5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

Summary:  Taken using a Canon PowerShot SD550, lying on its back with 10-sec timer without flash.We all want to be better photographers, but we don't always have the equipment for it.

TOPICS: Hardware


Taken using a Canon PowerShot SD550, lying on its back with 10-sec timer without flash.

Taken using a Canon PowerShot SD550, lying on its back with 10-sec timer without flash.

We all want to be better photographers, but we don't always have the equipment for it. It's a misconception, however, that you need an SLR to take excellent photos. Here are five tips to better shots on a point-and-shoot:


  1. Don't use your flash. This may sound weird, but I'm really anti-flash, especially when it comes to point-and-shoots. The photos look weak and fake. Try turning off your flash, and if your photos are coming out blurry, hold your camera on a surface such as a table when pressing the shutter button to take a stable picture. If your hand is still shaking the camera on the surface, use the timer function.
  2. Use your flash. Obviously, if you're at a party or in a dark space, the above tip won't work. And sometimes, flash can be artistic - even on a point-and-shoot. Photo.net advises how to shade your background and make your foreground characters light, using a point-and-shoot and not an SLR. Using prefocus (holding your shutter button down, but not all the way so that it snaps a shot), you can meter for the foreground and the background and latch on to where you want to the flash to focus.
  3. Change your focus: Using the macro setting, you can really turn out photos on a point-and-shoot the way you would on an SLR camera with a fancy lens. What you have to watch out for here is making sure your focus is sharp on the object you're zooming in on. Ideally, the background would be out of focus, but perhaps try playing around so that it's in focus, and your foreground is blurred. This setting might take some practice, but sometimes, you get your best photos while just fooling around with settings.
  4. Take multiple shots on different settings. Most digital cameras come with sizable memory cards these days, and if you're serious about photography, you should be using a 2 GB or larger. Thus, you should have a lot of space for testing out different functions and light settings to get the best picture possible. 
  5. Use different angles: The average person shoots a photo from 5 ft tall. Don't be average. It doesn't matter how tall or short you are. If you're standing still or comfortably, you're doing something wrong. Get low on the ground, stand on something, or simply tilt the camera for a more unique shot.

Topic: Hardware

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  • 5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

    Do you or Janice know of a good site where I can learn more about photo settings on the camera such as the ISO levels and other options? On a recent trip I took some photos, they came out alright, some a bit fuzzy, but could be improved. Has this been considered for your blog?
    Loverock Davidson
    • Shameless self promotion

      After teaching digital camera use for several years, my (small) company published a PC CD called "How To Use The Digital Camera You Just Bought!" It covers a vast amount of basics, including apertures, shutter speeds, ISO and more. A lot of it is info that has been lost due to the "point and shoot" craze. It's the nearest I could do to coming over to your house and sitting down with you to show what all the buttons are about.
      Visit acpress (dot) com for more info.

      Hope I'm not breaking any rules here. Janice has a copy but has not had time to look at it yet! ;)

  • Don't Forget to Pre-Focus & Keep ISO as low as possible.

    In the photography class I teach I'm always amazed at how
    many people just push the shutter button all the way through
    without pre-focusing. It makes the camera seem sluggish
    and often results in blurry shots.

    Also, I always tell my students to keep the ISO as low as
    possible. If the shutter speed is too slow move up an ISO
    speed until you can gat a sharp photo.
  • RE: 5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

    A piece of advice I was given 50 years ago when I got my first camera, was to get closer to the subject. Most snapshots, especially of people are too far back. You have a picture of the sky, the grass, the trees, and somewhere in the midst of all this is Aunt Agetha! This advice has worked well for me over the years.
  • Tripod?

    How about use a tripod rather than obvious stuff about the flash?
    • Flash vs available light

      Most novices use flash WAY TOO MUCH. On camera direct flash is seldom flattering. Many digital cameras can do some nice available light work, but you need to hold them steady.
      • The camera chooses to use the flash

        The point and click camera I have seems to choose to use the flash most of the time, why did the designers(Sony) decide to do this?
        • You should be able to turn it off.

          Check the manual and the menus.
  • RE: 5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

    Lots of places won't let you use a tripod, even with a P&S. That said, a tripod is a worthwhile piece of kit to have available. Night shots really add to your vacation photos.

    Getting closer is good advice, but get closer and still use the wide angle on your zoom. That gets the people in the foreground but still allows you to have plenty of environment in the shot. If you want Aunt Matilda at Buckingham Palace, have yourself and Matilda across the street from the Palace, Matilda in the foreground and slightly off center, and the lens zoomed wide so you can see the Palace. Make sure you focus on Matilda first (see the comment about pre-focusing), then re-frame the shot for good composition.

    Learn the different flash settings available, especially the fill-flash setting and any setting that will allow flash + long exposures for those cool nighttime street shots.

    Most P&S shots suffer because the photographer is lazy and just wants to get a photo and doesn't want to take time or make people wait. If you want to get good photos, you will make the time and effort to do so. Lack of knowledge is rarely the problem.
    big red one
  • RE: 5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

    Sometimes it may not be convenient to lug a tripod/monopod around. I usually carry a small tightly-packed bean bag, 5x7, and wedge it betweeen my camera and a solid surface. Most of times, I get the angle I want and the camera stays put.
    • Poor Man's Tripod

      Another good cheap option is a length of string attached to a bolt that fits into the tripod thread. The string should be long enough that you can hold the camera comfortably and stand on the string. Pull up and the tension helps you keep the camera a lot steadier than just holding in your hands.
  • Angle on portraits of people

    If they are looking at the camera, I find the angles from slightly above a person's head to practically directly on top of them are great for getting rid of double-chins that can afflict even the most svelte of subjects.
  • Fill the frame. Turn off digital zoom

    Many of my students include too much space in the photo and crop it away later. Cropping away 50% of an 8PM camera image ends up with something that is just like it was taken with a 4 MP camera!

    Also, digital zoom is just in-camera cropping, cutting away megapixels!
  • No your limitations

    Attention soccer moms and dads:

    You are NOT going to get "Sports Illustrated Cover Shots" of little Johnny or Jenny with your $149.95 point and shoot and the F/5.6 puny zoom lens.

    See the folks on the sidelines with the big gray $3,000 lenses?
    Do you think they would sink that kind of cash (and carry that gear) if they could pack a point and shoot and do the same thing?
  • RE: 5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

    It says "5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot" NOT tips for better photos.
    Number one essential: Keep the camera rock-steady. Many corrections can be made later but with camera shake you are sunk. (technically known by the past tense of a rude word.)
    Fill the frame, not necessarily the same as 'getting close' - you don't want foreshortening. Some subjects don't respond well to close cameras. Set the shutter to continuous. Multiple shots especially involving people will avoid ruined frames of blinks, grimaces etc.
    Shut one eye for a lens view.
    Sell your p.a.s. buy a Nikon D40
  • A newer and better mode for flash

    A pro gave me this superb tip:

    Most P&S cameras come with an option called "Slow sync flash" (or similar words). It nearly always gives far more natural, warm, colourful, rich results than "Auto flash" because it prioritises ambient light. On my Lumix TZ3, I see the flash go off, then there's a sub-second pause, then the picture completes.

    I haven't figured out the drawback yet (apart from the tiny delay), so I always use this mode.

  • RE: 5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

    lists don't work see the picture in your brain then do your best to take that picture. if you take multiple pictures of the same thing make sure every picture is a little different. Remember photo shop, a little editing can save most pictures.

    Taking good pictures requires thinking and work - just point and shoot with a point and shoot produces poor pictures.
  • RE: 5 tips for better photos with point-and-shoot cameras

    Not very helpful. Vague, contradictory, confusing. The best advice for a digital camera is based on its principal advantage over a film camera: take LOTS of pictures! Why not? They're "free" until you have to pay for printing costs. Experiment while you're taking pictures. Some of the results will be superb. -- Doug
    • Learn, think, and THEN take lots of photos.

      It doesn't help to take a lot of images unless you have a general idea of which images to try. We don't learn much just popping away at random and seeing if we like any of the results.

  • Another easy tripod

    Look at Jobi's Gorillapod. You have to be careful with the weight specs but most users seem to be very, very happy with the size and performance. I certainly am.