Taking great photos doesn't mean you have to invest in an expensive camera. By learning a little bit about photography and the camera you have, you can use a simple point-and-shoot to capture amazing pictures. Try out these tips to begin!
The number one best way to improve at anything is to practice. Most point-and-shoot style cameras have a basic auto function and then a few other functions. For example, mine has a setting for landscapes and a setting for snow or beach. Don't just stick to the auto function, try them all out and see what works.
When at all possible, use natural light. Experiment with different angles and times of day. Direct sun overhead can be harsh and cast shadows; later in the day, when the sun is lower, is often the best time of day. If you are working with shadows, try and play with them.
Make the shadow part of the subject of the picture.
If you're taking portraits (pictures of people) in a darker setting with some light (against a sunset, for example) do use your flash. This will fill in the darker spaces and show off your subjects better. This works best if you're not more than twenty feet for your subject. If they don't mind, try a shot with the flash and one without. Later you can pick the best one.
When shooting in darker settings, increase the ISO on your camera. The ISO controls how sensitive your camera is to light and even basic digital cameras let you adjust this. A lower ISO produces a sharper image but a higher ISO enables the camera to allow more light in and the image will appear brighter.
This picture has a higher than average ISO:
This picture has a lower than average ISO:
See the difference?
Most point-and-shoot cameras have automatic settings for ISO and these will work well the majority of the time. But when shooting low light scenes, turn off your flash and turn up your ISO and see if you like the result!
There are lots of small, cheap, and portable tripods out there. You don't have to spend a lot of money but a tripod can make a big different when it comes to taking better pictures. A tripod will hold your camera steadier than you can and thus reduce blur, particularly in action shots. They can also be really helpful when using your camera's timer.
Taken with a tripod:
And without a tripod:
This is the setting to use when taking close shots of an object. It will result in a crisper, more finely detailed photo by focusing your camera in on the closest object and allowing it to blur the background out a little. Compare these two otherwise identical shots to see what a difference it can make:
This is the setting to use when taking closeups of flowers (like the one in the cover image for this article) or any fine details.
Think about where the focus of your picture is. Is it right in the center or slightly off the side? Is the background important? You may be taking a picture of a friend but you also want the gorgeous beach view behind her. Sometimes putting the focus of your picture off to one side can create a more visually interesting shot. Your photo may contain the same elements but framing can be the difference between an okay photograph and a "I can't believe you took that!" photograph.
This is a not-that-interesting photo of a group of Jeeps gathered by the river:
By zooming out and framing the picture so that the Jeeps sit in one corner, the photo becomes a lot more visually interesting, as well as drawing attention to the mountain backdrop.
Chances are you won't be standing directly in front of the perfect shot. Leaning back, leaning forward, dropping to one knee can all make a difference in capturing that perfect angle.
For example, getting closer to the ground allowed me to capture the reflection of a beautiful sunset in this photo:
You can't take great shots if you don't have your camera. You never know when a great opportunity will arise. The above photo was captured while walking to a friend's house one evening. Plus, the more you practice, the better you'll become!
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