Journalists' Toolkit

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A training site for multimedia and online journalists

Photo quality tips for point-and-shoot cameras

Follow these tips to make your photos look much more professional than snapshots.

  1. Disable the flash completely. Do not choose “auto.” Choose OFF.
  2. Disable the digital zoom. The digital zoom makes images look terrible. Turn it OFF. Use only OPTICAL zoom — on any camera.
  3. Look carefully all around the edges of the frame (in the LCD screen) before you press the button. Is there any distracting stuff (trash cans, actual trash, a power pole or streetlight) in the frame? If so, MOVE. (Move the camera, move your feet.) Then look again.
  4. Look carefully at the photo in the LCD screen after taking it. Retake it if you see any flaws. Don’t hesitate to shoot the same thing 10 or 20 times.
  5. Set the camera for its highest quality. BEST. HIGHEST. ULTRA. Choose the largest size (both in pixels and in megabytes). Read this if you are confused. If you are still confused, post a question in the Course Questions discussion. NOTE: Do not choose “RAW” unless you are prepared to work with EXTREMELY large files.
  6. Learn how to make YOUR camera focus on something you choose that is NOT in the center of the frame. This is KEY! (Look it up in the manual for your camera.)
  7. Find out if your camera allows you to select ISO. If so, use the lowest ISO (80 or 100, probably) in all cases except: (a) low light, and/or (b) high-speed action, like sports.
  8. Find out if you can choose the white balance or light source (for example, sun, clouds, incandescent light, fluorescent light). If so, experiment with these, especially for indoor shooting. It makes a HUGE difference. (This is NOT the same as “scene mode.”)

Help! I Lost My Manual!

Never fear — the product manual for almost every electronic device is ONLINE, in the PDF file format. (I keep the PDF for my Canon G11 camera on my iPhone so that I can look stuff up when I’m traveling with my camera.)

To find the product manual for any device, do a Google search for the manufacturer and model number, plus the word “manual.”

Example: canon SD940 IS manual

The best page to open from the search results is the top one from the manufacturer (that is canon.com in this case). You’ll find the link to the PDF in the box with links to Features, Specifications, etc.