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Quick Tips to Speed Up Your Compact Camera

Quick Tips to Speed Up Your Compact Camera

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Make sure you don't miss that magic moment!

By Jack Howard

December 1, 2009

I originally wrote this piece as a guest blogger for our friends over at, a cool site all about tech gadgets geared towards women. But as holiday gatherings approach, these are great tips for everyone for making the most of challenging holiday photo ops with your compact camera.


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Check your camera manual for how to employ these speed-up tips for holiday shots on your particular point-and-shoot.


There's little more frustrating than missing a great shot because your camera isn't acting as responsively as you'd hope. But there are some quick and easy adjustments that you can make that might just mean the difference between missing or making the shot at that magic moment this holiday season. Be sure to read your camera's manual to determine just how exactly to implement some of these fixes with your particular compact camera.


  • Turn off Instant Preview: When the action is happening, keep shooting! If you want to check the shots, just tap the playback button. But keep yourself in capture mode when there are pictures to be made.


  • Turn the flash off: When there is good light, make sure the flash is turned off, because many compact digicams will not fire another shot while the flash is recycling, even if the fill-flash effect is minimal. So you will be waiting, waiting, waiting for the flash to recycle before your next shot. Many recent compact cameras now also offer shadow and highlight adjustment modes, meaning shots without fill-flash will show more detail with less contrast than models from just a few years ago.


  • Turn the Flash (and AF-assist beam) On: In dark rooms and outdoors at night, turn the flash and AF-assist beam on. Your camera needs light and contrast to focus, and the onboard preflash and/or AF-assist beam will significantly decrease focus searching and out of focus shots in dim situations.


  • Skip the fancy focus modes and go with the center focusing point: When it's all happening pretty fast, select the center focusing point, and either single-shot or continuous focusing mode, depending on if your subject is still or moving.  Lenses are sharpest and have the best resolution at their centers, and if you must have a rule of thirds composition, you can always do an assymetrical crop afterwards. But a sharp picture cropped is better than a soft photo any day!


  • Select single shot  and pre-focus: When you've got a subject that isn't moving–or is moving parallel to the sensor and lens–prefocus the camera by half-pressing the shutter button. Once you've focused, just wait for the magic to happen and fire the shutter at the right moment! (You can also use this trick to lock focus on a centered subject and then recompose the shot to be an off-centered composition!)


  • Consider night portrait mode: Most "serious" photographers avoid all scene and situational presets on their cameras, but for night scenes with lots of holiday lights, this is a quick and easy way to capture both the sparkling lights and putting a little flash pop on the people in the foreground.


  • Pre-capture makes up for slow reflexes: If you simply cannot train your reflexes to nail the winning shot no matter how hard you try,  you might want to check out some of the cameras in Casio's high-speed line such as the Exilim EX-FS10. These cameras can shoot off still frames at 4x6 print quality at super-high capture rates of 30 frames per second. And shutter lag correction can be set up so that it is recording shots before you pull the trigger–meaning even if you are a few tenths of a second late in firing the shutter, you've still got that moment captured! 


  • Read the manual: As boring as it can be, it will make your photos stronger when you know exactly how your camera should react in different situations. The most important thing is to understand how your camera is going to behave, and prepare accordingly. Don't wait for a once-in-a-lifetime moment to see if your camera is quick in focusing in low light situations.


Got any more tips or tricks for making quick work of challenging holiday-season snapshot situations? Let us know!

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