A Canon IXUS 870 point and shoot camera up close

Hello, I'm a point and shoot camera, I live in your pocket. Photo by Kin0be

About six months ago I was asked to give a presentation on photography at an organisation I was working for at the time. As luck would have it, I’d taken part in some rigorous workshops on giving effective presentations so was all set to test my new skills in how to address an audience and hold their attention.

Briefly throwing aside everything I hold dear about copyriting punchy articles which get straight to the point, I’ll start by digressing. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the point and shoot camera tips right after I show you a simple technique to help you deliver good presentation:

  • Grab your audience’s attention to begin (I like to stay silent just long enough for it to be awkward or in the context of this article, I feigned dropping a camera for effect)
  • Tell them what they will learn from the presentation next
  • Present and explain a maximum of three ideas or concepts (this is the body of your presentation)
  • Summarise and recap what they (should hopefully) have learned at the end

Plan the presentation out first, using a whiteboard (or desk) divided into four sections (representing each of the above). Then write down each point you want to make on post it notes and shuffle them about between the sections until you’re happy.

Even with that fantastic technique, I still had to think long and hard about which aspect of photography to present, especially as it’s a subject you never stop learning. I sometimes even doubt my own abilities when I see the quality of photography coming out of Flickr explore. But to paraphrase the Strobist: if you’re constantly reaching just that one step further beyond yourself – that’s how you get better, isn’t it?

It didn’t take long for a presentation topic to germinate organically out of a few coincidental conversations with friends and colleagues when I mentioned the photography presentation. All were eager to prise open their bags revealing a plethora of point and shoot cameras amidst a throng of other devices and paraphernalia now required for modern life.

A large metal bronze sculpture on some grass with a child runing past behind

Rule of thirds: notice the how the top two intersections on the grid line up with the centre of points of interest in the photograph. Don't worry, this'll make sense in a moment.

“Would you like to know how to get a bit more out of that expensive camera you carry everywhere?” I suggested. The rest is history, so here’s the tips you were looking for:

  1. Give your camera a head start: most point and shoot cameras now have a few ‘modes’ like ‘portrait’, ‘sport’ or ‘sunset.’ What these do is tell the camera to adjust a few settings based on the unique characteristics of that scene. For example in ‘sport’ mode it’ll concentrate on shutter speed to freeze the action, with ‘portrait’ it might increase the aperture to give more detail on the face or now know to focus on your subject’s eyes. Choose the right mode and rather than your point and shoot camera working in ‘one size fits all’ mode you’re giving it clues about the type of thing you’re pointing it at.
  2. Compose, recompose: put a bit of thought into where objects, people or scenery will be in your shot. A good start is to use the ‘rule of thirds’ which says you should line up points of interest to a grid, using the camera’s viewfinder/screen.
  3. Take more than one shot: your digital camera can hold thousands of photos, so five or six alternatives of the same shot from different angles won’t cost you anything. Shoot a few photos stood up, crouching, through something or move left and right a bit or zoom in and out. You can pick the best one later on, rather than realising the only photograph you took is blurred or cropped out Uncle Jack’s head. Plus you take more photos, you get better and you learn from your experience.

Finally, one extra tip for you: don’t leave those photos on a memory card. Photographs are meant to be seen, shared and enjoyed, not locked up in a binary dungeon. Plus, if your point and shoot camera gets lost, stolen or some moron drops it at a presentation if you’re sharing photographs in different places like Flickr, Picassaweb or Photobucket you’re effectively keeping back up copies elsewhere where they’ll be nice and safe.