Pro Shots With Your Point-And-Shoot - 3/31/08
Use the features your point-and-shoot does have to make up for the manual controls it lacks
On virtually all digital point-and-shoot cameras, pressing and holding the shutter release halfway will lock both the point of focus and the exposure. That can be indispensable when it comes to photographing the scene as you see it-particularly in tricky lighting situations.
If the main part of the scene that you want to emphasize is, say, a dramatic smoke-filled sky, simply pointing and shooting may deliver brightly overexposed clouds on an even whiter background because the camera doesn't think that's what you want to photograph. Likewise, if what you really want is the detail in a shadowed building, but you point the camera to meter the bright sky, your building is bound to be underexposed. No matter which part of the contrasty scene you want correctly exposed, the trick is to point the camera in that direction before you take the picture. If the scene contains a little of both, you'll likely get a middle-ground exposure that isn't right for either-but it might be best for a postproduction compromise.
Compromise can also be a problem if you're not planning to fix the shot in the computer. If you wanted a dramatic sky and a silhouetted building, you need to know where to point the camera before you shoot-like putting all sky in the scene when the shutter is half-pressed. All buildings in the scene will provide a brighter shot with detail in the structure-if that's where you want it.
Sure, you could invest in a camera with manual controls, and I even recommend it. But that doesn't do you much good right this minute, does it? Likewise, you could navigate through the menus in the camera to adjust the exposure compensation-assuming the pocket camera comes equipped with it-to compensate for the inevitably mis-metered scene. But wouldn't it be just as easy, and even more effective, to know where to point your camera?