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Quick tips for better point and shoot holiday photos

December 23, 2009

Today’s digital cameras are technical marvels. You can take great photos with hardly any effort at all. They are called “point-and-shoot” cameras for a reason. Even so, there are a few things you can do to improve your digital photos.

How many times have you heard people say “I don’t like the way flash pictures look”? If you use the default settings for your tiny built-in flash you are probably disappointed by the way your photos turn out too. The advice I see most often given about this problem is to turn off your flash. The problem then is that you won’t be able to get sharp photos indoors without a tripod and a still subject. This pretty much rules out chasing kids around during the holidays! Here are two ways to get better results with the flash ON. Look in your camera’s manual (yes, READ the manual) and find out how to adjust the flash exposure. I would start by adjusting the flash exposure DOWN one stop, or -1. Take a few shots and adjust the flash exposure until your photos look just right. If you can’t adjust the flash exposure on your camera, see if you can adjust the exposure compensation. Try the same -1 adjustment there. This usually does the trick, and makes your flash work to fill the shadows and not to give your subjects a sunburn.

Most point-and-shoot cameras use the center of the frame to focus the photo and calculate the proper exposure, but a good composition rarely places the main subject in the center of the frame. With this in mind, point the center of the frame at your main subject. If you’re photographing a person, put the center of the frame over their face. Press the shutter release button half way down to focus, then choose a more pleasing composition without refocussing and take the shot. This way your subject is exposed properly, not the couch or the wall behind them. Be sure not to move the camera toward or away from your subject after you focus to keep the subject sharp. This helps with your flash pictures because the flash is mainly trying to light your subject and not the background.

It doesn’t cost anything to experiment. Change your settings and see what happens. It’s better to take ten shots and have one good one than to take one shot and be disappointed with it. Have FUN!

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