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Compact, point-and-shoot cameras are convenient, travel-ready, and inexpensive. They're also more capable—and complex—than ever. In Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera, photographer Derrick Story shows how to use a compact camera to take photos that rival those of far more expensive cameras. Derrick shows how to get the most out the camera's lens as you shoot wide-angle, telephoto, and even macro shots. Derrick also discusses the camera's exposure system and clarifies the differences among ISO settings and scene modes. He also shows how to get the best pictures in a variety of lighting conditions, including making judicious use of the flash to supplement existing light.
Well, I am going to show you a technique right now that you don't do in the field, that you actually do in the computer. And it's extending the length of your telephoto lens, so you have better reach, and doing so in a way where you don't lose any image quality. That's really pretty cool. So what are we dealing with here? Well, here are my little Canon S90, my telephoto lens tops out to 22.5 mm and in regular photo talk, that's 105 millimeter lens.
So it's nice aperture but it doesn't have tremendous reach. As you can see, I shot this shot of the hydrangea at 22.5. So I racked it out as far as I could go. There was a fence between me and this flower and I couldn't get any closer and of course, I didn't have a more powerful lens. But I want a closer shot. I don't like this brown stuff up here. This is wasted information and I don't like this brown thing down here. So what I want to do is get closer without losing any quality and we're going to do that in our image editor.
I am going to use Photoshop Elements. However, this works in just about any image editor on the planet. So we'll go ahead and let's just open with Photoshop Elements right here. So here we are. I am going to hit Command+Minus and this is going to give us a little breathing room here by reducing the size. Now I am going to use the cropping tool to do this. So I'm going to up to Image and Crop and right away we get our little cropping frame here. I want to print this on 5x7 paper.
So I want to make sure I have enough resolution after I crop and I want to make sure the proportions are right, so that it prints perfectly on a 5x7 sheet of paper. So I'm going to go up to Aspect Ratio here and choose 5x7. Now, no matter how I move things it stays within that aspect ratio. If I move it down a little bit, so that I get rid of the yucky brown stuff up here, get rid of all of this black stuff here, avoid this yucky brown stuff down here, [00:02:07.8] to sort of position it the way that I want, and I hit Return.
I'm going to hit Command+Plus. We're going to make it little bit bigger, and you'll see that I now have a 5x7 cropped image here and I have it at 339 ppi. [ What does that mean? Well, if I were to make a print, then I'd need at least 150 ppi as sort of my minimum and most people top out at 300. If they feel like they don't need anymore than that. So here I am at 5x7 with 339. I have plenty of resolution.
So I have gotten closer and I've extended my lens of my little compact and I haven't given up anything at all. Now if you're curious about how far could I push this. Could I make an 8x10, an 8x11, could I make a 13x19? Here is how you check it. Go up to Image, go to Resize, go to Image Size. You get this dialog box and this is on most applications, most image editor applications. Make sure Resample is unchecked because we don't want to add pixels and we don't want to take away pixels; we just want to see what we can do with the pixels we have.
So the Resample stays unchecked, and go okay, how big of a print could I make at 300? I could make a little bigger print not huge. How about 240? I can make a 9x7. [ How about at a minimum 150 pixels per inch? I could go on when those big sheets of paper. I can make 11x15. So this is where you get to see what you can do. You can also do this right here, just hit 5, here we go.
Now I can hit OK or I can just hit Cancel. It doesn't make any difference because we haven't really changed anything. We're just seeing what we can do. This is a little aid to help us. So for my 5x7, let's go ahead and enter 5 here or I could enter 7 here. Either way. That's about the same and I just click OK. So we know we can make a 5x7. Now I just want to show you one other thing real quick, and if you're going to print or a lot of times if you're really working with the telephoto of your compact camera zoom lens, you might want to do a little sharpening when you're all done with the process.
So let's take this up to 50%. A lot of times that's where I like to be at either 50% or 100% when I do sharpening. We just go up to Enhance, go to Unsharp Mask. Take this down to 50% here. Just move this around so we get some leaves, because that's really what we want to sharpen up. These are my standard settings here where I start. Radius of 0.8 and Threshold 2, and then I just move this slider to I get what I want. So we'll bring it up, and things look nice and crisp there.
You can tell what you've done by unchecking the Preview box. Here is how it looks before; here is how it looks now. We are in great shape. I'll go ahead and take it back down so it fits in the frame. Command+Minus or Ctrl+Minus on Windows machine and there we are. Now this is much different than what we started with. Yet we can make a very nice print. We haven't given up any image quality at all. We've extended our telephoto lens. The thing that you have to remember when you're in the field, and this is crucial, make sure you shoot at your camera's highest resolution at large.
Don't shoot at medium. Don't shoot at small. If you shoot it raw, then you are fine, because raw will always capture at largest resolution. Shoot at your highest resolution, and then that way you have as much information as possible to work with when you are on your computer. You can do this intelligent cropping. You can extend the length of your lens, and you don't give up anything but a few pixels that you probably don't need anyway. Terrific stuff. Give it a try.
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