Monday, December 17, 2012

Shooting action with a point and shoot

For me, the little dancer in the middle of the image  makes the picture.
I think of my Fuji FinePix HS10 as a glorified point and shoot. It appears, at first glance, to be small version of a DSLR but it is more illusion that fact. Oh, it has some nice features, I love the manually controlled zoom. It works just like my professional zoom lenses from my days as a newspaper shooter. But the oh-so-slow lens is a killer — a picture killer.

If you are like me, too poor to afford a complete DSLR kit, a couple of point and shoots can work just fine but you have to make some concessions. You've got to accept that you will have a high failure rate when it comes to taking pictures under difficult conditions.

Something that most folk forget is that action is not constant. If dancing girls are hopping about a stage, there is a moment when they are neither hopping up nor down. Action stops while the direction of the action reverses. Capture this peak moment and even a slow shutter speed will yield a picture.

Capturing the peak moment is easier said than done. I find with my HS10 that if I use the continuous shooting mode I increase my chances of hitting this action-capturing sweet spot.

Link the use of the continuous shooting mode with shooting moments when action has actually stopped is an even better way of guaranteeing an image. For instance, with the dancers there was a moment at the end of every reel or jig when the girls took a pose before bounding off stage. These poses made for perfect moments for maximizing the chance of capturing a quality photo.

One nice thing about posed shots is the quality; It is good enough quality to make acceptable prints. When images are presented online, they do not need the resolution demanded by images being made into prints.

If you are sacrificing movement in order to get a good image, watch for images with other features that can give the picture visual punch. Colour is a good thing to watch for. Splashes of colour almost always add to the appearance of a picture on a page.

Shooting a dance performance, inside on a stage, can be difficult when using a point and shoot. But, it is not an impossible situation. But, if there is one dancer, a daughter or granddaughter that you simply must have in a picture, go for the posed shot.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Use "motor drive" with your point and shoot

Firing at wide angle maximizes the f/stop in use.
 O.K., it's not quite a motor drive. But, holding the shutter button down on many point and shoots will give a continuous burst of shots at a subdued speed — more like an old fashioned camera winder than one of today's super quick motor drives. Still, even a humble winder has its place.

My Canon S90 (the Canon S110 is the replacement) has an f/2.0 lens when used wide open. This demands shooting at wide angle. As the lens is zoomed it loses maximum aperture size. Shooting at wide open with the lens at wide angle, set the camera to available light photography. You want natural looking images taken without a flash. Most folk prefer the look of available light over harsh on-camera flash.

The school gymnasium where my granddaughter's Christmas pageant was held was somewhat dark, at least for photography. The shutter delay on my point and shoot struggled to focus and this meant lost pictures.

In situations like this I have found waiting for picture moments and then simply laying on the shutter button works wonders. Line up your shot, or anticipated shot, and then when the moment is right start firing. With luck you will grab an image with minimal subject movement. (I know you will hold the camera steady and keep camera movement to a minimum, right?)

As this was a picture moment, the potential for capturing a good image is there. Unfortunately, the slow shutter speed necessitated by the available light approach dooms many of the images. But, with my system you will have choices and a few of those choices may be just what the (photo) doctor ordered.

Points to remember:

  • Wait for a picture moment.
  • Shoot at wide angle to maximize the f/stop in use.
  • Keep the shutter button depressed to fire off a series of shots.
  • Hold the camera steady. If possible, brace the camera. 
  • Use a very large SD card. You don't want to fill your card during your shoot.
  • View your pictures at the soonest possible moment; Enlarge the best ones to ensure you've got your picture.