Your “I Don’t Have A Nice Camera” Excuse Is Invalid

I bought my Canon t2i in December, 2010 because I was frustrated and annoyed with the perceived limitations of my old Sony point & shoot. I was convinced all the bad pictures I was producing were because I had a “crappy camera,” and that I needed a “nice” camera to take better ones.

Granted, my DSLR certainly took better pictures out of the box, but it was only with knowledge of how to actually work a camera that I was able to start producing great pictures. A “nice” camera, does not a photographer make.

After a year of studying and actually learning how photography really works, I pulled my old p&s out of the junk drawer and thought I’d play around with it one day. For the first time in the 6 years I’ve owned it, I realized that I could actually make changes to the settings… and I UNDERSTOOD what those settings would do.

And, whaddaya know? I was actually able to produce some pretty great pictures with it.

I share this, not because I’m going to abandon my DSLR now, but because I know so many of you only have a p&s, or even an iPhone, as your primary camera, and I need to show you that your excuse that you can’t take “great” pictures because you can’t afford a DSLR is INVALID.

I took this picture with my Canon t2i and a 50 1.4 lens. The camera was on auto, and the flash popped on.

Let’s pretend that green monkey is a really cooperative child and that chair isn’t covered in dog hair and Cheezit crumbs, okay?

That picture? Is crap, yet it was taken with a “nice” camera.

Then I busted this old boy out:

And proceeded to take this:

That picture is already a million times better than the one from the “nice” camera, right? Here’s why:

I moved my subject into natural light and turned the flash off. AVOID FLASH LIKE AN STD, FOLKS, at least until you have a really good grasp on how to use it properly (which I’ll admit, I don’t).

The composition and perspective are more interesting. I got down on my subjects level, and I tried to make the background more interesting with less clutter.

I used the Macro feature, found on most p&s cameras (that little tulip symbol) to help blur out that filthy chair in the background a little. (I got that tip from Me Ra Koh at Blissdom this year.)

Already, if you just do those 3 things, you’re well on your way to taking better pics with your p&s.

But Β then, for a little extra oomph, I took it into Lightroom 3. I made some small adjustments to the white balance, exposure, contrast and moved the noise reduction slider over a little to get rid of some of the graininess. I also cropped it just a bit to get rid of some of the clutter in the frame.

And then, for a little more artistic fun, I ran a couple presets on it. Both are Clickin Moms presets, and both happen to come in a free download for signing up to be on their email list.

The first is processed with Clickin Moms Paparazzi in Daily Edition.

And this one is from the Clickin Moms Film Art presets- Pewter.

And all that was done with a 6 year old Sony Cybershot, a photo organizing and editing program you can buy for $115 (or you can spend $150 on Lightroom 4), and a couple presets you can get for free.

So, before you think you have to trash your p&s and invest in a “nice” camera, ask yourself if you’re really going to take the time to learn how that nice camera, and photography in general works. And if you don’t have the money to upgrade and feel frustrated, take a little time to learn how to get great pictures regardless of your equipment! I plan for this to be the first post in a series of many where I’ll help you do just that as I learn along the way.

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    Thanks for these helpful tips!
    I don’t have a really nice camera, but it isn’t too bad and the one thing I do know about it is the flash is not my friend. Between babies with red eyes and unnaturally pale skin and cats with creepy glowing eyes, it stopped using the flash all together. It just ruins things. My newest discovery is the close shot button represented by a flower on my camera. I guess I should have read the instruction manual closer before I lost it πŸ˜‰
    Now if only I could get the baby to sit still for a picture….

    • My wife is a photographer and she’ll resort to anything as long as she doesn’t have to use a flash. She’s attempted to teach me about white balance, exposure, yadda yadda… but within 10 minutes my eyes are glazed over and there’s a trail of drool on my shirt.

      And for that purpose, I leave it to the professional! hah.

  2. I totally agree! You don’t need a fancy camera to take great pics, you just have to have an understanding of photography basics. I also agree with avoiding using flash at all costs. I much preferr to find the natural light and then compose my shot accordingly. The results are much more rewarding. Happy photographing!

  3. You have me inspired to learn more about the settings on my P&S! Any tips for iPhone photo apps? I have a few freebies that I actually love but my iPhone is a 3gs! Ancient!

    • I’m not super well versed on that just yet, unfortunately. Do you have an upgrade coming any time soon? My H has an iPhone 4 (not even a 4s) and it takes really great pictures. I’m holding out for, hopefully, the iPhone5, and then I’ll be able to do a little more exploring. My 3gs has a scratch on the lens, so I rarely use it.

    • Ha! That’s totally your preference, and that’s fine! I have a lot of friends with DSLRs who shoot images like this and they always tell me they feel like something is off, but they don’t know what it is. I immediately ask if their flash was on, and they almost always tell me yes. To me, this image is flat. If that monkey had real eyes, they’d probably look lifeless from the flash. Granted, the image is sharper, but there’s no depth to it. And, to me, I prefer a more natural look that natural light gives.

  4. This is why I didn’t purchase a traditional DSLR and went for the Sony NEX instead. I guess it’s like a hybrid between a P&S and a DSLR. I haven’t bought new lenses for it or anything yet, but I told myself that until I learn how to actually take photos and how the camera works, there’s no need to upgrade lenses. Its great to have a fancy lens, but if I dont know how to use the camera holding the lens, it’s wasted money.

  5. I can’t wait to learn how to take better pics with the p.and.s!! Especially how to take pictures of kids, indoors, without the flash!!

  6. All I have is a P&S. I want a DSLR, but I also know that a) I don’t have time right now to properly learn how to use it, and b) it’s not in the budget currently.

    I still struggle with getting the right lighting, and need to experiment w/ editing a little more, but the most practical thing I learned about getting good shots w/ my P&S camera? I keep it on the “Kids & Pets” setting. It’s basically the “take a good picture of something moving and still get a sharp pic instead of lots of blur” setting.

    Since most of my pics are of my kiddo, it’s great. But I just keep it on there, because you never know when someone’s gonna make a slight move at the last second. And now… I don’t have to worry about it.

  7. Great explanation! And yes, the camera does not make the photographer! The talent does. I can’t tell you how many people ask me how to use their slr only to abandon ship after they realize they have to actually know how to use it. I’ve seen some stellar shots with a P&S and iPhone. It’s a lot about perspective and lighting.

  8. This is great. It just goes to show that a “nice camera” does not a photographer make. I’ve seen absolutely stunning images captured with an iPhone, and I’ve seen utter crap come from a 5DMII. It all depends on who is behind the camera and how much they know about using it. Nice pics!

  9. Definitely! The on camera flash generally produces crap images πŸ™‚ I have a SpeedLite that I pop on mine, and point towards the ceiling. It seems to add more depth to the photos!

  10. Awesome! Thank you so much! I am a complete novice with photography and have been so frustrated with my point and shoot! This helps a lot! I can’t wait to give it a try!

  11. This is so true! Out of laziness I have been using my iphone a lot for photos. I will go back to my fancy DSLR but it isn’t all about the camera.

  12. Thank you thank you thank you!! I only have a P&S camera and no budget to upgrade plus no time to learn a DSLR. I’m going to try the macro on my camera (and thanks for telling me what that tulip does). I just love coming here, I learn so much.

  13. I have an old… oh jeeze now about 5 years old… point and shoot and the flash doesn’t work on it anymore. I have found this makes it virtually impossible to take pictures of anything that moves, even in the slightest, and not have it be blurry. Since the only time 2.5 year olds are motionless is when they are sleeping, I find it impossible to get any picture of her that doesn’t make you sea sick looking at it. You, however, suggest avoiding flash like an std. So, and this is an honest question, how is one supposed to take pictures of a child without flash, in the absense of abundant natural light?

  14. UGHGH I HATE flash on my iPhone camera. I always have it off. But I am totally coveting the iPhone 4s now after being with a friend who had it. We both took identical pictures, one with my “old” iPhone 4 and her with her fancy iPhone 4s and the picture was literally a hundred times better on hers. (I should show them to you – the difference is ridiculous). And here I thought my crappy old iPhone 4 took awesome photos. It’s HD, man! What the hell!

    But on to your pictures – see I don’t think the plain picture with the P&S looks good. But I do think it gets pretty when you use Lightroom on it. And I bet that’s true of the pictures taken with the more expensive cameras too. It seems that a LOT of photo editing needs to be done to make all those disgustingly beautiful pictures on Pinterest. And yeah, the fact that I have no time whatesoever to really learn how to use a camera or the fun tools is what has always stopped me from begging for a DSLR for Christmas or something. The best I can manage to do is snap a pic with my iPhone and use MagicHour on it (which is actually a pretty awesome little app – you should check it out if you haven’t already.)

  15. I actually just bought a new camera, because of the printing issues with my iPhone camera. Just a p & s, because I know I don’t have the time or energy to learn a better camera right now. I am excited to read some of your posts about taking better pictures with a basic camera πŸ™‚

  16. Hi Jill!
    Your photos are looking so awesome. It’s Sandy from Beyond Snapshots last year… seems like ages ago. Just getting caught up on your blog. The kids are getting so big. Anyway, just thought I’d give a shout out and tell you how much I like your pics. I read you’re using Lightroom. I’ve been using Elements but i was thinking about giving the new lightroom version a try. I’m shooting more in raw now and I’m editing less and less as I learn more about how to get it right in camera. LOVING the look of those clickin mom presets. The pewter is a fave of mine. Would love to play around with those. Happy shooting!

    • Hey Sandy! Wow! So nice to hear from you. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year already. It’s amazing how much we can grow in such little time, right? I LOOOOOVE LR. I have PSE10, and am slowly teaching myself that, but LR feels like home to me. That’s awesome that you’re getting so good with SOOC images. That makes things so much easier. Did you know you can get some of those presets (including pewter) for free by singing up for their newsletter? Even if you already are signed up, fill out this form and they should send you an email with a cool digital download welcome kit, including 4 presets.

  17. So true! Some of my best pictures have come from my old fuji f10 point and shoot. I used it a lot when the boys were first born even though I had a DSLR. The only setback now is that darn lag time with the Time with the point and shoot paired with 2 year olds who NEVER sit still πŸ˜‰

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