the area wouldn’t be too blown out. Depending on the lighting and subject, I try to expose for the brightest or near brightest part of a scene.

The resulting image may be a bit underexposed but that can be adjusted with image editing software. I much rather have an underexposed image that retains detail than one that contains blown areas with none.


As soon as I get a new digital camera, I switch focus to single area focus mode. Most are factory pre-set to continuous or some other new-fangled auto focus mode. Single area focus mode lets me focus on the subject where I want to.

The other focus modes may be okay such as when shooting video or faces, but I’ve rarely found them useful for general photo taking. Once I change to single area focus mode, “I set it and forget it.”

Luck and photography

For a number of my best shots, I simply got lucky. I was at the right place at the right time or something entered the image that I didn’t expect.

In the case of my sunrise photo, it was the bird flying in the sky. Darned if I saw it when I snapped the shutter button. It looks nice. I lucked out.

Keep shooting

With digital cameras, you can take plenty of photos and not worry about extra costs like when using film. So I always take lots and lots and lots of shots.

I move around and watch the subtle changes in composition and exposure on the LCD. If it looks good, I snap the shutter-release button. Just to make sure, I take more photos of the same scene, sometimes varying the angle.

Practice, practice, practice

I’ve practiced these techniques for a long time. Now they are second nature and I rarely even give them a thought. They are well-worth learning so practice them too.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.