Point-and-shoot cameras may not be as popular as they once were, but they still hold onto a niche corner of the camera market. And while the fundamentals of photography apply equally to all cameras, there are a few things to keep in mind when you're using a point-and-shoot camera.
In this article, we'll give you tips to help you take pictures like a pro using a point-and-shoot camera.
What Exactly Is a Point-and-Shoot Camera?
Point-and-shoot cameras, also known as compact cameras, are cameras equipped with autofocus systems and usually feature fixed lenses, or lenses that can't be removed or changed.
They can be easily wielded with one hand and are easily pocketable. Most are budget cameras, but major camera brands like Sony do offer feature-rich high-end point-and-shoot cameras that sell for more than $1,000.
As the name suggests, point-and-shoot cameras are meant to be easy to operate. Much like smartphones, you should be able to simply point and take a picture. See our list of the best point-and-shoot cameras if you're in the market for a new point-and-shoot.
Now, let's dive into some tips that will make your point-and-shoot pictures look professional.
1. Read the Manual
If you're buying a new point-and-shoot camera, it will come with a manual. You can also find manuals online for older and obsolete models. The main reason to read a point-and-shoot camera manual is to get to know the camera system inside and out.
Every camera, especially newer ones, will have idiosyncrasies or special features that the user may not be aware of. It can be as subtle as a metering mode that's uncommon (like the Highlights metering mode on the Sony ZV-1) or an unmarked button that serves as a memory recall for the camera settings.
Read the manual before you take it out for your first photo session. Naturally, reading the manual would be the last thing on your mind when you first get the point-and-shoot, but it shouldn't be put off for too long.
2. Shoot in Raw if Your Camera Supports It
There are many reasons to shoot in Raw. The format contains all the digital information that's stored when you take a picture. Apart from color information and metadata, it contains the all-important exposure, highlights, and shadow details that can be enhanced or dialed back with a photo editor.
Raw files can also be saved and re-edited later without loss of quality, while a JPEG file will suffer image degradation every time it's edited and saved.
Shooting in Raw is what professional photographers do more than not. If you don't shoot in Raw you're not taking full advantage of your camera's capabilities.
If you want to have the best of both worlds, consider a camera setting like Raw + JPEG that will allow you to shoot in both formats. This way, you can save editing for later if you just needed a quick image to share.
3. Use Professional Photo Editing Software
Like shooting in the Raw format, professional photographers will use professional photo editing software like Photoshop to edit their photos. It doesn't matter if they're shooting a $10,000 medium format camera or a $100 point-and-shoot. Similarly, if you're not using professional photo editing software then you're not getting the most out of your camera.
There are some great photo editing software and apps perfect for editing Raw photos if you're not sure what to use.
If you're buying a point-and-shoot, we highly recommend going for one that can shoot in Raw.
4. Get the Necessary Accessories
As is the case with many cameras, there are a host of basic accessories that are essential for a point-and-shoot camera. Most of these on the list are common, but there are a couple that may depend on what kind of photographer you are and how you take pictures in general.
- Extra batteries are essential because point-and-shoot cameras have notoriously short battery lives.
- A camera strap may be necessary if you don't have pockets, and you want to keep the camera ready for picture-taking.
- A camera grip may also be needed if the camera is too small to wield and accidental drops are a concern.
- Camera bags or cases are great for carrying extra batteries and miscellaneous things for travel or storage.
- Extra SD cards are great to have on hand in case your run out of space. This will prevent you from having to stop and delete pictures as you go.
These are just a few basic accessories that may prove useful to a budding photographer who wants to take pictures like a pro with a point-and-shoot.
If you can only carry one accessory with you, always pack an extra battery, especially if you shoot video too.
5. Learn the Camera Modes
Point-and-shoot cameras all have a host of camera modes. These range from fully automatic, to semiautomatic, to fully manual. These modes include those common to most camera systems, including Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program Mode, and Manual Mode.
We explain what the modes on the camera dial are if you're new to point-and-shoot cameras. If a point-and-shoot doesn't have a dial, it's more than likely to have the same modes available in the digital settings.
If anything, learn to use Manual Mode.
6. Learn Basic Composition Techniques
Composition is one of the most fundamental aspects of photography that is often overlooked by beginners. And composing your images like a pro can be one of several ways to instantly set yourself apart from other point-and-shoot camera users. If you don't know where to start, see our compilation of rules of composition for beginners.
Pro tip: resist the urge to place your subject in the center of the frame all the time. Experiment with placing your subject just off-center and include any interesting foreground, mid-ground, or background elements in the corners of the frame.
7. Practice Always Makes Perfect
The more you use your point-and-shoot camera, the better a photographer you'll become. It's that simple.
What usually becomes a problem is when the photography isn't taken seriously just because the point-and-shoot isn't considered a "serious" camera by many photographers and casual users.
This couldn't be further from the truth. Point-and-shoot photography has been featured in editorials and showcased as fine art photography in galleries around the world. What makes a successful image is ultimately the photographer, not the camera.
Always take your point-and-shoot camera with you. Its compact size, portability, and ease of use make it the perfect dedicated camera to always have with you and practice.
8. Learn Photography From a Pro
Nothing will accelerate your photography skills more than directly learning the tips and tricks of the trade from a professional photographer. If you can't find a local photographer to teach you, there's always YouTube University.
In fact, you can learn almost everything you need to know about photography on YouTube. Check out these photography YouTube channels to get started. Many of these photographers, including Sean Tucker, talk about point-and-shoots, like the Ricoh GR.
Don’t Underestimate the Mighty Point-and-Shoot Camera
The fact is, expensive cameras don't always get you professional results; it's the photographer who is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the image. Point-and-shoot cameras can get you professional results if you take the time to learn about the camera and the fundamentals of photography.