The Holiday season is here and I know many of you will probably get some nice new toys, like digital cameras. If you have owned one before or this will be your first, I bet you cant wait to start shooting. When I started in photography over 20 years ago, I recall instantly the need to advance my skills but felt my lack of “professional” equipment was holding me back. Well, I’m here to tell you, I was wrong. And if you’re holding your little Point & Shoot camera and feeling the same way, allow me to show you how to take professional photos with your compact camera.
Many of the regular Point & Shoot/compact cameras of today are more than able to perform like a pro in the hands of a talented person. Knowing how to use your camera is the key to taking great photos. Most people who get a new compact camera for the first time simply open the box, charge the battery, insert the memory card then place everything on Auto/Program and find the button to shoot the picture. After all, isn’t that the only requirement to take a good photo? Again…not so!
Many of the compact cameras of today have basic and advanced features. Read the manual the first day you open the camera. When I get a new camera, I sit in the living room with the camera on my side and I begin to read the manual for several hours. I go back and forth from the camera to the manual and visa-versa. I take sample snapshots at objects around me so that I know how to use some of the basic features. The next day I take a walk at the park, beach or somewhere outdoors and practice using the different features. I want to know as much as possible right away. I may forget some of it, but that is ok, because I keep the manual nearby and always refer to it when needed.
Its not until then that I start taking photos of events, people or projects with the camera. Try using Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program Priority and Manual Mode functions. For head shots, try Aperture Priority, this is when you choose the aperture setting while the camera chooses the corresponding shutter speed to reach the right exposure setting. Choosing a large aperture (smaller number) will allow you to blur out the background, this often looks best for portraits.
For moving subjects, use the Shutter Priority function, this allows you to choose the speed of the shutter while the camera chooses the right aperture setting to meet the correct exposure. Camera’s also have “film” speed even though they don’t use any speed, but they range from 100 speed to about 1600 for compact cameras. Most will be in the 100-800 range (having those available to use). When choosing Aperture Priority mode, always be aware of the shutter speed, if the camera chooses a slow speed, you might want to increase the film speed, this will help increase the shutter speed.
Look at the “noise” issue when shooting in higher speeds, like 800 or above, or 400 and above in some cameras. Try using a tripod, yes you heard me right, a tripod, even with a compact camera I will use a tripod. In fact a few weeks ago, used a compact camera, portable lights and a tripod to conduct a photo shoot. The results were studio quality pictures similar to ones I have taken with my Nikon D90.