Compact digital cameras have a lot going for them. They’re small, easy to use, and cheaper than most DSLR systems. Compact cameras are especially great for those looking to ease into the world of photography.

In recent years, the compact camera market has seen a lot of great cameras. There was a time when buying compact digital cameras meant that one would have to make compromises in image quality, ease of use, and overall satisfaction. However, with the new breed of compact cameras coming to the market, photographers are now able to get great results without having to sacrifice as much. There’s definitely a great opportunity to produce great images with compact cameras and hopefully with these handy tips, you’ll be on your way to your next photo adventure in no time.

1) Use Both Hands Whenever Possible.

image_compactcamera_003This photo was taken with a 1/40 sec. shutter speed. With unsteady hands, it will be easy to get some motion blur. Notice how the camera captured the motion of the walking man in the foreground but the background remains sharp.

Compact cameras usually have smaller sensors than their bigger dSLR brothers. This means that their light-gathering capabilities aren’t as advanced as full-frame, larger sensors.

Your compact camera will usually need more light (i.e. a slower shutter, higher ISO, and larger aperture) to get the proper exposure. Slow shutter speeds means you’ll get blurry photos and high ISO sensitivity will mean more noise.

When shooting with a compact camera (especially one without an optical viewfinder), most people tend to use one hand extended in front of them which doesn’t make for a very stable platform.

Instead, use both of your hands to steady your camera and hold it as close to your body as possible to create a stable platform for your camera. By keeping your camera as steady as possible, you’ll be able to set the shutter speed a little slower than usual without getting any motion blur. And a slower shutter also means you don’t have to turn up the ISO sensitivity too much and this means you’ll get less noise in your photos.

2) Learn Your Camera’s Quirks. Every Camera Has Them.

I’ve owned and used a lot of different kinds of cameras and while they all work with the same basic principles (controlling light), they aren’t all the same in function and in use. In fact, after a while, you’ll notice that each camera you use will have their own characteristics, — or, dare I say — personalities .

For instance, some cameras will be very uncooperative in low light. Other cameras will focus slowly, and others will over or underexpose. These aren’t really flaws or shortcomings, they’re just little imperfections that you must learn to work with. Compact cameras aren’t like DSLR systems in the sense that if you’re not happy with how it performs, you can just change to a different lens or change the camera body. Compact cameras come as a package and as such, they will all have their little quirks and idiosyncrasies built into them.

The more familiar you are with your camera’s quirks, the better you’ll be at knowing how to work with them or around them.

For the compact camera user, this is invaluable because this means that as you take your camera with you on all of your adventures, you’ll know exactly how it behaves in any circumstance.

3) When in Doubt, Use Auto Mode.

image_compactcamera_002This photo was taken using Auto Mode. The camera chose a 1/200th sec. shutter speed, ISO 125, f/5.6 aperture. I would have probably chosen very similar settings.

The compactness of a compact camera is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they’re easy to carry and take anywhere. However, its portability means that the controls and functions of compact cameras are often hidden in menus and accessed only by the use of tiny buttons.

This doesn’t really make for the quickest or easiest shooting experience. Camera reviewers refer to this as, the camera’s “handling.”

To get ahead of any handling issues during those moments when you just need to get the shot, use your camera’s auto mode – or the many scene modes that compact cameras often have.

Compact cameras, especially in the last 5 years or so, are made to be used in auto mode or their scene modes. They’re incredibly smart that way. In fact, the manual controls (if your camera has them) are just added on for the more experienced (or more finicky) photographer. In fact, most compact cameras don’t even have manual controls.

Often, if you use your camera’s auto mode or scene modes properly, you’ll get amazing results without even thinking about f-stops and shutter speeds. Instead, you’ll just be focused on the more important aspects of photography such as composition and choosing your subjects.

4) Pay Attention to the Light.

image_compactcamera_001This photo was taken just after sunset.

The main advantage of compact cameras is that you’re able to take them with you anytime, anywhere. This also means that you’ll be faced with opportunities to shoot in all kinds of light. Pay attention to the quality of light around you and learn to use it to your advantage.

For instance, landscape photos look great when the sun just just above the horizon. Portraits look great when the light is diffused by clouds or window curtains. You can also get creative with shadows.

Having a compact camera with you means you’ll have more opportunities to take great photos but you can only do that once you learn how light behaves and once you learn to use it to your advantage.

5) Think of Possibilities Instead of Limitations.

Sure, compact cameras are far from perfect. There are always going to be some compromises made in image quality (although less and less with each new generation of compact camera being released), handling, and overall satisfaction when it comes to compact cameras.

However, instead of diving into a spiraling abyss of gear envy because you don’t have the biggest, baddest, most powerful dSLR on the block, think of the possibilities a compact camera affords you instead.

Compact cameras are easy to take anywhere and if you know how to use your camera properly, who’s to say you can’t take great photos (sometimes even better than a dSLR) with it? Maybe instead of wishing for a “better” camera, you can work on improving you technique.

They’re cheap(er) than dSLR systems. This means you can spend your money on making your adventures even greater rather than spending your money on camera gear.

They’re more discreet and less intimidating to your subjects which allows you to get some really great candid photos.

Final thoughts

As a professional photographer, I’ve always thought that image quality was the most important thing about my cameras. However, the more I shoot and the more experience I get in my job, I’m beginning to appreciate the fact that it’s not always about quality. Sometimes, it’s just about getting the shot no matter what. That’s why I’m once again beginning to appreciate this segment of the camera market. In a way, compact cameras are a purer form of photography. It’s just about shooting and nothing else. It’s the camera you have with you.

Share some of your favorite photography tips in the comments section below.


Isaac is the Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Design Instruct. He has experience in various design and art related fields including design, illustration, and photography. He's in charge of making sure that Design Instruct publishes high quality content that professional designers and digital artists demand and expect. Get in touch via email and on Twitter as @designinstruct or @IAMTHEGUBE.