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Digital Photography Needs Light

Lighting is a photographer's best friend. Proper lighting will provide proper pictures. A bright illumination source will allow you to use a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) exposure and/or slower shutter speed. This can provide the clearest and most lifelike images.

However, too much light can work against you. Most lenses have a limit on how small they can make the aperture exposure, usually f22. A slower shutter speed, likewise, has a practical limit; most humans are unable to hold a camera still at shutter speeds at or below 1/60th of a second. This, coupled with mechanism vibration (auto focus motor), can result in blurry photographs even with a lot of light. Reducing the light falling on the subject will help, either by moving the subject (if movable) or by repositioning the camera so the subject or scenery is less illuminated.
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Sunlight is the best light source. However, the sun is a bright "lamp" and some precautions need to be taken to avoid excessive illumination of the photo subject. Never take pictures with the sun directly overhead. This creates stark shadows and tends to make human subjects squint.

Ideally the sun should low on the horizon, behind the camera. In this position sunlight is softer, reducing shadows, and the angle should prevent the subject from making scrunchy faces. Repositioning the subject under shade may help, but the shadows caused by trees or buildings may create strange lighting effects.
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When taking photos of scenery or distant objects, the sky tends to scatter sunlight. When directly overhead, the sun will create stark shadows and halos of light in portions of the picture. Note that most CCD elements can also be damaged if you point them at the sun, so use a sun shield if your lens has one. This keeps the direct sunlight out of the lens.

Including the sky provides a beautiful backdrop to any image. However, the sky does diffuse light causing a whitish haze in images. A polarizer filter can be used to eliminate this haze and diffusion. This also results in a crisp blue "sky colored" sky, and highlights clouds or other light objects against the backdrop. A polarizer filter works by only allowing light waves in at a set angle (either fixed, or by rotating the outer ring of the filter) while blocking all other diffused or reflected light. Polarizer filters can result in a full f-stop reduction to the amount of light entering the lens, allowing more leeway with exposure aperture and shutter speed settings.
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Artificial light requires white balance adjustment to prevent red or blue tints or hues to the image. Many photographers use a combination of natural sunlight and artificial lighting (lamps with the inverted umbrella reflector, for example) to eliminate stark shadows and get an even illumination.

Using a small flash, such as the one built in to many DSLR cameras, usually results in poor illumination. A small flash lacks the power to evenly illuminate most subjects. While it is convenient to have a flash built in to the camera, for best results a high power external flash unit is preferred. All external flash units come with a "shoe adapter" that receives signals from the camera, therefore a flash unit must be chosen that is compatible with the DSLR being used.

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