Posted on December 22nd, 2008
With nearly any serious photographer, DSLR cameras will come highly recommended over the “simple” point and shoot models but at 42nd Street Photo, we realize that although casual photographers don’t want to shell out for an expensive model, they still want to take great pictures — and they can, if they know a few helpful tips for using their point and shoot.
The irony is, many casual users will buy a more expensive camera expecting a better picture to come from it, but the camera will not do the work for them, and a DSLR on auto-focus won’t do much more good than an auto point and shoot, except capture more pixels worth of a poorly snapped photo. The key is to familiarize yourself with the manual settings, so the camera doesn’t take a portrait the way it would a landscape.
In order to capture fantastic images with a point and shoot, here are a few tips:
- Read the instruction manual – sure, manuals are for suckers, when it comes to working simple piece of machinery. However, even the simplest of digital cameras these days are more advanced than most people can figure out from simple trial and error. The manual may not tell the secrets of the pros, but it will tell you how to use the functions, set the options, and more. Knowing how to use these functions (let alone knowing that your camera is actually equipped to perform them) is key to knowing both the capabilities and the limitations of your hardware.
- Consider the type of picture you are taking – let’s say you want to take a picture of a landscape versus a portrait of a person. In this case, many factors would have a part in the outcome of the image captured, but among them the most important may very well be the aperture. Simply put, the aperturevalue will let more or less light into the camera. More light will give you a softer shot all around, with a smaller portion of the shot in focus, while less light will offer an opportunity to capture a wider picture in consistent focus. Here’s the catch: Higher aperture means a wider opening, while a lower aperture will give you a more narrow opening, which will let less light in, and therefore will be better for landscapes, and other wide shots.
- Light sources play a big part– everyone already knows that cameras capture light, but are you aware of exactly how light affects a picture? If you’ve ever had a family photo turn out poorly due to excessive light, or not enough, you might wish you had known about shutter speed. Simpy put, this determines how long the image is captured. Since photography is the result of light passing through the lens and being projected onto a sensor (or if you’re old school, a frame of film) more light at once will create a brighter picture, and likewise, a small amount of light, over the course of a longer period of time, will have a similar effect. The key to determining the shutter speed is considering the lighting situation. If you are outside at high noon with sun-a-plenty to light your subject(s), shutter speed need not be very slow. In a dimly lit banquet hall, however, allowing more time for the light to enter the lens will increase the exposure, and when done right, will produce a brighter picture, even in darker locations. However, the disadvantage here is the risk of blur. The longer the shutter stays open, the more movement will be captured, and no mater how steady a photographer you are, there will be some blur if the shutter stays open for too long.
- Three letters: ISO – now that you know about aperture and shutter speed, consider another fun setting: ISO. This number indicated the sensativity of the sensor to light. So now that you’re all concerned about keeping your hands still while snapping the picture at low shutter speed, you can rest easy. If you are more comfortable at a lower shutter speed (and who wouldn’t be), upping the ISO can produce similar results without the blur.
- Experiement – while you may not have all day to experiment with your cameras features, consider taking 20 minutes out of a slow, sunny day around the house to take some pictures around the house, inside and out. Experimenting with the features is the best way (aside from a formal education in photography, of course) to figure out how to get good results with your camera. We recommend spending some time with your camera on the Program Mode, if it has one, as this will give you a semi-manual feeling. Other modes may give you full control over various settings mentioned above, but automatically choose the other settings for you. You may find that you have no clue as to shutter-speed, but you have a gift for choosing aperture, in which case you would set aperture and the camera would choose your shutter speed.