DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY - Point and Shoot Cameras

Pro Tips For Amateur Photographers

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They are the 3 most important aspects of a camera shot:

They determine the exposure result of your photo ,

They allow you to be creative with your photography shots,

What's Manually Adjustable On Point and Shoot Cameras and How To Use Them for Creative Shots


Most point and shoot cameras on the market today, have many pre selected auto modes to make photography easy - like sports, portrait, fireworks, landscape, night landscape, snow, food, and the like. Additionally, some point and shoot cameras have a manual Program mode or Creative Mode, and within that certain modes as adjustable. Shutter Speed is one such setting, and on Canon point and shoot cameras, is known as 'Long Shutter' mode. This mode has adjustable setting, usually from 1 to 15 seconds.

Slow Shutter Speeds

This Long Shutter,(slow shutter) or Night mode; in its' simplest explanation, allows you to add light to a night time shot. This is done by delaying the shutter speed, from 1 to 15 seconds, which brings more light into your night time shot creating a nice illuminated shot. It works best at places or things, that are somewhat lit already; like car lights, tall lighted buildings, or lights harborside at night.

Long Shutter Mode can also be used together with your adjustable 'White Balance', allowing you to make your shots more creative by illuminating clouds in the sky with different looks and colors. White Balance color settings are usually Auto, Flourescent, Tungsten, Candescent, Cloudy, Daylight. Adjusting any of these in a slow shutter shot at night can create interesting skylines. A manual Long Shutter, available on many Canon point and shoot models; has 1-15 seconds; whereas the Night Mode, or Night Landscape, usually allows for 1 or 2 seconds. Also, the Nikon L32, has the Dusk Dawn Scene mode, it has long shutter for 2,3 seconds, and the Night Landscape mode for 1 second.

Fireworks mode is another night time mode commonly found on point and shoots; and is useful to take fireworks because the sky is dark except for the fireworks you capture.

Fast Shutter Speeds

The other type of Shutter Speed, fast shutter, is common for Action Shots; because those require a faster shutter to capture the action. Very few low to mid priced point and shoot cameras ($50-$195) have a 'manually adjustable fast shutter setting'. Therefore, to get some fast shutter speed, we would use the Sports mode. Almost all compact point and shoot cameras have numerous SCENEs to choose from; and the Sports mode is one such mode. Common shutter speeds are 1/125, 1/250,(no zooming) 1/500 (using zoom) for point and shoot cameras with optical zooms distance of 5. Common zoom lengths are 3-10 for this pricing.

Getting creative - fast shutter allows you to freeze the action and allows you to add background blur to a shot. These methods are widely used by pro photographers and it can create a more appealing and unqiue shot.

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ISO is another useful setting on your camera.

ISO settings are: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600. Most point and shoot cameras in the pricing mentioned; have 100-1600 iso; some more expensive point and shoot cameras($260-$500) may have additionally, the 3200, 6400 ISO.

The reasons to adjust the ISO are usually; to get more light into your photo shot; either because its a cloudy day, or your shooting indoors and you don't want to use flash but need more light in the shot. ISO is also used to adjust Shutter Speed. ISO increases shutter speeds as well. On a point and shoot camera that doesn't have manually adjustable Shutter Speed, the ISO can be used to add some shutter speed to your action shots.

The ISO on your camera, for a shot no action and not using the flash; is usually at 100 for daytime photo on a nice day. And, if your shooting on a cloudy day, you may want a 200 or 400 ISO. As well, if your shooting at night, and want to get more light into your shot, you can increase your ISO to add more light; at ISO 200, 400, or 800.


ISO settings(numbers) are equivalent to shutter speeds as this: 100={1/8 of a second) 200=(1/15 of a second) 400=(1/30 of a second) 800=(1/60) 1600=(1/125 of a second) 3200(1/250). Not all point and shoot cameras have ISO that you can adjust yourself; however many do, like the Canon point and shoot models, and some of the Vivicam point and shoot cameras have adjustable ISO as well, usually the 100, 200, and 400.

ISO is useful for action shots. On a point and shoot camera, increasing the ISO, to 400, 800, 1600, to gain shutter speed allows you to capture moderately fast moving subjects, like cars, bikes, trains, wildlife, and people.

Using ISO To Increase Shutter Speeds

Lets assume this example:

Your trying to capture a bird in flight.

Your using a point and shoot with an available 5 zooming distance(the distance you can zoom out to) Your not using the zoom for this action shot. You choose Sports mode because it has the fastest shutter speeds you can use for action shots. Your Sports mode has(without zooming) a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second. That is the speed at which it will capture your bird in flight. However, your not sure if the shutter speed is going to be fast enough to freeze it in action, so you want to add more shutter speed if you can.

You can adjust your ISO. If you adjusted your ISO from 100 to 200, for this bird shot, your shutter speed would then be 1/15 of a second faster than it was with the 1/250 shutter speed setting it is at now.

To find out what your shutter speed is just- Compose your shot - press the shutter button halfway to focus your shot - now look at the view screen; look for 1/250 or just 250. That is your shutter speed.It maybe less than this but typically for Sports mode, point and shoot with a 5 distance zoom; it is 1/125 1/250 1/500. The larger the denominator the faster is the shutter speed.

In Sports mode, without using zoom, you can compose a shot and then see your typical shutter speed in the screen view.

Image Noise

Increasing your ISO can also affect the quality of the image being shot. It does this by adding what is called - image noise to the image. For most modern day cameras, point and shoot type, shooting with ISO of up to 800, does not affect the image noise to any great degree. Using ISO greater than 800, especially on a point and shoot camera could affect the quality of image. Professional dslr cameras are more apt to accept a higher ISO because of their overall better camera performance.

Several of the low to mid prized $50-$195, point and shoot cameras now on the market, have ISO that you can adjust; like the Canon models.


Aperture, or f stops as they are known; f3 f5 f9 f22, are the focal distance in your shot. A closeup shot would have a smaller aperture number, like a f3.2, while a faraway shot would have a larger aperture number; like a f22.
As you zoom a subject further away, you are also decreasing the amount of light that can pass through the sensor. And, a shot nearer your camera, would increase the amount of light that can pass through the aperture sensor.

On most point and shoot cameras, the aperture is automatically set when you take each photo. And, you can view the aperture before you take the final shot: for example: if you zoom in to take a photo, then press your Shoot Button only half down to focus your shot, then look at the display; it shows the f number of your zoomed shot; as well, it shows, the ISO. Depending on camera make, it could show additional info also. The Canon point and shoots and Nikon usually show this info.

Also, there are certain shots where you might want a certain aperture, like a landscape shot, having a f22 aperture is common, whereas a portrait shot, a f5 may be more common. The larger your camera's zoom, the larger your aperture numbers for focal distance.


Most point and shoot cameras have a exposure graph which allows you to view the exposure for each shot you shoot. On Canon point and shoot cameras, like the Canon A4000 series, or the newer Elph models you simply need to use the DISP, display button, after your shot to see its' exposure.

This information is useful because it shows the aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and also the grid or graph that displays the mountain like white image of your exposure. You can view and read more about the Exposure Graph here Simply explained, if your shot is properly exposed, the mountain-like white image should be more in the middle of the graph, and it should look like mountain peaks. If it is too dark an image, the left side of the graph will shows tall peaks, and if is too light an image, the right side of the graph shows tall peaks.

When first learning to take creative shots using more manual features on your camera, this exposure graph can really be a great help.

HOW TO USE 'Long Shutter', 'ISO', and 'Aperture' to Create Unique Shots

Now that you know about Long Shutter speed, ISO, and Aperture, you can use them interchangeably, to get creative with your photos. There are a few more things to know about your point and shoot camera's features; such as White Balance, Exposure Values settings, and the Light Metering Mode; they are all adjustable for your photo taking, and usually, they are preset to a auto mode, for example, White Balance WB - is usually at AUTO meaning it will adjust for you according to the shot your shooting.

The Exposure Values (EV) setting is at 0, by default, and can be adjusted to +2, for brighter exposure, and to -2 stops, for less bright exposure.

The Light Metering Mode, by default, is usually at 'center weighted', meaning it will adjust according to the centered focus of your shot.

For getting creative with your photo shots, all these camera features can be changed to various settings, depending on what type of shot you want to create. We will include each of these featues in our tutorials as we discuss particular photo shots.

These settings, together with Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture, will give you a great basis to begin taking some interesting and unique photos.

Another important thing to know about digital photography is the Rules of Composition.