Taking Better Photos With Your Point and Shoot Camera

An award winning photo taken with a Olympus tough 6000 waterproof point and shoot camera, photo by Brenden Sherratt

Some of you might look at pictures taken with a DSLR with a bit of envy, imagining that the camera is somehow responsible for getting better photos.

Well, here’s one the dirty secrets that the High Council of Jedi Photographers will likely not like me telling you, but these days there is not a great deal of difference between many point and shoot cameras and high end DSLRs.

In fact, mirrorless cameras like the Sony Nex-5N, Pentax K-01 and Samsung NX-11 have the exact same sensor size as my Canon 7D (compare) and they’re a lot easier to carry around. Though they lack some of the other features like weather sealing and build quality, they all can take amazing photos. All you need are a few tips for getting the most out of your point and shoot camera.

Read The Manual

read the manual
It's boring but you must read your camera manual

No amount of coaching will help you get the most out of your camera if you don’t understand how it operates and the features it provides. I’d be willing to bet a good 75 percent of camera functions never get used and half of the time because their owners had no idea their camera could even do that.

You’ll need to know how to set your camera to shutter and aperture priority modes, how to change the shutter speed and aperture manually, and how the exposure compensation features operate. If your camera has a built-in flash and how to change the flash compensation. All that knowledge is yours for a 30 minute date with the owner’s manual.

Shoot Everything

I recently calculated that National Geographic photographers are taking anywhere from 350 to 1,000 pictures a day, depending on the assignment. At a recent wedding, the prime photographer and I were taking around 200 photos per hour, each.

The more pictures you take, the better the odds of getting one that’s amazing. Some of my best photos were ones I remember wondering why I even bothered to take that shot. You just never know. Shoot everything, sort it all out in post.

Stop Taking Pictures of People Sitting On The Couch

people on couch
Taking pictures of people sitting on the couch is now banned - by Simon Law via Flickr

The photography world is flooded with pictures of people sitting on couches and, frankly, we’ve had enough. Get pictures of people doing something, anything. Get a picture of them playing a game, riding a bike, cooking, or engaging in some hobby that tells us a little about them as a person.

Besides, it’s a great excuse to get everyone off the couch and up doing something.

Your Camera Is Not a Rifle Sight

Stop treating your camera like a gun sight, putting your subject right in the middle. Take a look at this article on the Rule of Thirds and remember, it’s not the Helpful Hint of Thirds or the Recommendation of Thirds, it’s a rule. Get the subject over to one of the thirds.

This is why taking pictures of people doing things is so helpful. If you center the activity, frequently the person doing the activity will be off to one side of the photo. It’s a good way of training yourself to frame better.

Flash Off Inside, Flash On Outside

fill flash
Everything done right. Subject doing something, interesting angle, plus use of fill flash in daylight - by Aske Holst via Flickr

For all the amazing features of point and shoot cameras these days, the built-in flash is probably the worst light source in the history of photography. Turn it off whenever you possibly can. Get your subjects over by a window, or even better, outside to some open shade. Then turn the built-in flash on and make it fire.

While the internal flash is a terrible light source, it is quite a good fill light for outdoor portraits.