Getting the best out of your point and shoot digital camera
Aka: Is that a rocket in your pocket or the new Canon 12mp SD950is?
Nowadays pretty much every traveller has a digital camera - the preferred type being those small point and shoot digitals about the size of a cigarette box. By and large the cameras are excellent! - The newest point and shoot I've played with was a Canon 12mp SD950 IS
- it is a fantastic camera - and costs only $350 (from Amazon in the US - $450 in Paraguay, South America)
The majority of the photographs on travelblog are from similar cameras - the photo at the top of this page was taken with a point and shoot Canon Ixus 850 IS and underwater case - even the majority of the ones included in the Amazing Travel Photos
section of the site are from point and shoots. But how do you get the best out of these cameras? - here are my top tips for doing this - hope you'll be able to add some more 😊
Tip 1 - Read the Manual!
Unless you've owned a similar camera before - it really can't be understated how much benefit you'll gain from reading the manual. Some of the tips I give here will also be in the manual, some of the tips you'll need to be familiar with the functions to get them to work.
Tip 2 - Turn off the date time stamp!
It should be the first thing you do 😊 - the date and time will be stored with the image in a section of the image file called the Exif data
(Exchangeable Image File Format) - so you won't lose that information - but you do lose the information in the image under the date stamp if you leave it on!
Mini-tip: Set the time and date - I set to GMT - and just leave it when moving through time-zones.
Tip 3 - Use flash correctly!
How many times have you seen someone take a shot of a distant building at night with flash? - they honestly will not get anything in the photograph - and probably get a lot of snow (dust reflected flash light)
The flash on these point and shoots is most effective at a 2-5m range - closer - too much flash and overexposure - further and the light is too weak to be effective - more than 15m - there is no point!
So - turn off the flash and use either the night setting or increase the ISO setting (more later).
Tip 4 - Half press to focus!
Make sure you half press, pause a second, then fully press the shoot button. It allows the auto focus time to actually focus.
Tip 5 - Use the pre-sets
The quickest easiest way to improve your shots is to use these pre-sets, you know the icons of parties, people, buildings etc. Usually they are good - try them out they - can make a great difference to the shots.
Tip 6 - distance settings - macro (flower), auto, infinity (mountains)
Again these settings on modern digital point and shoots work really well. Anything within 30cm (1 ft) use the macro setting - for distant scenery use the infinity setting - everything else is auto. The macro is where you'll see the greatest difference - one thing with macro is that generally the zoom and macro are incompatible - test your camera to make sure - so leave all the way zoomed out, and get close to the creepy crawly.
Tip 7 - Sunsets.
Switch to either the sunset setting or underwater setting - both enhance the quality of the reds.
Tip 8 - Clean the lens!
Check your lens occasionally - a layer of grim and dirt will gradually build up no matter how careful you are - taking photos through a layer of dirt will reduce the vibrancy of the colours, put lots of flaws on the image, and lead to an out of focus feeling to every single shot.
Use an antistatic microfibre cloth to gently clean the lens occasionally - the same type as you use for cleaning glasses is fine. I breath very gently on the lens, allowing it to steam slightly and then gently wipe with the cloth. Be very careful in sandy situations! - the last thing you want to do is move sand around on the lens scratching it.
(Disclaimer: manufacturers recommend all sorts of fancy crap for doing this - and probably wouldn't endorse this recommendation!)
I hope these tips help people capture better memories! Please add your own and ask for any expansion where needed.