How to make the most of your point-and-shoot camera

How to make the most of your point-and-shoot camera
You don’t need to be this guy!

I know a lot of people want to get these big DSLR cameras with different interchangeable lenses to get awesome photos, but the truth is bigger isn’t always better! When it comes to cameras don’t be intimidated by the guy with a bunch of cameras and lenses. To be honest, there are advantages of using a point-and-shoot than having a big, expensive camera. For example, your camera is light and compact enough that you can have it with you at all times. I don’t think anyone has a pocket big enough for a professional DSLR! Also, your lens probably works just as well as the other guys. Most first-time DSLR owners don’t bother to upgrade from the zoom lens that was included with their kit and yours operates just as well as that one. So sometimes the small point-and-shoot is better!

In this article I’ll be talking about your camera and helping you to understand the basics of your camera as well as other tips and tricks to compose and take better photographs.

How to make the most of your point-and-shoot camera
First off is understanding the modes of your camera. Most cameras have different mode options to choose from. The basic ones are Manual (M), Program (P), Shutter Priority (Tv) or (S), and Aperture Priority (Av) or (A).

Here’s a more in depth explanation about what each mode does and how it benefits you.

Program Mode: 
When in this mode, the camera adjusts the settings (like aperture and shutter speed) automatically for you. This setting is ideal for those moments that you want to capture quickly (aka point and shoot) since the camera adjusts everything itself.

Shutter Priority Mode: When in this mode you adjust the cameras shutter speed and the camera adjusts the aperture based on the amount of light coming into the lens. This setting is ideal for those moments where you want to freeze motion or add blur to motion.

Aperture Priority Mode:
 When in this mode you adjust the cameras aperture and the camera adjusts the shutter speed to properly expose the image.

Manual Mode:
 When in this mode you have complete control and you manually adjust both the aperture and shutter speed. When you aren’t achieving the proper exposure in the other modes, this is the preferred mode so you can achieve the correct exposure.

Other modes you may have on you camera include: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, and Night. I won’t go into specifics for these modes as they are mostly self-explanatory. These modes are a combination of the above modes just explained.

Some other symbols that may be helpful to know about your camera are:

How to make the most of your point-and-shoot cameraThis is the Self-Timer Mode. Usually this symbol has a number beside it. This number signifies the amount of time before the camera will take a picture. For example if you see this (image with 2) it means the camera will wait 2 seconds after you press the shutter button till it takes the photo. While it’s waiting you’ll either see a blinking light or hear a countdown timer. This mode is handy for family photos you want to be in. Just put the camera on a 10 second delay, press the shutter, and run back to your family to be in the shot.

How to make the most of your point-and-shoot cameraLightening bolt symbol: This is the flash settings. If this symbol is displayed then your flash will fire when you take a photo. If there’s an A beside the lightening bolt then this means automatic flash. This setting will automatically adjust the flash settings based on the scene. If there’s a circle with a line through it over the lightning bolt then this means the flash is turned off and won’t fire. If there’s an eye beside the lightening bolt then this means red eye reduction flash.

Some other tips about your camera are:

  • Your camera only has so much optical zoom. Once it reaches it’s max your camera then goes into digital zoom (you can tell it’s digital zoom by the little meter on your LCD screen. Once it’s past that little line your lens won’t zoom/move anymore you’ll know it’s digital zoom). In digital zoom all the camera is doing is magnifying a portion of the image and it decreases the quality of the image. In general when the more you zoom in, the darker your image becomes. To maximize the image quality and to have properly lit images move closer to the subject. You won’t always be able to do this but when you can,  try it.
  • When it’s dark outside your photos often turn out blurry and really dark. In these instances try to brace yourself against a building or door, hold your camera close to your body to keep it stable and try to breathe slowly so your camera doesn’t shake very much.

Now that you understand your camera a little better, I’ll explain composition. Any camera can produce an amazing image. What takes an image from amazing to stunning is composition. Yes, some cameras will produce a better quality of image, but that’s not what’s most important and how you compose a stunning image won’t change between cameras. Here’s some composition tips:

How to make the most of your point-and-shoot camera

  • Rule of thirds. First thing I can tell you is that the most interesting shots won’t have the subject absolutely centered in the middle of the photograph. That’s where the Rule of Thirds comes in. Image a grid across your screen or viewfinder and this grid divides your image into thirds. (See the diagram for a visual reference). To create visual interest, you want to place the subject on one of the intersections of the grid lines and NOT in the central square.
  • Change your elevation, don’t always shoot from eye level. The average Canadian is 5’ 6” tall. So when you see an image at the same height that you see the world at it doesn’t look very different or interesting. So try shooting at a different height or angle (try using your LCD screen to do this) to make it look more interesting.
  • Watch what’s in the background of your photograph. You don’t want anything distracting from your main subject or making the image more confusing. A common one is poles sticking out of the tops of heads; try moving the people sideways so there isn’t any poles in heads.

If there’s one thing that I can say that will stick with you I hope it’s this. You don’t need the latest and greatest or the most expensive camera to take a great photo.  All you need is a little patience, a little knowledge, and a little practice. So pick up your camera and try it out! You’ll never know if you never try!

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