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How to Control Aperture and Shutter Speed on an Entry Level Point and Shoot Digital Camera

Fujifilm-Finepix-A700-FrontDarren, thanks for your recent articles on aperture and shutter speed, they were really interesting. My problem is that I have a point and shoot camera that doesn’t have the ability to change aperture and shutter speed manually. I would especially like to have more control of aperture and depth of field – is there any way I can do this without upgrading my camera? Submitted by Susan.

Good question Susan – it’s one I’ve had a few times of late so you’re not alone as a Point and Shoot user wanting more control over your settings.

Really you have two main options.

1. Upgrade your camera

The first of these options is probably ideal if you want real control over the settings your camera uses for aperture and shutter speed. While you can do a few things to ‘trick’ your camera (see below) you’ll be limited in the exactness in the settings it will choose.

If you’re looking to upgrade you’ve got two main choices – a DSLR or another point and shoot with more manual control (read this tutorial on making the choice between DSLR and Point and Shoot cameras).

Probably the best bet if you’re after complete control (in more than just aperture and shutter speed) is to go for a DSLR which will let you add a variety of lenses, shoot in full manual mode (in most cases) and have lots of control over other elements such as ISO, white balance, exposure etc.

Alternatively look at a more advanced point and shoot. These days even some of the more basic point and shoot cameras coming onto the market come with manual or semi-manual control. If you go for a point and shoot look for something that at least has aperture priority or shutter priority modes.

Of course this option is going to cost you financially. If you don’t have the budget for this – read on.

2. Learn to live with your point and shoot and learn how to ‘trick it’ into doing what you want.

Ultimately you’ve got a digital camera that was designed largely to be used in Auto mode where it makes the decisions about what settings to choose.

Having said this – even the most basic entry level point and shoot digital cameras these days come with a variety of shooting modes which give you the photographer the ability to tell the camera what situation you’re shooting in and what type of photo you’re hoping to take.

The most common shooting modes include ‘sports’, ‘portrait’, ‘landscape’, ‘macro’, ‘movie’ (for more on shooting modes see this previous post).

Understanding and using these modes gives you a little more control over settings like Aperture and Shutter Speed as each of them will trigger different settings in your camera.

You write in your question that you’d like more control over Aperture and Depth of Field. I’d encourage you to shoot in two modes – ‘Portrait’ and ‘Landscape’.

  • If you’re looking for Shallow Depth of Field (ie your foreground and background blurry) shoot in Portrait mode as this will trigger your camera to choose a wider aperture.
  • If you’re looking for a wider depth of field (ie everything in focus) shoot in Landscape mode where the camera selects small apertures in this mode.
  • If you’re looking for a fast shutter speed choose ‘Sports’ mode as in this mode it’s assuming you want to freeze fast moving subjects.
  • If you’re looking for a slow shutter speed you’ll have more of a challenge as most cameras don’t have a an automatic mode that naturally chooses this. You could try shooting in Night mode (if your camera has it) but this mode will also fire off a flash. Try covering your flash up and you might get the result you’re after.

Of course none of these modes allow you to get specific about the settings your camera chooses but they do give you a bit more control than you might think you have.
If you’re still thirsting for more control, start saving for your next digital camera!

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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