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October 27, 2006


Amit Patel

To take pictures in the dark you need to collect more light. To take pictures with zoom you also need to collect more light. You can do this by:

* Opening the aperture (I don't have this setting on my camera) - this will reduce the depth of focus, so you things closer or farther from whatever you're focused on will get blurrier.

* Increasing exposure time - this only works when nothing in your scene is moving; it helps a lot to use a tripod or image stabilization.

* Increasing the "film" sensitivity - higher ISO numbers. This makes the picture grainier.

* Increasing the camera sensor size - by buying a different camera. The expensive (SLR) cameras typically have larger sensors, but you can also find variation in sensor size among the cheaper cameras.

The eye has the same problems as a camera, but you don't notice it so much because the brain is really good at tricking you into thinking you see everything. Instead it's filling in details (which is why many optical illusions work), collecting less information from the periphery (which is why you can't read something unless you're directly looking at it), scanning the scene (your eyes keep moving around), and other tricks. Someday cameras may be advanced enough to do this.


Many cameras have a "P" mode (on the circular thing button you turn to switch modes). It's just like the "Auto" mode, but you can go and change some settings manually. That way you can go and put the iso to 400 and get better pictures, although they'll be grainy.

You can get rid of the grain in your pictures by using NeatImage (http://www.neatimage.com/). It's not super easy to use, but once you get the hang of it, it's like magic. It removes all the noise in your pictures automatically and leaves them looking a lot better.


The best you can do is.. make sure the flash is turned off (it won't reach that far), put the ISO up to the highest level you can (and still live with the graininess - though a grainy visible non-blurry picture is generally better than a non-grainy blurry/too dark picture), and if you can, put the camera in shutter priority mode and fix the shutter speed to the slowest where you can hold it steady enough to not get blur. If you're not zoomed in, this should be around 1/40th, if you are zoomed in you'll have to go higher, maybe 1/60th or faster depending on how zoomed in and how steady your hands are.

Brace your camera-holding hand against something solid if you can. Remember even if it looks too dark on the LCD, you can recover a lot of detail in photoshop, the main thing is not to get camera-shake blur. Anything that's moving fast in the photo will be unavoidably blurred, nothing you can do about that.


Paq - cheers for mentioning Neat Image - I've just checked it out and it's amazing! Exactly what I needed to fix my nokia pictures.

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