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How to Control Aperture and Shutter Speed on an Entry Level Point and Shoot Digital Camera

Point and Shoot Digital Camera
Point and Shoot Digital Camera

The digital camera I recently purchased (my first digital camera) has only got the following shooting modes; Portrait, sports, landscape, macro and movie. Is there some way by which I could control the aperture and shutter-speed without upgrading my camera?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions among the various emails I get so I thought I’d better put up a post rather than trying to answer each one of the mails individually.

Most point and shoot digital cameras except for the top of the line models does not have the ability to manually set aperture or shutter-speed. As a result precise controlling of depth of field and motion blur is quite difficult to achieve.

Many people don’t even realize the need or importance of such fine control until they have purchased their first camera and have spend a considerable amount of time trying to shoot different subjects.

Only when their skills increase to a particular level and face many creative photographic opportunities they begin to discover their camera’s limitations.

When faced with such a situation one really has two options. First is to upgrade his/her camera to a DSLR or any advanced point and shoot model with manual controls. This really is the ideal solution provided you have the budget and willingness to spend it over camera and various accessories. But since it is apparent from the question itself that for the time being getting a new camera is not an option, let us rule out that possibility and look at the second option.

You might have noticed the various shooting modes your camera has and that when set to different modes the camera behaves differently, or takes pictures of the same subject/scene with different combinations of aperture and shutter speeds when set to different modes.

Shooting modes allow the photographer to tell the camera what is the nature of the subject/scene that you intend to shoot and what the effect you are hoping to get is.

A thorough understanding of how these different modes function will help you trick your camera into selecting the kind of exposure variables that you wish for a subject. However do keep in mind that you will not be able to get exact same settings that you have in mind but will be able to shift the aperture and shutter-speeds more or less towards the desired values.

Turn OFF Auto ISO

Most point and shoot digital cameras are set to auto ISO by default. Set it to a desired value based on the lighting conditions and how well your camera handles high ISO noise.

Portrait Mode for Shallow Depth of Field

If shallow depth of field is what you are trying to achieve set your camera to portrait mode. The camera will choose wide open apertures to render the background blurred and make the subject stand out.

Landscape Mode for Large Depth of Field

If you like the entire scene from foreground to background to be in focus, set your camera to landscape mode, the camera will choose narrow apertures to render the complete scene in focus.

Sports Mode for Fast Shutter Speeds

If freezing action is what you have in mind set your camera to sports mode, in this mode the camera will select faster shutter speeds.

Achieving Slow Shutter Speeds

One thing that is very difficult to do with point and shoot cameras is to achieve very slow shutter speeds, normally there is no preset mode for that, but try night mode/slow sync flash etc, if you don’t need the flash try turning it off or cover it with some opaque material.

The very fact that you are looking for more control over exposure variables and that you know precisely what effect you need in a situation (depth of field, motion blur etc.); means that you have outgrown your point and shoot in photographic skills.

Very soon you will be frustrated with the limitations of your present camera and will be forced to upgrade. Resort to the above tips as stopgap arrangements until you could save enough to buy your next camera.

There is no photographer who could limit his purchase in a single camera all through his career; technology make it impossible by changing fast; making maximum use of the present one alone can be the only remedy. 
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