No matter how impressive, expensive or feature-packed a camera is, the one thing that manufacturers can’t include in the state-of-the-art design of any camera is the ability to use it well. Taking great photos is about timing, a discerning eye and a love of the visual. As a photographer you can take beautiful photos with nothing more advanced than a point-and-shoot or even a smartphone camera. These few short tips will help you find out how.
Read the Manual, then Experiment
Many people use a point and shoot straight out of the box, sticking to a preferred general setting. Most of these cameras come with menu settings that would have blown away a professional camera fifteen years ago. Start by taking your time to familiarize yourself with the features, and when you know that the option for taking photos of close-up text is just a few clicks away, try experimenting. What happens when you take a portrait with this setting? What effects do you get from taking a photograph in a dimly lit restaurant with the sunset setting? Play, experiment, enjoy.
Stop Taking Portraits
One of the key distinctions between a professional photograph and an amateur one is that professionals keep the focus away from the centre of the image. When you’re filming something – and a good point-and-shoot takes photos and records videos – that is the only time to put your subject on center. Instead, include your subject within the environment. Place them to either side, with interesting parts of the fore- and background having as much importance. You can produce very good pictures by playing with contrast, highlights and angles.
Tell a Story
Photography is about capturing a moment, not capturing a person or a thing. This is the most fundamental mistake people make when taking photos. Use the whole space within your viewfinder to capture a moment that tells a story. Once you’ve experimented with your settings, stopped taking portraits and developed an appreciation of details and even the mundane, you can start to take professional quality photographs by experimenting with things like silhouettes, patterns and ‘artsy’ photographs that capture something suggestive instead of explicit.
Turn of the Flash
One of the greatest discoveries you will make in experimenting with settings is that there are ways to avoid using the flash. When you have to use one, dampen it, as the flash on a point-and-shoot will simply bleach your photos of color and depth.