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Take Your Best Shot

Disappointed with your digital pictures? These seven settings will help you get professional-quality photos from your point-and-shoot.
By Aimee Baldridge, Photographs by Michael Mohr, December 2008/January 2009 issue|
High ISO Setting
High ISO Setting
What It Does Makes it possible to take well-focused pictures of fast-moving objects in dim lighting without using a flash.
How Your camera selects the appropriate ISO setting in automatic mode. If you want to set it yourself, switch to manual mode and choose from an ISO range that usually runs from 100 to 1600. Higher ISO settings enable the camera to have a quicker shutter speed in low light, which increases the odds of getting a sharp image.
Tips High ISO settings may cause your photographs to appear slightly grainy. It's best to start at an ISO of 400 and work your way up from there.
Slow-Sync Flash
Slow-Sync Flash
What It Does Illuminates both foreground and background elements in low-light photos.
How By combining a flash with a long exposure, this setting creates a fuller picture than when you use a flash alone. If you take a photo in dim light using just a flash, only your subject in the foreground is lit up—the background usually remains dark. But when you set your camera on slow-sync flash, the shutter stays open long enough to brighten the background, making everything behind your subject visible.
Tips Again, using a tripod will help ensure that the background is as sharply focused as whatever is in the foreground. Slow sync is found in most cameras' flash menu options, indicated with a lightning bolt next to the word slow or the letter s.
Long Exposure
Long Exposure
What It Does Enables you to take photos at night without a flash.
How A long exposure keeps the shutter open for an extended period of time to let enough light into the camera to capture the image. If you can manually set the shutter speed, start with a speed of 1/30 of a second or slower, and then adjust the setting depending on how light or dark your shot comes out.
Tips Leaving the shutter open allows for other cool effects. For example, if you're shooting moving objects, such as cars, you'll get light streaks across your picture. Whatever you photograph, you should also use a tripod, or your image is bound to be out of focus.
Tips From Photo Safari Experts
Even amateur photographers can take snapshots worthy of a travel guidebook. Five leaders of "photo safaris"—tours and camera lessons in one—share a few of their secrets with Elissa Leibowitz Poma.
Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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