Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Parents! Take Good Shots with a Crappy Camera!

Hey everybody!

Today I wanted to share a couple secrets for getting goooooooood shots with a P&S (point and shoot) camera. Or, even more accurately, a p.o.s. camera. It should title this post: "masterpiece with a piece" bahahahaha!!

Today's lesson has nothing to do with composition. We'll save that for another time. This has to do with messing with the functions and dials on your camera to get the shot you want. Specifically, it has to do with shutter speeds and slow flash sync. If you have no idea what I'm talking about: GOOOOOOOOOOD! Get ready to learn it in a super easy way.

Let me show you what we're going for here. The picture on the left has a well-lit subject, but the background it crazy bright. That happens a lot with P&S cameras. I've also seen lots of P&S shots where the background is almost totally black - obviously not ideal. The shot on the right, however, is the better shot because you can see the lit subject and the background is exposed properly too. Success! But how?!?!

First you have to have a camera with some manual control. It's pretty impossible otherwise. There are inexpensive cameras with these capabilities at Bestbuy and W-M, among other places. Just look on the top for P,Av,Tv,M - if you have that, you're good to go. I like the Canon Powershots b/c they're not super expensive but can do a lot. If you're looking for quality - HIGH quality - I don't suggest ANY P&S (get yourself a DSLR).

Next, switch it to M. This stands for manual. Then, on the back of the camera you're going to see some numbers. Today we're going to take only one of the numbers and forget about the other one for simplicity's sake. See the number that is a fraction (NOT the one that's a decimal)? That is your shutter speed. The shutter speed is how long your image sensor sucks in light to get your picture. If it's too fast, your picture will be too dark. If it's too slow, your picture will be too light. You've got to find the correct shutter speed for each individual picture (it changes for each picture you take).

Finally, you need to control your flash. Sometimes this is really easy because the camera can automatically do this. However, I always control my flash manually by pressing the lightning bolt flash sign on the back of my P&S until it is on the mode I want. Typically, I either use the one with the ghostbusters sign for no flash or the one without it (meaning, the one that is just the lightning bolt) for shots that I want flash. The other modes, particularly the one with the "A" by it (automatic) gets left alone. Because you're in Manual mode, the camera's shutter speed with stay the same if you have a flash on or not. That's pretty handy because you can control that background light we've been talking about.

Here's a perfect example. The first shot is the corrected shot. Photographed in Manual mode, as I've explained. The second shot is all fully automatic - blugh! You can barely even see the freakin' dinosaur. Notice the differences in shutter speed - 1/10 lets in a lot more ambient light than 1/60 does.

That's it! Two steps, maybe three. Play around with it, READ YOUR MANUAL, and have fun getting great shots of your kiddos!

Talk to you soon,

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