Point-And-Shoot Spotlight

If you regularly read the Outdoor Photographer Tip of the Week, you know I gear them for DSLR users.
Click Images To Enlarge This Article Features Photo Zoom

If you regularly read the Outdoor Photographer Tip of the Week, you know I gear them for DSLR users. As a DSLR owner, you probably also own a point-and-shoot, but do you get the most out if it? Are you familiar with many of the key features? Do you know the full potential it offers? It's time to give props to those pocketable cameras that don't get enough attention, yet they're chock full of cool features. I present to you my list of, "Make Sure You Take Advantage Of What Your Point-And-Shoot Camera Can Do."

Filters: The one filter I never leave home without is my polarizer. On my DSLR, I screw it on the front of my lens and rotate it to provide its effect. Point-and-shoots don't have front element threads, but you can still use the filter. Hold it up to your eye and rotate it until you see its effect to either saturate a blue sky or eliminate glare. Keep the same orientation and place the filter in front of your P&S lens and the same effect you witnessed when you held it up to your eye will be imparted. You'll see it on the LCD. You can also spin the filter while it's in front of the lens and notice the change on the LCD.

Flash: The Automatic flash mode on most point-and-shoots works great. Work within its distance limitation of up to 15 feet. Check to see if the camera has Automatic with Red Eye. If so, use it to photograph people as the pre-flash it emits reduces the red-eye effect. Slow Synch with Red Eye should be used when you photograph people in low-light situations. The shutter remains open for a longer period of time to let in low-level ambient light. The end product is both a well-exposed flashed subject with a brighter background. The effect works well when taking portraits in front of city lights at night.

Flash: Forced Flash On works like fill flash—the flash fires with every press of the shutter. Use it outdoors if the light is too contrasty and you're close to the subject.
Forced Flash Off : The flash on most point-and-shoots will fire automatically in low light. For those times when you don't want the flash to pop, use this feature.

Scene Modes: Scene modes perform "behind-the-scenes" actions that tell the camera to fire with specific settings the same way you'd dial in given apertures or shutter speeds on your DSLR. Landscape Scene Mode maximizes depth of field. Portrait scene mode sets the widest aperture. Action biases the settings to higher shutter speeds. Given the small sensors in a point-and-shoot, it's tough to limit depth of field, but scene modes provide the best opportunity for the camera to work the way you'd want, if you did have complete control. For instance, Night Portrait scene mode tells the flash to fire in conjunction with a slow shutter speed to record background ambient light. In that it's dark, the more time the shutter stays open, the better. The camera automatically sets itself to a higher ISO. Night Scenery mode uses many of the same aspects of the Night Portrait mode but there's one key difference. The flash is set to the Forced Off position because you don't want the light from the flash to interfere with the scenery.

The Zoom: Take advantage of all the focal lengths and move the zoom button in small increments. If there's too much extra material, zoom in a bit. If you can't quite fit everything in, go to a wider setting. When you zoom a lens to its longest focal point, everything gets magnified. The trade-off is as the subject is magnified, so are any mistakes made by the photographer. This is where Optical Stabilization built into many newer point-and-shoots comes in handy. With regards to longer focal length shooting, beware of the dreaded digital zoom feature. All it does is crop into the image.

The Flower: An icon found on many point-and-shoots is a flower that looks very tulip-like. Set the camera to this icon to take images close-up. Don't be afraid to get very close. When I photograph in this mode, I place the camera only a few inches away from the subject—my DSLR won't even allow me to do this!

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4 Comments

    Good article. I bought a point and shoot last summer for light weight travel reasons. The zoom is great. Wish it shot RAW. Also, because I am not holding the viewfinder up to my face, only LCD, holding it steady is a bit of a problem, esp with long zoom. thanks again

    This is a suggestion for Karen….A terrific, high level point and shoot camera is a Canon G15. It takes RAW images and has a viewfinder. And it takes excellent photos.

    I bought a Nikon P7700 a little over a month ago, like Karen, to have a smaller, lighter option for an upcoming trip. Like the Canon G15, it shoots in RAW (even has threads for a screw-on UV filter or polarizing filter). I am absolutely blown away by the quality of the images this little camera produces. Although these new generation point-and-shoot cameras won’t replace DSLRs with their ability to switch lenses and other features, these little cameras are definitely an option for serious photographers.

    I bought a Nikon P7700 a little over a month ago, like Karen, to have a smaller, lighter option for an upcoming trip. Like the Canon G15, it shoots in RAW (even has threads for a screw-on UV filter or polarizing filter). I am absolutely blown away by the quality of the images this little camera produces. Although these new generation point-and-shoot cameras won’t replace DSLRs with their ability to switch lenses and other features, these little cameras are definitely an option for serious photographers.

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