Friday, August 28, 2009

10 Rules for Point and Shoot Cameras

Point and shoot cameras are great. Personally, we have the Canon SD880 and try to carry it as often as possible.  (The SD880 has been discontinued, so if I had to get a new camera I would consider Canon's SD940, SD980, or the SD970 depending on your price range and desired zoom.)   It's great to be able to capture unexpected "kodak moments" or a quick video of our girls doing something incredibly cute. It's also nice to be able to carry a camera in a pocket without really noticing it. However, for this convenience we must sacrifice some in the areas of picture quality and functional flexibility. In order to use a P&S effectively it is helpful to know its limitations and avoid situations where it is weakest. So here are a few pointers to help you get the best out of you P&S.
  1. Take your camera with you.  You won't get any good pictures with a camera you don't have with you.  P&S cameras are great because they are easy to bring along, so bring it.
  2. Take lots of pictures.  The more pictures you take, the more likely you'll capture some that you love.  Don't be afraid to delete pictures you don't like - it will help you feel the freedom to take tons of pictures.
  3. Go Outside. P&S cameras get weaker as conditions get darker, so when you have the choice, take pictures outside. You do not want to be in direct sunlight, but in the shade, on the porch or cloudy days all work well.
  4. Don't depend on your flash for good shots.  I talked about how to get the most out of your flash here, but really try to avoid needing the flash as much as possible. It's not powerful enough to do a great job and it's not diffused enough to provide even lighting. You can avoid using the flash by obeying rule #3.
  5. Use the Focus Lock.
  6. Use the Exposure Compensation function.
  7. Use the White Balance setting.
  8. Zoom out as it gets darker.  Your camera can capture more light when it's zoomed out.  It's complicated, so you'll have to trust me (or learn about variable aperture lenses.)
  9. Don't use the digital zoom.  Some cameras, like mine, allow you to turn of the digital zoom in the menus.  The digital zoom just blows up your pixels which means you aren't getting the best out of your camera.  If you really want to "zoom" this way, you can do it later on the computer, so just get the best image you can while shooting.
  10. Don't drop your camera.  They don't work very well after being dropped.  We know.  Twice.
Having said all that, remember that it is possible to get great shots out of a P&S.  Here are some of my favorites that we've captured.