Taking great photos with point and shoots

House Park Stadium Sunset - Austin, Texas

House Park Stadium Sunset – Austin, Texas

I took this photo last Thursday at House Park Stadium in Austin. The football was fun but as always, I was interested in creating images. After all I was testing out my new Panasonic Lumix ZR1 point and shoot. I have other more expensive cameras but I purposely brought this $70 Lumix ZR1 to challenge myself. Would I be able to create fantastic images with an inexpensive low-end camera?

The clouds were great and it was going to be a colorful sunset. I positioned myself at the front of the stands and waited for the peak color. It took several different images but I like this one the best. No need to have an expensive camera for this kind of photo. I used my cheap $70 camera. Here is how I made the shot.

1. It always helps to have an interesting subject. A well executed photo of a boring scene is still boring. In this, case I have great sunset color and a nice color contrast to the green grass Astroturf.

2. Try to simplify the image. The less is more philosophy. This photo was about the sunset color and the stadium. I purposely waited for the football teams to be out of the frame to take the image. Having players on the field would detract from the image.

3. Look for leading lines to draw the viewer into the photo. The lines of the stadium lead into the center of the image which adds drama.

4. Take the image at the lowest available ISO for the highest technical quality. I set my Lumix ZR1 to ISO 80. Since this is not an action photo, having a slower shutter speed is fine. Maximize your quality and minimize the noise by shooting at the lowest possible ISO.

5. Stabilize your camera. When using a low ISO in the evening or in lower light, you need a stable base. The shutter speed will be slow so hand holding these shots will lead to blurry pictures. I didn’t have a tripod with me so I just used the top of a chain link fence.

6. Under exposing the image will bring out more color. I lowered the exposure 1 stop from what the camera thought it should be. Most cameras, even the budget ones, have an exposure compensation feature to raise the lower the exposure setting. Don’t lower the exposure too much or you will end up with an overly dark image. You can use the LCD screen to judge.

7. A bit of post processing. On the computer, use your image editing software to make some adjustments. I use Apple Aperture 3 program but most any photo editing software will do such as iPhoto, Lightroom and Photoshop. For this image, I brightened it a bit, made it warmer and added a some sharpness. And yes, you can make adjustments to JPEG images too. Just do it in moderation. The RAW formats allow for more adjustment latitude but JPEG can also be enhanced.

I ordered my Panasonic ZR1 as a factory refurbished model from Adorama. I got it for $69.95.

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Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.

3 thoughts on “Taking great photos with point and shoots

  1. Pink and green, one of my favorite combinations. I really like the green color on the field.

    Yes, you can get some very nice images with a point & shoot. The problem with the masses is that in so many cases they’ll point at anything and press the button.

    I’ve continued to play with my little Canon Elph and I’ve gotten some nice stuff. Have not tried it for any low light outdoors stuff yet. The little camera, in good light, still amazes me.

  2. I was looking through my photos yesterday and I realized that probably 75% were taken on one of the 2 Canon point & shoots I had over a 10-year period. They were great cameras. High quality optics and a lot of controls. I took those cameras everywhere. They ran on AAs. I didn’t even bother to get an interchangeable lens camera until the second one was dropped by someone who shall remain unnamed and I discovered Canon had discontinued that line. ALL of the sunrise, beach, woodland stuff were taken on one of my 2 Canon p&s cameras. I’m not against point and shoot cameras. I LOVE them. I wish Canon still made the ones I liked. I buy another in a heartbeat. Maybe they were too good and that’s why they discontinued them.

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