Sunday, April 26, 2009

Great Cook Out Photos with a Point and Shoot Digital Camera

Lightning Photo by Eli

This was not a good night for grilling as anyone can see, but my son did have a great time playing around with my Canon PowerShot camera. I showed him a few tricks, and he spent about an hour outside capturing the storm. He got a number of great photos, and you can too - without splurging for a $1000 camera.

Tips for Making Good Family Memory Photos with a Point-and-Shoot Camera

Friends sometimes tell that they wish they had a nice camera so they could take terrific pictures at family gatherings. It really is great to capture the memories. I know I enjoy looking back through the blog here and seeing all the food and fun.

Most of the Barbecue Master photos are actually made on an inexpensive Canon Powershot camera. That’s a basic point-and-shoot digital camera and not a high end camera. I have access to the Canon Rebel (a digital SLR), but I generally go with the grab-and-go camera for quick pictures.

A digital SLR is wonderful, but it takes much more effort to get really high quality photos. If you’re in auto mode, then you won’t see much difference between the expensive camera and the point-and-shoot. So, if you don’t want to read the instructions and play around with the settings, then the $800 and up camera wouldn’t be the best pick.

Also, the high end cameras are much heavier if you’re carrying them around your neck instead of tucking them in a pocket, purse, or backpack like a point-and-shoot.

With point-and-shoot digital cameras, there are a few little tricks to getting decent photos . . .

First, it really does help to have a stabilizer built into the camera which is why I went with the PowerShot Canon. Yes. You can find point-and-shoot cameras cheaper, but you need a steady hand, unless you like blurry photos.

Learn the menu. You can get by with the auto mode most of the time, but there are situations where little tweaks will make all the difference. I adjust for lighting under florescent lights, so people do not look yellow. I also turn off the flash for some shots. If it’s dark outside, you have to be really close for the flash to actually work. Otherwise, you have bad photos as I can attest. With the low lighting, you need to hold very steady. You can also get a mini tripod which helps for those kinds of photos.

The main tip I would give is to take LOTS of photos. It’s not film. You don’t have to pay to have the pictures developed. So, shoot away. That increases the likelihood that you’ll have a nice collection of good pictures. If you’re just glancing at the review screen, you will miss focus issues, red eyes, and eyes closed. So, always take way more shots than you plan to edit at the end.

Speaking of photo editing, that’s a grand idea. It does make a difference. Allow extra space around the subject your photographing. Then, you have some wiggle room on cropping. Many sins can be corrected with a photo editing program.

I’m not a professional photographer though have sold some of my best pictures with magazine articles. So, these are just the kinds of things that the typical person would need to know about taking nice family party pictures.

For some more advanced tips (but still quite easy to understand), check out Making Party Photos by Bob Kovacs. He’s coached me for a couple of years and is the one who suggested the Canon PowerShot camera which I love.


The Camera Fanatic said...

Outstanding blog. My personal favorite camera is the Canon PowerShot SD1100IS. I wrote a review for it, please let me know what you think:

UPDATE: This camera is currently on sale at Amazon. You can find the link here:

If you need a solid, reliable, and stylish point-and-shoot ultracompact digital camera that produces high-quality images, then the new Canon PowerShot SD1100IS may be right for you.

I am an advanced amateur photographer and own 2 Canon digital cameras (G2 and 20D). Both have served me well over the years but recently I have found myself needing a decent ultracompact camera that I can easily carry with me at all times for unexpected photo-ops.

Other current Canon models that I also researched before my purchase of the "bohemian brown" SD1100IS included the SD950IS and the SD1000.

Here is my take on the SD1100IS:

- 8MP CCD sensor with DigicIII processor (excellent resolution images with good dynamic range)
- Solid construction (most of body made of anodized aluminum)
- Feels sturdy and well-balanced in the hands
- Easy to use (logical user-interface) with minimal need to consult owner's manual for basic operation
- Multiple shooting modes to fit variety of situations (action/sports mode is a glaring omission but read section below to see possibly why)
- Advanced metering system with accurately exposed pics in even "tricky" situations (great balance of highlights and shadows)
- Tack-sharp images (much more so with sufficient lighting and use of built-in flash)
- Macro mode can result in stunning close-ups with outstanding level of detail
- Optical IS feature helpful when shooting in either low-light conditions with flash off or at telephoto lengths
- Fast start-up with acceptable shutter-lag (when not using flash)
- Bright 2.5" LCD monitor (100% coverage, 230k pixels) made of polycrystalline silicon; fairly scratch-resistant (can't vouch if this applies to keys and coins)
- Optical viewfinder (though only a tiny peephole, it is essential when LCD glare and washout become an issue shooting in bright sunlight or when LCD cannot be used as battery power is nearly depleted)
- Camera made in Japan (at least those from the 1st shipment; this easily may be subject to change)

- Lack of manual control over aperture, shutter speed, and focusing (for the obssessive control-freaks)
- Noise is noticeable beginning at ISO 400 (ISO 800 still useable but probably for only 4x6 images; ISO 1600 mostly unuseable)
- Fastest shutter speed is 1/1500 sec (not fast enough to stop action for some sporting activities)
- Auto-focus speed inadequate to follow fast-moving subjects
- Shutter-lag accentuated with flash on (precious Canon moments lost while waiting for flash to recharge)
- Cannot adjust focus or optical zoom while shooting in movie mode (focus is fixed for distance selected at first frame, and digital zoom is permitted instead, resulting in significant image quality deterioration)
- Battery/memory card cover and hinge made of plastic (no safety latch that needs to be de-activated first before sliding cover out, in order to prevent accidental opening)
- Minor vignetting and chromatic aberration (albeit, difficult not to expect from compact p&s)
- Pincushion and barrel distortion at the extremes of the focal lengths
- No RAW shooting mode

Battery power in camera mode with LCD monitor on is mostly as advertised, allowing for approximately 240 images. If your budget permits, I recommend investing in a few spare batteries as backups and replacing the supplied 32MB memory card with a pair of 4GB SDHC memory cards--vital purchases if you plan to use the movie mode frequently.

Overall Impression:
Even with some serious limitations inherent to virtually all digital cameras in this class, I am recommending the Canon PowerShot SD1100IS. It does what it's supposed to do. This camera allows one to take beautiful photographs in an ultracompact, reliable, and elegant device that is both easy and fun to use.

CA said...

Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughts on the Canon PowerShot. I really love it. It's a great grab and go camera, and the photos turn out very nice.

Top Rated Cameras said...

Wow! That lightning was shot from a point and shoot? I thought it can only be done with DSLRs. :) Well actually, I am thinking of getting a new point and shoot camera and I can't decide what to get between the Nikon Coolpix S8000 and the Canon S95. I would love to capture a lightning as good as yours. :)