Question: Would you tell us the settings you use on the photos you post, (exposure, shutter speed, focal length, etc.)
Answer: I am usually too lazy or forgetful to remember to do this here on the blog; however, I put all these photos on the website I use to store and preserve my photos and it has a great feature. When you are in a gallery, hover your mouse over the right side of the spotlighted photo, (the large one in the viewing area), and a pop out box will appear. And down at the bottom it will say 'Photo Info'. Click on that and it will give you all the technical details. The website is: www.karenlarsen.smugmug.com
Question: What is a good photo editing program for an amateur who likes to scrapbook?
Answer: I know there are many adequate editing programs that will work just fine, but the granddaddy of all editing programs is Adobe Photoshop. The bad news is that this program is around $600, (give or take $100), but less if you are a student. The good news is that Adobe makes a simplified version called Adobe Photoshop Elements. It's been a long time since I checked, but I think you can get it at Costco for around $69 - $80. I used Photoshop Elements for years and it had every feature I ever needed for photography work. This would be my recommendation.
Question: When I try to take random shots they just come out a big blur. Does your camera equipment make the difference?
Answer: Yes and No! There are multiple reasons for blurry photos. Here are some of them:
1. It could be a camera problem, and if it is, this would be hard to answer without knowing the camera. If you use a point & shoot, most likely the camera assumes you want to focus on the main subject which for most amateurs in smack dab in the middle of the viewfinder. Your camera doesn't know if your subject is off to the side, so it focuses on the middle. Most cameras have numerous focal points around the viewfinder. You have to read your camera manual and learn how to tell which one is 'active' and place your subject on that point. Another camera problem could be that your shutter speed is too slow to 'stop' the action. Here again, the type of camera makes a huge difference. On an SLR (a camera where you can change lenses), you have lots of options for adjusting shutter speed. On a point and shoot, you can usually change your program mode to 'action', (usually a button on top that points to a little guy running), and hope you are shooting in bright light. If you are shooting indoors at night you must use flash and with some cameras be fairly close to your subject.
2. It could be shaky photographer syndrome. Particularly with candids, we are in a hurry so as to not miss the moment. It is very common to move the camera as you are pushing the button. Particularly with point and shoot cameras where you hold the camera way out front and look at the LCD screen. Having a traditional viewfinder and putting the camera up to your eye and next to your face helps you hold the camera steady. There is also some conscious thought to pushing the button slowly and carefully so that the camera does not move during this motion. The slightest vibrations can cause blurry pictures. (Obviously the best way to avoid camera shake is to use a tripod, which, however, is highly impractical if you are shooting candids of moving kids.) Here's a side note.....sometimes photographers use selective blur intentionally to enhance the effect of the photo, i.e. to show movement, action, etc. This month's National Geographic has numerous blurry photos that are outstanding, but they are purposefully done.