Shoot to your strengths:
Most compact digital cameras have a number of built-in shooting modes on the dial which adjust the settings for a variety of photography styles. Experimenting with these to learn the effects they can produce is a great way of getting the best out of your camera.
- Some cameras feature an additional range of modes in the menu. Your user guide will give you more information.
- Portrait mode tends to keep foreground objects in focus against a blurred background.
- Landscape often prioritises focusing on background objects over foreground.
- Sport or Action mode takes a very fast exposure designed to capture moving objects. Due to the speed of the exposure, it doesn’t work so well in darker conditions and may need to be enhanced with flash.
Know your weaknesses:
Although they’re very adaptable, there are some areas where compact cameras find it harder to compete with DSLRs. At higher ISO settings they can produce more digital noise, making the images look messy and grainy.
- On the whole, compact cameras are not ideal for shooting very long exposures at night.
- Continuous shooting or Burst mode can be quite slow, only managing a few frames per second.
- Saving your photos to the memory card can take longer than on a DSLR, making shooting lots of shots in a short period of time tricky.
Being aware of the limitations of your camera enables you to focus on the strengths and can even let you find techniques to compensate, as we’ll see in the next point.
Pan with the action:
As Burst mode and memory card writing time can be slow, shooting fast moving subjects can be difficult and produce unpredictable results. However, compacts are often light, fast to focus and easy to manoeuvre. If your camera has a focus lock mode, also known as AF-Lock, you can use the following technique.
When shooting a speeding subject:
- Use a fast mode on your camera such as Action or Sport
- Work out where the subject will pass you and focus on this point by pressing the shutter half down
- Keep the shutter held halfway down to maintain this focus until you have taken the photographs
- Aim your camera at the subject as it approaches you
- Move your camera to track the subject as it comes closer
- Keep tracking the subject as you take the photograph
- If you’re using burst mode, keep moving the camera in time with the subject the whole time you are shooting
By pre-focusing and turning with the image, you maximise your chances of capturing some great shots of the action.
Viewing the scene:
With many compact cameras using the LCD screen as the viewfinder, it’s easy to see exactly what your photo will look like. You can use this to compose your image so there’s not too much space around the subject. Getting in close, either physically or with optical zoom, can make the image look more professional. Try and get the main subject to fill as much of the frame as possible, avoiding leaving empty space above or at the sides.
The best advice we can give you is to go out and get shooting! Experiment with your camera and read through the user guide to get an idea of all the functions and modes. The more you use your camera, the better you’ll get to know what it can do, and with a little practice you can take amazing images.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s manual for specific details.
Compact Cameras - Taking better pictures (Part 1/2)