April 12th, 2017

Compact camera tips

As much as I love my DSLR, I know that DSLRs are not for everyone. They’re expensive, have a steep learning curve, and can be a burden to carry around. I’m sure other DSLR owners out there can sympathize with me when I say that I don’t always want to carry it with me. Sometimes I just want to use my compact camera or phone!

Not to mention, people often worry too much about gear, and they forget that there’s more to photography. Yes, DSLRs can take high quality photos, but they don’t guarantee a good photo. A lot of it still comes down to the skill of the photographer, and you can definitely take good photos without them. This is why I dedicate this entry to tips on getting good photos with a compact camera!

(All photos in this entry were taken with a compact camera!)


I actually love flash photography on my DSLR, but that’s because the flash is separate and flexible. I can place it away from the camera and use different techniques to diffuse it. This isn’t the case with most compact cameras. The flash is stuck in one place without many options to diffuse the light. You end up with a harsh light pointed directly at your subject. Of course, you should use your flash if you can’t get a clean shot without it, but if you have a choice, I’d avoid it.

Taken indoors with lighting from the window

Natural light isn’t a complete solution either. You can get harsh lighting with natural light, especially if it’s clear and sunny in the middle of the day. In these cases, shade is your best friend! Cloudy days are also great because the clouds act as a natural diffuser for the sun.

Example: these two photos are actually taken 2 minutes apart. The first was with clouds overhead, and the second was when the sun briefly shone through. You can see how much softer and even the lighting is in the first photo.

In cases where you have low light, it might be hard to take a non-blurry photo. Even the slightest movement of pushing down the shutter button can shake the photo. I do my best to act as my own tripod. I use a flat surface (like a table) to rest both of my elbows. Then I set a 2 second timer. This lets me push down the button first, and then the photo takes 2 seconds later when my hands are still.

Taken indoors at night in low lighting

I should mention that there may be times where you actually want a harsh light, like for a more dramatic look. In these cases, some sort of external light will still give you more control than the on-camera flash. For example, even a simple desk lamp can work.

Desk lamp as lighting

Camera flash as lighting

Photo set-up

Depth of Field

Depth of field is the range of distance of when things in the photo are sharp. There’s a lot of misconceptions about it, especially with the term “bokeh” just tossed all over. I’ve shown in a past entry how aperture can affect this, which gives an advantage to DSLRs.

However, there are more factors to getting a shallow depth of field (where the subject is in focus and the rest is blurred) than just the aperture, such as camera-to-subject distance. Just by getting closer to your subject, you can cause a more shallow depth of field.

In these two photos, I did not move the figure or background at all. On the left, I stood farther back and cropped the photo. You can see that the photo looks more “flat”. On the right, I actually got up closer to the figure. It’s subtle, but you can see more dimension in the photo because both the foreground and background are slightly more blurred.

(Note: all lenses have a minimum focus distance. If you get so close that your camera can’t focus on your subject anymore, you need to back up a bit.)

And of course, if you’re close to your subject, the distance between the subject and background matters too.


If you think about it, the things I mentioned above are general photography tips. Gear can make a difference, but gear is also not everything. If you want a DSLR, then great! I absolutely love mine! If you don’t want one, that’s also great! I take plenty of photos without it too!

By honing your skills, you can still get good photos, no matter what you use. Plus, there are so many high end compacts and mirrorless cameras on the market now, so be sure to fully explore your options. Use what works for you, improve your skills, and the results will show.

10 Responses to “Compact camera tips”

  • Nancy says:

    I feel awkward carrying my DSLR sometimes because of the environment buuuut I’m trying to overcome that self-consciousness slowly. I definitely agree with the steep learning curve. I’m learning at my own pace and I’m getting somewhere very slowly XD.

    All of your pictures taken with the compact camera look amazing!!!! I see a big difference between the two pictures with Link outside. The clouds definitely help with that softer tone. This makes me wish that the clouds are out more often :’).

    I’m entertained by the word “bokeh” as it is without any definitions involved XD. I think when I was making my photo experience blog post, I couldn’t come up with “depth of field” wording. The depth of field makes sense to me now.

    With photography, the settings seem to differ on a case by case basis. Like there’s a time and place where a good picture can be taken (synthetic vs natural lighting) or (shallow vs deep depth of field) depending on what effect you’re looking for. This post is a really good guidance to boost picture-taking skills. I agree that gear does make a difference but it’s not everything and skill makes a big difference. This post gives me some excellent pointers with how I should approach photography (thank you :D). I think a big area for improvement on my end is the angle I take pictures in.

  • Vicky says:

    Oooh! This is awesome. Thanks for sharing all these tips c: I’ve been planning on getting a camera, but had no idea what kind/how much money I was willing to spend on one haha.

  • Rezina says:

    Great tips! I feel like these tips can also be applied to other types of camera. I especially enjoyed reading your lighting tips and appreciate the comparison photos.

    I also totally agree that taking pictures isn’t dependent on the gear but rather your skills. I struggle taking good pictures but am very satisfied if even one or two turn out really nicely! It’s like fancy writing programs. They’re nice to use but regular Microsoft Word works just as well.

  • Pauline says:

    This was very useful Cat! Thank you for sharing. It’s particularly useful for me when I jet off to Amsterdam tomorrow! I’ll be mindful of your tips. Although I don’t have a DSLR, I can feel your pain carrying a camera around. Even though my mirrorless camera is smaller compared to a DSLR I still feel uncomfortable carrying it around because of people looking at me as I take photos. This is something I’ve come to learn to get over!

    I recently bought an iPhone 7 Plus and have been blown away by the quality! It was my go-to when I went away to Portugal and France. I compared photos I took on my iPhone VS camera and although my camera has a slightly better quality, the iPhone is a pretty good alternative!

    But as you said, skills > gear. SO. TRUE.

  • Amy says:

    Some really useful tips here. I usually use my phone for photo-taking, so this’ll really help me out when it comes to blog photography.

    I always struggle with lighting. Usually I have to take photos without natural light, because I finish work so late, which isn’t great. I’ll definitely have to try using lamps, etc, because that photo looks so cool.

    I’ve never owned a DSLR, because I know I don’t have great photography skills. As much as I’d like to think that a fancy camera would make me a better photographer, I know that’s never true. I’m trying to improve my skills generally though, so if I get a lot better I might end up investing in one. Who knows!

  • Tara says:

    Thank you for these tips! I don’t have a DSLR, but I did try the one at my workplace, and holy crud! It’s so heavy T_T I could barely hang onto it. I did fiddle around with it and it was interesting, but the weight really affected me. I don’t have a good grip on things, so I know that’d camera would fall out of my hand many times, and then it would break. X_X My iPhone will suffice.

    I always turn off my flash unless I need it. I do prefer natural lighting, but too much sunlight does ruin the lighting. So it makes sense to find a good balance XD I have a hard time keeping my hand still, so I just try and try again until I get a decent shot!

    I try my best with shooting on my phone, but my results are quite mixed. When I do get a good, I’m very happy!

  • Michelle says:

    I wish I had a DSLR, but these sound like great tips and something to know about taking pictures and even shooting them. You do a great job on photoshoots and I can’t thank you enough but one day, I’ll learn the DSLR and get one, too.

  • Chynna says:

    These conpact camera photos are amazing! I’ve one for ages, but I’ve never been ablet o get good pics out of it. It’s like you said, though, that it’s also down to the skill of the photographer. I’m slowly trying to gain skillz, but I definitely need a lot more practice!

    These tips are so useful, and I will definitely be coming back to them when I take photos! Thank you 🙂

  • Claudine says:

    Great tips Cat! 🙂 I own a compact camera as well but I admit that I need more practice, I never really learned anything about photography before! 😀

    I liked your tip about the depth of field most, and the two photos really showed the difference. I’ll definitely keep that in mind when taking portraits!

  • Ongaku says:

    You are so talented, thanks for the tips! I wouldn’t have had any idea these were done without a DSLR if you hadn’t said anything. These tips also really help me with my DSLR. The more photos I take I always learn more things too. Lately I haven’t been doing too many photos. I need to change that up.

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