Better Photos With Your Point And Shoot Before Buying SLR

23 March 2009 We live in a culture obsessed with better stuff. We are reliant on the purchase of technological advances to better our lives. From a marketing perspective, this is perfect business in action for big companies; the lazier consumers get, the more stuff they get to sell us.

One of these 'niches' is digital camera photography, as many consumers chase camera features, such as the size of megapixels, over learning the actual skills to improving their photography skills. Sure, we all know that size matters; Columbia University's 'Alice' has already clarifed that. Question is, is the extra £500-£1000 price tag on an SLR or fancy camera worth the upgrade?

Now the instinctive answer is 'yes'. You get what you pay for. And SLR cameras are awesome, especially if you got enough bankroll to bag yourself a Canon 5D MKII (and if you do, you can stop reading this already). But for those of us with skint pockets, the best option to improve our pics may be to better our skills instead of being sucked into the Megapixel Myth.

For the modern day 'prosumer', here are a few things you may or may not know already about making the most out of your photos with your existing point and shoot: the rule of thirds. This is a simple compositional technique that differentiates the amateurs from the pros. It's easy to implement immediately. You simply divide the image into 9 imaginary parts, and simply place your subject at the intersection splitting the picture into 1/3 and 2/3 dimensions (a more detailed explanation on Wikipedia, and here). Most cameras have grids that make this super easy, which you have to manually switch on. Remember to refocus on your subject before centering the camera (unless you have one of those fancy 'face recognition' cameras that actually work).

2. Software. Most of us have Photoshop, Picasa, or a variety of the standard consumer photo editing software. But if you enjoy applying modern technology to photography, you're missing out if you've never tried HDR. Never heard of HDR (high dynamic range) photography? Check out this link to 35 Fantastic HDR Picture from Smashing Magazine. It takes some practice to get right (initially you may find that your photos appear somewhat 'fake'). Free HDR software help speed up the learning curve. Photomatix, in my opinion, is one of the better ones. Hardware. Most of us watch Bond, but not all of us can affording ditching the instructions before we point and shoot (no pun intended). A quick flip through the manual before dumping it in the attic along with the box could point out some hidden functionalities that you may have missed, including the technical specifications for say Canon’s CHDK firmware hack, which allows room for ultra-high speed photography, very long exposure times, time lapse photography, and RAW capture. Our good friends over at Lifehacker have already ran an article covering how to do that, so we won’t bother repeating the instructions. Point is, that even cheap cameras often have features beyond the standard preset functions that could improve your photos, perhaps even beyond the quality of the basic lens kit that came with your SLR. on the big picture. Eliminate distracting backgrounds. We usually try to capture everything, but like a good web designer, it's often not about what 'looks good' but what is the 'right' thing to do. So the next time you want to take a photo , try choosing a simple background over a fancy one, and place your subject in front of that. Where this is not possible, try moving closer to the subject, and crop out distractions behind them.

5. Framing and lighting. For those of you wishing to go even further, you can easily create a sense of depth and scale to your pictures, making them look more interesting. Frame the object with something naturally around it, such as an opening of trees or a wall. Most snapshots include the middleground and background, but you can create a sense of depth by also including a foreground object. It doesn't even matter if it is blurred, it will still give the illusion of depth. One way to avoid this, is to take their picture where there is a nice even light. This can just be out of direct sunlight, or under the shade of a tree. In fact, overcast days are great for creating a soft even light. The British weather is good for something, after all.

6. Get a Good Value For Money Camera. Last but not least, if you're on the hunt for a good value camera, check out deals via HUKD from your fellow readers:

Finally, I'm sure many of you have even more knowledge and experience with photography as I am no professional. We're all here to learn, so please feel free to suggest your own tips/advice if you have any in the comments below.

[Image Source: News World and Smashing Magazine]


  • nick
    the title is stupid, someone following the correct parts of this guide with an SLR would then ultimately have better pictures than someone using a point and shoot.
  • Biffo B.
    I rather thought the point of this "stupid" article was to maximise the potential of the camera you already have, or can afford to buy. As someone who is on the point of buying a camera, but doesn't do a lot of photography, I found the piece timely and useful. Thanks Vince.
  • Julian F.
    Nick, I think the point of this article was to give people tips about how to improve their photography skills in general, whether with a point-and-shoot or an SLR. Obviously if you use an SLR you will ultimately get much better results, as that is why they have the higher price tag, but if people follow these tips they will put their kit to full use.
  • nick
    To the above comments, the title has been changed since i posted, the article is fine but the original title made out that a point and shoot camera would take better photos than an SLR with this guide, clearly not true.
  • John
    All well and good but that's not what the title says "Better photos with your point and shoot before buying SLR" - nothing in the article attempts to deal with the limitations imposed by the smaller sensor formats as the title implies. The article also makes the usual error that SLRs are automatically better than everything else which just isn't the case - SLRs do have a tremendous number of advantages but they also come with many downsides mainly size, weight and cost. Whereas bridge/compact cameras are an all in one, an SLR setup on the other hand at minimum will be a normal lens, telephoto lens and a macro prime to give it the same focal lengths as the compact. Now I'm not saying SLRs are pointless either, more that choosing the most suitable camera is the most important factor of all. A much better article would be one that compares the main sections of the market so people can actually see what they're getting going to an SLR. When I lend people a camera, it's frequently a compact one I recommend as I know they'll get better shots out of it than one of my SLRs. While the latter are technically better cameras, you really need to know what you're doing with them to get decent pictures out of them and it's easy to make a much bigger mess with them. John
  • acecatcher3
    hi guys, i was looking at that picture and i would like it as my wallpaper, does anyone have a link to a bigger version of it please? the top picture btw.
  • Amanda H.
    I love the photo @ number 4. Next time, when I'm feeling horny......
  • Darren W.
    I have to agree with JOHN on some points, SLR's are far superior to any point and shoot, simple as. But I wouldn't say its a disadvantage just because of size and weight, if you want great images then yes buy an SLR but if you want to take quick shots for fun then by a compact... I currently own three DSLR's, my missus hates it when we go to the beach and I take my gear, I have low pro reporter bag which looks like a small suitcase, its not uncomfy and I dont mind carrying it, but she doesnt moan when i produce amazing images!! I have been self taught for 5 years and covered big events and worked with some big names but I invested heavily in self training material, but with a compact you can get good results, but dont be blown away
  • Paul Nikkel EDITOR
    @nick - I'm pretty sure the title has not been changed. The key word here is "before". It doesn't say "instead of".
  • acecatcher3
    paul, can u have a little look at the [email protected] emails plz, if u r going to reply could u do it thru my email please as it is computer based (i sent the hotmail one thru my mobile) thanks Luke
  • acecatcher3
    cheers for quick reply guys!
  • acecatcher3
    u shud get andy on the "contact us" button on hukd :P
  • Big D.
    The top picture is on . . this image is copyright by the picture taker but if you leave a nice comment and ask the author politely, he will probably give you permission, maybe even send you a version that is the size of your desktop. If you look at his HDR set of pics, there are a lot of very good pics you would like.
  • Scott
    Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate is a great tool for editing photos.
  • Patricia
    Thank you for this blog post, I have been looking for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I have located so far.
  • Johnb884
    Fckin amazing things here. Im very glad to see your post. Thanks a lot and i'm looking forward to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a mail? acbddedaebcg

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