Five Tips For Taking Better Pictures With Your Point and Shoot Camera {Raleigh Newborn Photographer}

April 25, 2013  •  1 Comment


               As a photographer, I’ll admit that even though I love my D-SLR and use it almost daily, point and shoot cameras have some real advantages.  You shouldn’t feel bad if this is the only camera you have to document your little one’s childhood.  Point and shoot digital cameras have come a long way and have some great features.  For the purpose of this article, I used a Canon Powershot.  It’s a few years old, but can still take pretty good pictures… that is, if you know how to use it.


Tip #1  It’s all about the zoom

                If you have kids, or even if you don’t, chances are you take a lot of pictures of people.  One mistake I see a lot is zooming out when taking photos of people.  If you have a point and shoot that has any zoom, it is better to zoom in and have to take a few steps back to take a picture of a person.  Children, in particular, have large heads in comparison to the rest of their bodies.  When you take a close up shot of your child, you have two options.  You can zoom all the way out (you can tell it’s zoomed out when the lens is almost flush with the body of the camera) and then physically walk close up to your child to take a picture.  Or, option two is to zoom all the way in, but stand several steps away from your child to take the picture.

                Let me tell you why option 2 will give you the better picture.  When you don’t zoom in at all, there is a lot more distortion in your photos.  Have you ever seen a photo taken with a fisheye lens?  Same concept, but not quite as drastic.  When you don’t zoom in, features like the head, forehead, nose and mouth can look out of proportion.  It’s very unflattering for both adults and children.  No one wants to appear wider than they really are.  This could be a big reason why many people don’t like having their picture taken!  When you zoom in, there is much less distortion.  Body parts appear in the correct proportions. 











Here are two pictures I took of my three year old son.  On the left, the camera was zoomed out.  Look how large his head looks, especially when compared to his shoulders.  His eyes and nose are unnaturally wide.  Now, look at the picture on the right.  I stood several steps back and zoomed way in.  His head is much smaller.  His eyes and other features are much more proportional.  So next time you take a picture of a person, consider using that zoom and taking a few extra steps away from them. 


Tip #2  The scenes dial

                What are all those little icons for on your camera?  Why is there a tiny picture of a lady with a sunhat?  Point and shoot cameras aren’t nearly as versatile as D-SLR’s, but the ones today do have some pretty good settings.  If you usually use auto, try taking some photos in some of the other settings.

                Today’s cameras have some creative scene modes, from landscape, to portrait, to action, close-up (macro), etc.  I’ve even seen some that have a mode just for fireworks!  If you have children, and they move a lot, the two modes that might come in handy for you are the portrait mode and action mode.  The portrait mode will attempt to create slightly blurry backgrounds, making the subject “pop” more.  The action mode uses a faster shutter release to capture fast moving subjects, like a two year old who thinks he’s a helicopter. 

                 Does your camera have a tulip icon as one of the choices?  This is the macro setting and it's a really fun one to use.  It's good for taking extra close-up pictures of small things, like bugs, butterflies, and flowers.  Give it a try some time. 


Tip #3  Shoot Vertical

                When you are taking a picture of just one child, or even two, most of the time it looks better to take a vertical picture than a horizontal one, especially if your subject is standing up.  Many people whip out their camera so fast that they don’t even think about this.  Of course, there are exceptions.  But if your child is sitting or standing, most likely a vertical picture will look nicer.  Look at this picture I took of my son.  He only takes up a small part of the photo.  The rest is of a blah fence.  When you take a picture, it's nice to fill up more of the space with something interesting (i.e. a person). 

In this next photo, more of the picture is taken up by my son.  There is less negative space.  If he were standing in front of the Grand Teton Mountains, we might want more background showing, but since it's just a fence, let's show more of his body instead.  Vertical pictures are often called "portrait" for a reason. 

Tip #4 Turn off that flash!

Being a natural light photographer, I am not a big fan of flashes at all. If I can find a way to avoid them (and I usually can, at least during the day) I will. Flashes that are built into your camera hit your subject head on. This makes their face look very whlte, bright, and shiny. It also has the effect of those dreaded “red eyes.” Point and shoot cameras are notoriously slow, but you can turn off your flash, even indoors, if you can find good natural lighting. Look at this lovely picture I took of my drooly boy Rhys (the poor kid is getting his 2 year molars and can't keep a shirt clean to save his life). He looks like a ghost! Not a pleasant photo. It was taken away from any windows, so I had to use a flash.

This next picture of Rhys was taken with the same camera, but with the flash turned off. He was playing near a window, where there was enough lighting without the flash. Still not an amazing picture, because I caught him off guard, but you can see how much more pleasant the lighting is.

Play around with your camera and try taking some pictures indoors without the flash. If you have a dark house or an extremely wiggly toddler, it may be very challenging, but it is possible.


Tip #5  Hold the camera as still as possible

                One disadvantage of point and shoot cameras that drives people to buy a D-SLR is the slow autofocus.  This can make it difficult to get sharp images, especially of moving subjects.  There are a few things you can do to get sharper pictures.  When most people hold a point and shoot camera, they hold it way out in front of them with their arms straight.  They look at the LCD screen to make sure everyone’s smiling and they snap the picture.  Whether you realize it or not, holding a camera this way is not very steady.  The camera is almost guaranteed to move a little while you are taking the picture.  To combat this, hold the camera close to your body instead.  Try to lock your elbows against your chest to stabilize the camera.  Another tip, especially if you are trying to take a picture without the flash, is to take a deep breath and hold it while taking the picture.  You may look a little funny, but breathing while taking the picture can also cause the camera to shake. 


I hope you'll enjoy a few of these tricks.  Your babies will grow up so quickly, so keep on snapping!  Next week, I'm going to give you some creative ideas for how to document milestones in your child's life, from baby's first year, to the first days of school.  If you are interested in professional portraits for your family, please visit my website at


Great tips. I am big on the no flash . I pretty much keep mine off. Love the zoom tip. Always wondered why my girl's face looked funny.
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