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by Phil Ball

Q. I've often heard friends say that they could take better pictures if only they had a better camera. I'm inclined to think that the photographer's skills are more important than their camera. Is that true?

A. Today's cameras, including newer cell phone cameras, are quite adequate to the task of taking fine photos. For a photographer to get the best results from their camera, they need to be very familiar with their camera so they can take pictures more quickly before they get away. Compare a series of pictures taken at different ISO settings to determine how high you can set the ISO (the sensitivity of your camera's sensor) and still get acceptable quality.

It only costs some of your time to take digital images so take the same photo repeatedly using ISOs of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc. Open the images on your computer using an app such as Window's PHOTOS and look closely at smooth areas such as blue sky and dark shadows to see where noise becomes a problem. By knowing your upper limits, you may be able to comfortably take photos at ISO 1600 which would allow you to take photos in dim light without using flash or a tripod.

Spend an afternoon looking at many of your photos and you may notice that your camera tends to wash out the highlights. This is easily fixed by setting your exposure compensation to a minus figure to compensate for this. Read your camera's instruction manual to learn the minimum focusing distance before you need to switch to macro mode? This is commonly about three feet so visualize a yardstick between you and your subject to decide if you need to use macro settings (the tulip symbol). How close does your macro setting allow you to focus?

Get to know your camera's menu so you know what settings you can change and quickly change them without thinking when you take photos. Learn the fastest way to change your settings. An afternoon's worth of study can make you a much better photographer and give you better photos with your present camera.

Published: Courier 3/21/15 - Page 12A