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Compact, point-and-shoot cameras are convenient, travel-ready, and inexpensive. They're also more capable—and complex—than ever. In Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera, photographer Derrick Story shows how to use a compact camera to take photos that rival those of far more expensive cameras. Derrick shows how to get the most out the camera's lens as you shoot wide-angle, telephoto, and even macro shots. Derrick also discusses the camera's exposure system and clarifies the differences among ISO settings and scene modes. He also shows how to get the best pictures in a variety of lighting conditions, including making judicious use of the flash to supplement existing light.
Just as it might seem illogical to turn on the flash outdoors in broad daylight, you might also wonder why you'd want to turn off the flash when you're indoors. There is a good reason, because natural light further is often with more realistic than flash shots. When you're photographing a family sitting around the fireplace or gathered around some birthday candles, a brilliant blast of flash is going to ruin the mood of the photo. There is a place for flash indoors but there's also a time to turn it off and the adept photographer knows both techniques.
So let me show you some examples of what I am talking about. This first shot here, this is an adorable shot and is going to be a wonderful no matter what, but I really feel like that turning off the flash would give a better mood to the shot and feel even more natural. So in this case, I know grandma is going to love the shot, but I think everyone else would love the shot with the flash off. So there is the prime example where I think flash kills the mood a little bit. Now on this next shot, here's a good example of what happens when you turn the flash off.
This is nothing but light coming in from a window. There's no reflectors, nothing else. The only thing that I did was I warmed up the scene a little bit by changing my White Balance from Auto to Cloudy. By doing that, that is like a warming filter, because light coming in from the window is cool and sometimes skin tones get a little clammy. So that's one thing to keep in mind when you're shooting these natural white photos. Now this shot, this is a wonderful shot, and this is again probably I wanted to shoot the boys having a great time, so I turned off the flash because if I have the flash on, I'm afraid I would've attracted the attention of other people, possibly the security guards, possibly asking me to leave or at least put my camera away, but by having the flash off, I was able to take as many pictures as I wanted and at the same time better capture the mood of the scene.
Now turning the flash off isn't only for people. It could be for inanimate objects also. In this case, I feel like having the flash off allowed me to capture the whole scene. If the flash had been on, I'm afraid the front car would have been too hot, overexposed, and that airplane in the back corner would have been dark. So this is a case where turning the flash off just gives me a nice even rendering of the scene. Finally there's the killer shot here. The boys blowing out the birthday candles.
This is -- of all the shots, I like this one the best, because we have the glow of the candles coming up on their face, we have the light above their head, and we have them blowing up the candles, and it's just like you are standing there. And that's the one thing when the flash is on, it doesn't feel like you're standing there always. It feels like it's a photograph. Here it feels like you get to participate. Now again I've changed the white balance. This time I changed it to Tungsten, because of that light above their head and because of the candles.
Now let me show you how to do this because you want to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. The first thing you do is go to your Flash Settings menu and choose Flash Off. Now on every camera I've ever seen, it's a lightning bolt with a line through it, and it just looks like this. So that's what you want to look for. Make that setting. Now while you're making adjustments, you play want to raise your ISO settings to 400 to make the camera more sensitive to the ambient light. If your camera does a good job with high ISO settings, you might want to go higher.
For instance, the shot of the boys was at ISO 1600 with that Canon S90. Now when you take the shot, hold the camera as steady as possible to avoid camera shake. You might want to adjust that white balance as I mentioned before to either tungsten, if you're using tungsten lighting or to cloudy, if you're using light coming in from a window. So flash off isn't for every situation but for some shots it's great. Practice ahead of time and be ready when opportunity presents itself.
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