Some tips for total beginners (Geared towards P&S)

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by redtippmann, Feb 11, 2010.

  1. redtippmann

    redtippmann TPF Noob!

    Aug 19, 2008
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    Well I'm my schools photographer, and for our paper everyone who works on the paper has to write a story for the months edition. I got assigned to write some photo tips for beginners. I don't know if this will help anyone here, but if one person learns something I guess it's worth it. And let me know what you think of it!

    Many people do not realize that their own camera can take pictures that can come out like many professional cameras. Many, if not all, kids own or have used a digital camera. The most common is called a digital point and shoot. It got the name from the lack of knowledge needed to operate it. Because all you have to do it point the camera in the general direction and shoot.

    While that may be fine for most people, there are some who want to get the most out of their camera. Now there are some limitations with a point and shoot but you can still take great images. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your point and shoot camera.

    If your camera has a zoom capability, use it! Zooming in is called going “telephoto”, the word comes from “telescope”. That is why the professionals use those long lenses. They try to capture the most action in the image, or frame, as possible. This way the person viewing the photo is immediately drawn to the action so they wont be wondering what to look for. A photographer once said, “I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn't that good.” So by zooming in you wont have to explain what the photograph is about.

    Remember, if you are using a digital camera there might be a zoom mode called digital zoom. If you really want to have the best image quality, do not use this mode. It basically gets rid of the sides of your image. The best way to zoom is use something called optical zoom. This uses pieces of glass to magnify what it is looking at. But if you only have digital zoom use it, because it is better than nothing.

    Then, try to use your flash as little as possible. If you are at some event where there is little light, like in a gym, or at night, then you will be forced to use a flash. But other than those times you really don't want to use a point and shoot's flash. The flash on most point and shoot cameras are basically like the headlights on a car. It makes your subject look as though they do not have any detail in their face, and creates very harsh shadow.

    Then there are times, indoors and at night, where you can not use a flash. One situation would be if you were at a basketball game where you can not use a flash at the players eye level. Plus the flash can only reach out to 50 or so feet. If you try to use your flash on anything further, chances are something will be blocking the light from getting to your subject or the light will spread out too wide and it would not make a difference if you used it or not.

    This does not mean that your flash is hardly useful. There are ways to make it usable in some situations. If you ever notice, while using a flash with in 10 feet of someone, the light is really harsh. There is something you can easily do to prevent that. There is something called diffusion. To diffuse the built in flash you can tape a piece of cotton over the flash. It reduces the distance the flash will travel, thus making a more pleasing soft light. A fellow photographer and friend of mine, Ryan Tracy, told me, “Once I forgot my plastic diffuser at home. I had to improvise with what I had. I took a couple of Kleenex and strapped them to my flash unit with a rubber band.” This is just one example of neat things you can do with photography by being resourceful.

    If you cant use a flash and need a little faster shutter speed so your images are not blurry you can turn the camera ISO up. Now this is getting a little more advanced because you most likely need to put your camera in manual mode. In manual mode you put all the settings into the camera. There are things called apertures and, like I mentioned before, shutter speed. If you Google; how to use (insert your camera model here) in manual mode, there should be pages upon pages of tips and instructions specifically for your camera.

    But back to ISO, it basically is how sensitive your camera is to light. A standard ISO number is 200, a good level to use in dark situations would be 800-1200. You may be wondering why not just leave the ISO as high as possible and get a nice fast shutter speed all the time? Well there is a downside and it is called noise. It is not something you can hear, but it is where there are little specks of red dots on your picture. This noise diminishes image quality. The good thing is that it is easier to get rid of noise than reduce motion blur in an image.

    Then, after you have used your point and shoot for a while, it may be time to upgrade to a DSLR. You do not need to upgrade until you find that your current camera is limiting what you can do, and you would want to proceed into more serious photography. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. You might know it as “those really big cameras.”

    I get asked a lot, “I want to buy a DSLR, what brand is better?” or “What camera model should I get?” Well the answer is simpler than a lot of people make it out to be. I suggest that you go to a store that specifically sells photography equipment, such as Dodd camera. Go in there and just ask if you can hold the cameras and take a look at them. Hold, and take pictures with a couple of the different brands. Pick three that feel the most comfortable in your hands. You want to look for what fits your hand size. And if the buttons are in places where you can push them without looking. Then, look at the price! You should have a set price range set before you go into the store, and do not go over that price! You should expect to pay at least $600.

    So you have your price range, but do not go in there and get the camera that is the closest to that price. What you want to do is immediately take $200 from the price you and your parents set and put that aside for camera upgrades and repair. You might think you would never want anything more for your camera or that it will never break but eventually they both are bound to happen. You will find this extra cash to be more handy after a year when you have had time to learn more about your camera and photography.

    My last tip is to go on the internet and find a good photography forum. I belong to a site called, its free to sign up and post there. There are more than enough experienced photographers on the forum willing to help you out. My name on the forum is “redtippmann” and you can send me a message any time and I would be glad to help on a more personal level.

    But just remember that it is not the gear that takes the photograph, it is the photographer. Once you learn the fundamentals of your camera and photography in general you can have a lot of fun! Plus with photography there are many different things you can do with it. There are Sports photographers, Photojournalists, War Photographers, Studio photographers, Fashion Photography, Landscape Photography, and Wedding Photography. So just go out there and have fun!

    EDIT: BTW when I pasted it in the formating got messed up. It shouldn't be one long paragraph. I'm trying to fix it.

    Last edited: Feb 11, 2010
  2. mrmacedonian

    mrmacedonian TPF Noob!

    Aug 29, 2009
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    Not bad, there are a few things maybe to take a bit longer explaining and one that made me cringe a bit thinking of someone with a P&S in hand;

    In my experience with the 3-4 P&S cameras my family and I have had/used, the zoom on there is not your friend. A lot of people don't understand the difference between Zoom and DigitalZoom, and often there is no warning you're moving between one and the other. Mashing the (+) or (T) button can lead to some horrible results :(. My advice here is with a P&S is first of all disable that DZoom and secondly, advise people to get in as close as possible. I've been reading through a tooon of photography books and I'm seeing a lot of consensus on one thing - if you can move closer to the subject, it will likely make your image stronger.

    Now, obviously focal length give effects such as distortions (example, portraits are typically shot between 80 and 105mm for this purpose) and when you're in the realm of DSLRs you're also working with DOF a good deal but with P&S this isn't really a consideration, so if I were to write pointers to beginners I would suggest they stay away from zoom, just as beginners into DSLRs are suggested to slap on a prime, to force more consideration of composition (angle, framing, etc.).

    My father recently got a Canon Rebel XTi and I'm getting him a 50mm f/1.8 prime to relay some of these very points.

    Just my honest opinion from seeing what people tend to do with P&S's,


    edit: just read through it again and saw the part about Digital Zoom, first time i was recovering from the mental image of people mashing that zoom to max distance this sentence didn't register >_<

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