10/02/2012

10 Point and Shoot Tips

There has been a lot of talk on the blog lately about features found on DSLR's, but I do realize that not all of you will have this type of camera. So today I thought I'd give you some point and shoot tips instead!

Unfortunately, as a point and shoot user you will be quite limited to the number of settings you can play around with, so a lot of my posts on how to play with aperture or shutter speed won't be of much benefit to you.  (although I recommend still getting to understand these as it will still help you all the same) However, you really can still get great shots with even the most basic cameras - you just need to understand their limitations and work around it! So, whether your point and shoot is your main camera, or you just don't want to be lugging around your beast of a DSLR everywhere, here at some tips to help improve your shots!

Point and Shoot Camera



1) Get to Know Your Camera 
You may think that with a point and shoot there is very little point in reading the camera manual (and it's true that by it's very design you will just be able to pick it up, point it at your subject and shoot!) but getting to know your way around your camera and what it can and cannot do will help you enormously.  The same goes for understanding at least the basics of exposure. Your point and shoot works in the same way as a DSLR - it's just that you can't control it the same - but if you understand what your camera is likely to do in any given situation, you can trick it into doing something else.

2) Use your Camera's Modes 
Most point and shoots have pre-set modes that you can change depending on the scene you are trying to take, for example "Portrait" or "Night". This helps the camera understand what you are trying to achieve, so it changes the settings to accommodate this. I'll write a post explaining some of these modes further, and how you can use them for different purposes, but suffice to say for now that if you have these modes on your camera - use them!

Action shot on point and shoot

6) Plenty of Light for Action Shots 
Know your camera's limitations, and understand you will get the sharpest action pictures in bright light. This is because the camera will need to use a high shutter speed to capture movement - if you do this is a low light area, you are either going to get blurred photos, or your camera will want to turn on the flash. 

3) Look for the Best Light 
The easiest way to get great shots with a point and shoot is to take them within a couple of hours of sunlight and sundown. This way you can put the sun at your back, so your subject is well lit, but with a nice, soft, buttery light, and you won't have to worry too much about getting the sun behind your subject and correcting the exposure etc. If you are indoors, place your subject so that they face into the window, again so that they are lit effectively.  As you probably won't be able to control your ISO, you need to look at ways of increasing the amount of light on the scene directly.



4) Don't use Camera Flash 
Even the most basic P&S's will allow you to control the on-camera flash and I would have this turned to off most of the time. (The "no flash" symbol is usually a lightning bolt with a circle around it and line through it) On camera flash blasts light directly at your subject, giving their face a completely flat, fake and washed out appearance.  Instead, look for areas with lots of  light (or if indoors, turn on all the lights!) and place your subject in it. Understand and compensate for the fact that the camera will need to use a lower shutter speed (to make up for the lack of light coming from the flash) and steady yourself by leaning against something, or keep the camera still by placing it on flat surface.

5) If you must use flash use a Diffuser.
You can buy diffusers for point and shoot flashes too (just make sure that they fit your camera make and model) so on the occasions you do need to use flash, you are at least lessening the harsh affect. The one shown above is the Gary Fong one,  however a cheap and cheerful way of diffusing the light is to use a piece of tissue paper held over the flash.




7) Think about Composition 
Using your P&S doesn't mean that you should forget all about the rules of composition - in fact, it's an excellent opportunity to look to get more creative as you don't have to worry so much about your camera settings!  Use the rule of thirds, but also look for other interesting compositions, such as framing, leading lines etc Different angles can show another aspect of the scene you are trying to photograph, so lie down and shoot up, shoot from the sides or stand on a chair and shoot down! (Someone once said to me if you are comfortable taking the shot you're not doing it right - I may just have to agree!)

8) Use Focus Recompose 
You don't want your subject to be in the center of your photograph as this makes for a very boring composition, so use the focus-recompose method. Focus on your subject, press the shutter release halfway down, then move your camera (with finger still on the shutter) to compose your shot. When you are happy with the composition, push the button all the way down.


9) Trick the Camera's Exposure 
There are occasions when you might want to trick your camera into letting in more or less light.  When you half depress the shutter button, the camera also sets the exposure and locks it in. So, if your camera is under-exposing your subject, focus on a darker area within the scene (preferably within the same focal plane as your subject- i.e distance away from the camera) and half depress your shutter, before moving your camera  back to the subject and pushing the button all the way down.  This tricks the camera into thinking the scene is darker and therefore needs more light to be allowed in, so it will adjust it's settings accordingly.  The same goes the other way around, if the scene is over-exposed, try focusing first on something lighter.

10) Edit your Photos  
Editing your photos can have a big impact on the final image so I would still invest in some software or use free versions for editing. Obviously you get much more control over your pictures with the pay-for ones but it's a personal preference. Something like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 is brilliant for making easy,simple edits to pictures and can really help fine-tune your images.

The best way to get better at photography with your point and shoot is exactly the same as with a DSLR; get to know your camera, get creative, experiment and practice, practice, practice!  Jot down some of these point and shoot tips and try and few - as always, feel free to let me know how you get on!

Look out for a post soon on the pre-defined modes I mentioned - you can either subscribe by email or reader or like the Facebook page to be notified when new posts are added if you don't want to miss it.

Other Posts You Might Like: 

Do you edit your photos?
How to Photography Children using Natural Light 
Do I need a DSLR?

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