Pin Me

How To Trick Your Point & Shoot to Control Shutter Speed and Aperture

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/15/2010

Many point & shoot digital cameras do not have a manual mode, which is frustratingly limiting for many photographers. This article outlines some basic ways to get around this lack of control for shutter speed and aperture.

  • slide 1 of 2

    While many amateur photographers crave control over shutter speed and aperture, it is often the case that the only digital equipment available to them are basic point & shoot cameras that allow them limited or even no manual control whatsoever. This photography article outlines some ways in which you can take back your point & shoot camera by tricking it into using the settings that you want.

    Before trying out the advice in the article, it is recommended that you go over the manual for your camera. Many point & shoot digital cameras do, in fact, allow some manual exposure control, but it is often buried under menus and options. This could save you a lot of unnecessary frustration.

  • slide 2 of 2

    Learn the different modes of your camera

    Learn the different modes of your camera

    After you've established the nonexistence of a manual mode, your first step to control the exposure of your digital camera is to look at the camera modes. Though they vary by camera, most of the modes have set preferences as to shutter speed and aperture. This isn't much of a step, but it's better than straight “auto" mode and gives you some level of control. Extreme familiarity with your camera is your best tool.

    Your first choices for modes are aperture or shutter speed priority modes. If you do not find any reference to either of these in your camera manual, you still have some options, though these are the most straightforward ways to manipulate these controls short of having actual manual control.

    If you don't have these, browsing through the available scene modes on your camera may result in useful results.

    For higher, wider apertures, you'll want to locate modes that have shallow depth of field. The “macro" and/or “portrait" modes are good examples of this.

    For lower, narrower apertures, you'll want to find modes that have increased depth of field and higher f-stop values. A common example is a “landscape" mode, for which depth of field needs to be maximized.

    For fast shutter speeds, you'll want modes designed for fast movement, typically a “sports" mode.

    For slow shutter speeds you'll want a mode designed for low lighting conditions, typically “indoor" or “night". However, be careful, as often this will also trigger a flash, which may not result in the desired effect. Turn it off if at all possible, though that may not be an option.

    A good trick if scene modes alone aren't cutting it: have the camera adjust its settings on a different object than the one you actually take a picture of, usually by holding down the shutter button halfway. The camera's automatic mode will think that it needs to set to something either lighter or darker than it actually needs to, and will change the aperture size and shutter speeds to compensate. This will take considerable experimentation and familiarity with your camera's quirks, but it could prove useful.

    While none of these are perfect solutions for perfect exposure control, careful use of these available settings will help you gain some control over both shutter speed and aperture size.

    Now, as it's probably obvious to you by now, there's no real reason why a point & shoot shouldn't have a manual mode: the hardware is exactly the same. Many photographers will thus take it upon themselves to hack their cameras so that they may have that perfect control that they so desire. This is a very technically involved process, and one that will probably void any warranty. However, the means do exist just a quick Google search away if you are so inclined.