How to Shoot Great Photos with Your Pocket Camera

Waiting fishing boats
by Eliza Donovan, taken with Samsung ST88

Sooner or later all amateur photographers start thinking about getting a dSLR because they think that it’s impossible to shoot great pictures with their pocket or mobile cameras. Yes, dSLRs are great. But this doesn’t mean that you have to go and get one (and spend hundreds on dollars on it). You can take amazing photos with a cheap camera, especially if you follow¬†these simple tips.

1. Use the Built-in Scene Modes

Most point-and-shoot cameras and even mobile cameras have scene modes for shooting landscapes, portraits, sports events (read fast moving subjects) close-up shots, sunsets and so on. My suggestion is that you take advantage of all these modes and don’t always stick to Auto. True, Auto usually produces very decent results, but often it makes a total mess of your photos. That’s because unlike you, your camera doesn’t know that you are trying to photograph a beautiful flower with a bee in it or a racing motorbike. Your camera only sees bits of light and it’s trying to make the best guess. The scene modes actually tell your camera what sort of¬†exposure, shutter speed and aperture you are most likely to need. The scene modes make your camera a bit more clever and help it choose the right settings. And that can make a real difference.

2. Use the Flash During the Day

We’re so used to thinking that the flash is there for lighting up the subject when it’s too dark, that we forget that the flash can be turned on and off whenever you need it. Don’t leave it always on Auto because turning the flash on during the day can help you enhance a photo of what looks like an already well-lit scene. For example, your camera may make the photo a bit too dark if you are using its automatic settings, but forcing it to use the flash will help you level the light and eliminate those dark shadows you don’t want in your picture.

It can also be useful to turn the flash off when you are taking a photo of a night-lit city, fountain or any other subject that has enough light to be photographed without the flash.

3. Use the Zoom to Shoot Portraits

Your pocket camera’s zoom is another feature that most people use in a way that doesn’t compliment their photos – to take pictures of subjects that are really far away. These zoomed up photos rarely look good, so all you get is that tourist “been there, seen that” shot. But did you know that you can use your camera’s zoom to take amazing portraits? Standing a bit further from the subject, like 10 feet away, and using your camera’s zoom will help you create professional-looking portraits. You will need a lot of natural light for shots like that, but the results will be amazing.

The fact that point-and-shoot cameras are cheap doesn’t mean that they can’t produce great results. Remember, it’s you taking a photo and capturing your vision, not the camera. Your camera is just a tool that has to be used the right way.

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