Thursday, January 8, 2009

Using Your Point and Shoot Like a Pro - Part 1

Okay, I still haven't woken up completely, and as I was doing research for this lesson I realized it should be broken down into several parts. So I will start with some basics:

I have a fancy pants camera (i.e. Nikon D200 digital SLR) that is currently at the "doctor" as it will not autofocus. And I left my point and shoot camera on a BART train heading for San Francisco back in September. So I was thrilled when my husband got me another point and shoot camera for Christmas. Much as I love the Nikon, it is BIG and HEAVY and often too much to lug around. I love the ease of the point and shoot, that I can drop it in my bag and go, and that I can capture short video vignettes as well. But I definitely feel that my photos are better on my fancy pants camera.

Well, there are several article on the Web that claim you can take pictures on a point and shoot that are just as good as any fancy pants camera out there. I do beg to differ with the "experts" on at least one account - it is mighty hard to capture a crazy preschooler on a point and shoot (usually the image is out of focus). But considering: (1) I just started this blog about a month ago and I'm committed to a new lesson each week during 2009, and (2) my Nikon could be out of service for 4-6 weeks, I need to learn how to take good shots with my point and shoot.

So here are some basic tips (and I apologize if these are too basic - leave a comment and next time I'll be sure to jazz it up some)

1) Hold the camera still. I realize this sounds stupid, but the article I read today mentioned the fact that most of us hold our camera away from our body to look through the LCD screen when taking a photo. Couple that with the fact that most out of focus photographs are caused by "camera movement" (meaning the photographer wasn't standing still or was moving the camera) and holding still for your photo is a big deal. If you have a traditional viewfinder, try looking through it when framing your shot - holding the camera against your forehead will help to steady it. If you are like me and have a camera that does not have a traditional viewfinder, hold your arms as close to your sides as you can while framing your shot. If all that fails, pay attention to how you are standing when you are taking a picture - if you look like a contortionist in Cirque du Soleil, there's a good chance your image will suffer from "camera movement."

2) Plan ahead. Most point and shoot cameras allow you to hold the shutter button halfway down in order to prefocus your shot. Many also have presets that account for various situations - sunset, closeups, nighttime, etc. This requires you to read the manual for your camera, which I admit I was going to tackle today, but I have not had enough coffee yet (perhaps part 2). But a little planning before your shot will result in a much better photograph.

3) Just say no to flash. I know many of us just take the picture without giving much though to the flash - if the camera needs flash, it will use flash, if not then no flash. In my humble opinion, when you are photographing your precious children it is best to use no flash and as much natural light as possible. This means setting your flash to the "no flash" setting. I know what you're thinking - when I don't use flash my kid moves too fast and the picture comes out blurry. I hear you - I normally use my Nikon when I'm taking kid shots in a lower natural light setting with no flash. But give it a try - if you can get a quiet moment with your kiddo I promise you the photo will be lovely.

I will post some pics from my point and shoot next week. Happy pointing and shooting! Click here to read the full article I referenced for this lesson.


Barbara April 2, 2009 at 2:22 PM  

Are there going to be more parts to this? This is where I need help. I'm just getting into photography and getting to know my camera, and would need to master it before moving on to an SLR. Loving your photos and blog. Actually saw the birthday pictures with Kensington and thought "Hey I know her", until I remembered I clicked on your blog from Rachel's. Yeah, it's been one of those days! :)