I posted some tips for photography in another community member's journal here, but I thought it might be useful for other people, along with some visual aids. All of the following are taken using just a regular point-and-shoot digital camera, and is mostly talking about how to take good close up shots with one. I'm no photography expert, but there are some basic things you can do even with a regular digital camera that will really improve the quality of your pictures. I'll do my best to explain things in a way that makes sense, while my Lampent models for this tutorial. :)
So the picture above is how I generally prefer to shoot--macro setting with natural light. Look in your camera's manual on how to use the macro setting (it's usually a "tulip" symbol, and the manual will probably also mention about how close you can get. There is such a thing as too close, even for macro settings). I can't stress enough how much natural light will improve your photography. Remember that the sun provides tons of light that is also bouncing off surfaces everywhere, even on cloudy days (the Roselia in my icon was photographed on a cloudy day, in fact). This windowsill faced away from the sun at this hour, but there's plenty of light so Lampent came out nice and clear, with soft highlights and shadows. Unless you're doing something artsy with lighting, generally, more light = better pictures. I even tried to turn the flash on, but because there was plenty of light, the flash didn't go off anyway. So take pictures outdoors, or near lots of windows and you really can't go wrong!
This is what happens when you get close, and don't use a macro setting. Even with plenty of light, the lens can't focus on the object. So, this is not a lighting problem, but a focus problem. Remember to always use a macro setting if you're doing a close-up!
Next, we move to artificial lighting. No matter how well lit you think a room is, it's almost NEVER enough for good photography--just assume it isn't because taking pictures indoors is actually more difficult than people think. It's especially difficult for point-and-shoot cameras, which don't have as many options for adjusting to lower light conditions (which much more expensive DSLR cameras will have). When the camera's sensors can't pick up enough light, that's when it uses the flash or recommends that you use one (usually by displaying a "shaky hand" symbol on your LCD).
So this is macro setting, with a flash. The image is sharp, but completely washed out because the object is too close to the flash itself.
Non-macro, with a flash. Don't even bother!
So what happens if you manually shut off the flash on your camera?
Usually, something like this. This was my room with the lights on, macro setting, no flash. It's not washed out but the image is unfocused and blurry because the room isn't lit enough to compensate for shaky hands. The darker or blurrier the image, the worse the lighting conditions of the room are (or the shakier the hands). What to do?
Solution A: Use a tripod, or improvise by setting the camera down on a stack of books, AND use the camera's self-timer. The self-timer allows you to hit the button, and usually it will give a few seconds and the camera will then take the picture automatically. Because the object is stationary and now the camera is steadied too, 99% of the time you'll get pretty good shots (unless it's just way too dark, and then they'll come out grainy).
Solution B: Provide an external light source very close to the object. This can be as simple as a lamp without the shade, so just the bulb provides light. The lamp I used was actually a pretty weak bulb, so just know that the stronger the light bulb, the better your pics will come out (remember, more light = better pics). An external light source doesn't guarantee a perfect picture, so it's better to use a tripod if you can--however, for the above shot I was able to steady my hands enough to get away with using one (the tripod shot looked exactly the same). The fun thing about an external light source is that you can play around with shadows too, which are much more crisp than the natural light photo I took. As you can also see, better lighting improved the vividness of the colors, particularly in the wood shelf and the wall behind.
That's about it! To me, the first and last pictures look the best, and unsurprisingly, were the ones with the most light. So, in addition to making sure there's plenty of light, the important thing to remember is to avoid using the flash, and here's a re-cap of the 3 major points to take away from this tutorial to help you do so:
1. Use natural light when possible.
2. Use a tripod/set the camera down and use the self-timer.
3. Use an external light source.
I hope members find this helpful--feel free to comment with any questions and I'll do my best to answer!