Friday, March 4, 2011

In Need of Some Photography Expertise

I got a brand new Nikon Coolpix S8100 for Christmas, and have been having a good time developing my skills and learning the camera's features. I have been having some difficulty, which I am more inclined to believe is the result of human error rather than any shortcomings from the camera. I have learned in researching cameras that there is a whole language to photography, and I don't speak it.

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 is a point-and-shoot camera that says it boasts a lot of features available on a DSLR, but without the expense, the equipment, or the need of a skilled photographer. I am an amateur with no aspirations of doing anything more than taking the best possible pictures of my family. I do not expect my photos to be of the same quality of a DSLR or for my photography skills to even come close to such results. Just wanna put that out there so that the photographers and photography buffs who I am desperately seeking guidance from will not be insulted thinking I'm trying to create photos as beautiful as theirs with a point-and-shoot. Not the case.

In case this information is helpful, the Nikon has a 10x optical zoom, and allows me to select features such as: night landscape, night portrait, backlighting, indoor/party, and auto mode. I have been experimenting with the different features, with varied results. I promise to be brief, but if ANYBODY has a suggestion, I would be so grateful. If you know what it's like to try and capture an adorable moment with a baby, only to have the picture turn out poorly and the moment is now over, you understand my frustration.
This is what I would consider to be a "good" picture. At least, good for me. I use the Night Landscape option, I think it makes a nice warm glow in the picture. The downside is that if the subject is in motion, the image will be blurry. If you look closely, you'll notice that the image on Robinson's shirt is slightly blurred because he isn't perfectly still. This is a big problem with babies, not being still.
 This is what I get when I use Night Landscape and my subject(s) are in motion.
 Night Portrait is surprisingly worse, given its name.

I believe this is Auto Mode or Indoor/Party, without the flash. The camera features a flashing red light that flickers before taking the picture. It's to prevent red-eye, but I call it the "smile killer", as this was supposed to be a moment capturing Robinson's adorable smile. Until the red light flickered and he made this face. I imagine as he gets older, this will be less of a problem. Another thing I don't understand: clearly, this is a series of photos taken at the same time, with the same external factors. So why is one picture so much blurrier than the other? I may have chosen a different feature, like Subject Tracking, in the second photo.
 I try to use the optical zoom, rather than holding the camera closer to the subjects, but sometimes it's still overexposed. Sometimes, a bright flash in a baby's face is a bad thing.
This photo was either Subject Tracking or Auto Mode (if it's important to know which, I can take more pictures, but honestly they all turn out this way.) There must be some kind of shutter speed setting that I can adjust in the camera so that this won't happen.

I purposefully chose a high-end point and shoot so I could take beautiful pictures without needing to make a big investment. Now, I'm having to take 40 blurry, over-exposed pictures in order to get one good picture. I know I'm doing something wrong here, and I'm feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Help me!


  1. I have the same problem. I've heard that increasing the ISO speed can help make the shutter go off faster, but I've not tried it yet, because I don't know what that means and even where to find it on my camera. I have a DSLR and still have the same issues, so rest easy knowing that you spent your money wisely on the cheaper version. I however, did not.

  2. Two problems:
    1) No matter how nice your point & shoot, there is always going to be a slight delay between pushing the shutter button and the picture actually taking. So it's near impossible to catch a moment in that exact moment using a p&s. Major bummer. I wish there was a fix for that.
    2) Most blurriness is a result of inadequate lighting or prolonged shutter speed. In your case, probably inadequate lighting. Indoor low lighting photography is difficult even with dslr. So you're stuck using a flash (which I personally hate but some people are great at knowing how to use effectively) or prolonging shutter speed / lowering aperture. With p&s, I'm not sure how much control you have over your shutter speed / aperture settings but if you can change them, experiment and see what you get. However, if you slow the shutter speed too much you'll have to use a tripod.

    The easiest solution = more ambient light. Lamps, overhead lights. Or see if they make external flashes for your camera - I'm not sure if you can use them with p&s or not?

    But really inside at night without external flash/lighting, it's hard to get enough light necessary to allow you to decrease shutter speed enough to freeze motion.

    So I advise turning on all the lights and telling Robinson to hold completely still until the picture takes.

    Sorry if this was the worst advice / ramble ever. I'm an amateur (at best) and I'm also trying to type this on my iPhone!

    I'm done!


  3. Oh yeah, and you can increase your ISO settings. The trade off is the higher the iso, the grainier the picture.

    Okay, now I'm done.

  4. Anna pegged it pretty much. I'm an amateur at best too. I couldn't have written it any better. Generally, if you have a blurry picture it's due to shutter speed and/or lighting. The manual for your camera should tell you what each setting will do on your camera. Do you have a "sport" or "action" setting? Usually point & shoots do. Those usually work best for pets and children. That setting is usually "pre-set" for a fast shutter speed - my guess the quickest preset on your camera. It usually will not have a flash so bright lighting will be a must. Another thing, on my old point & shoot I always thought the "night" setting was pointless unless you were going for the blurry subject moving light look. I took a few at a bar one time and they turned out neat - but otherwise pointless.