I sometimes get asked, “What’s the best camera?” While I do have preferences, the most truthful answer is, “The one I have with me.” While 98% of my photography is done with a DSLR, I don’t carry it around in my day-to-day life. Toting a full-size body, lenses and accessories makes it impractical. That being said, there have been times where I wish I had it to document a news event, a magnificent sunset, a slice of life, etc. My iPhone allows me to get a photo but has limitations. Enter the point and shoot. It fits in a case I carry on my belt and I hardly realize its weight. Plus, it has a decent zoom, a tiny flash, exposure compensation and a whole lot more.
Many features that find their way into DSLRs are first introduced in point and shoots. Long before video was incorporated into an SLR, point and shoots had it. If you’re an SLR user, learning how to work the controls of a point and shoot is easy. If you’re new to a point and shoot, it’s not a complicated camera. I want to share a number of ways to get you familiar with a point and shoot so you can show them some love.
Black-And-White: Housed in the record or shooting menu lives a setting for black-and-white. Enable the setting and look for subjects that are graphic in nature and cover a wide range of tones from very dark to very light. Don’t think in terms of color—think in terms of brightness values. If you encounter scenes that run from bright highlights to deep shadows, make a black-and-white. Landscapes made on sunny days with puffy cumulous clouds work well. If you do set your camera to black-and-white, the caveat is that color can’t be added later, so if you want a color version, capture it both ways. The alternative is to capture the scene in color and convert it to black-and-white using software.
Scene Modes—Landscape: The landscape scene mode is most often represented by an icon of a mountain. Enable it, and behind-the-scenes settings take place inside the camera so that it’s best set to capture a scenic. It knows to close down the aperture to obtain sharpness from the foreground to background, it increases the saturation to add a bit of pop to the colors, it disables the flash and the ISO is kept low relative to the shutter speed at which the camera makes the photo to obtain a sharp photo.
Scene Modes—Sunset: If you encounter a gorgeous sunrise or sunset, use the sunset scene mode. The icon should have clouds, mountains and a colorful, warm background. The camera automatically sets itself very similar to the Landscape settings: the flash is disabled, saturation is enhanced and the ISO is lowered to create a file that contains as little noise as possible.
Scene Modes—Sports: Use the sports scene mode for any subject that moves quickly. A running deer is a great subject to photograph using the sports scene mode. The deer isn’t involved in a sport, but because it’s moving, it’s an appropriate mode to use due to the way the camera configures the settings. Priority is given to as fast a shutter speed commensurate with the light level. If low light is detected, the ISO is automatically raised. This introduces noise, but it’s better to have a noisy, sharp photo than a less noisy, out-of-focus one.
Scene Modes—Night Scenery: For night scenes, the computer tells the shutter to stay open for longer times. Because of this, it’s essential you use a tripod or other platform to stabilize the camera. The ISO is automatically raised, which means the photo will contain some digital noise. The flash is programed to not fire. (If you set the scene mode to Night Portrait, the flash is programed to fire, so the person in the foreground is illuminated by the flash.)
Scene Modes—Fireworks: The beauty of scene modes is that much of the thinking is done for you. Set the scene mode to the fireworks icon. The camera knows to keep the shutter open for a longer period of time to allow the burst of fireworks to be recorded. The flash doesn’t fire. The ISO or light sensitivity is automatically raised to accommodate low-light photography. Again, be sure the camera is mounted to a tripod. Any camera movement results in a photo that’s not sharp.
Zoom It Wide, Zoom It Close: The wide setting of the zoom provides a wider angle of view so more can be included in the photo. If you’re close to your subject but need to have most of it appear in the frame, choose a wide setting. The wide setting is advantageous if you work in small or tight environments. If the room is small, the wide setting gives the impression everything is pushed back so more can be included. Conversely, if you need to bring a subject closer or make it bigger in the frame, zoom to the telephoto setting.
Macro Mode + Flash: A feature I love in my point and shoot is its ability to get ultra close to photograph macro subjects. Surprisingly, it gets closer than most of my DSLR lenses. Put your point and shoot into macro mode. Find the icon that looks like a flower—often a tulip. On some cameras it’s embedded in the menu and on others it’s on an outside dial. Once set, the lens can focus within inches from the subject. Used in conjunction with flash, the results can be striking. The flash illuminates any areas with deep shadows. This softens the contrast and improves the overall look of the photo.
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