You NEED a dSLR to Take Great Shots!

Taking the time to Frame the Shot!Photo taken by the Burg and permission has been granted to use this shot under Creative Commons.

It’s funny but I tend to disagree. As a kid I used to walk around using my hands to frame a rectangle that way I would know what to take a picture of once I got my hands on my Dad’s Minolta Range Finder.

You have to first be able to see, know what you want to take. Frame it in your mind.

Then you need to know some very very basic things.

Gummi Shine Don’t shoot into the sun.

You be the ZOOM: move around the subject, get real close…
Close - Glimmer Closer - Sparkle Closest - Rock Bokeh

We know these two Fat Dads, but who’s the geezer in back!

Look at the background too. Try to spot funny faces, picture bombers, branches coming out of heads….

Take more than one shot. Luck in created in numbers. Photos you get from digital cameras with SD cards are cheap so shoot

Learn the Rule of Thirds, use it then try something completely different.

Riding the Rails

Riding the Rails Selfie

Of course you also need to know when to break all these rules.

If you do this with a P&S you will still get some great shots. But not every shot will be great, boy do I know that (Hence I’m a Web Developer). I love a quick shutter and an adjustable aperture, that’s why I bought my first K1000 (35mm) and my new K200d. But I am still learning about controlling light, 20 years on. The P&S did all of this for me so I could concentrate on the Frame.

These three pics are all taken on a Point and Shoot

Sophie B'Gosh This photo was taken with a Samsung 5M P&S whose tech name is far too long.

This photo was taken by Andrew Gullick a Montreal Flickr User. His shot is spectacular and taken with a Canon G9. Please click through to his Flickr profile and see some of the breathe taking shots he’s captured.

And finally this most recent shot taken by Fellow FatDad Schultzter:

Now when I want to take great pictures, I rely on the tools that I know will get me good results. The K200d with my old Pentax 50mm prime all glass and metal lens and a bounced flash like in this shot.
Bounced Light and Banana Muffins
Could I of taken a better picture with a new lens, soft box or puffer given enough time and practice. Probably.

Pro Level Gear, processing and software should simply be tools to render that picture you framed in your eye to the one you deliver on paper/screen faster. Photoshop does cool stuff as a web developper, I use it daily. But rarely, very very rarely does it make a crap picture amazing.

But we all knew this. Right?

The guts of this post were originally posted in a Flickr gorup by myself. Read the other takes on the Techniques and Gear here


  1. I think you are partially right… there are some really great new generation P&S which offers the ability to shoot in Tv or Av mode…allowing for a bit more creativity. If you are not interested in the “art” of capturing light, but simply want to get cool snaps…this is the way to go. Personally, I use both.
    I am so jealous of your vintage lens…..they just don’t make them like anymore. 🙂
    Could I live w/o my DSLR…no way!!

  2. For what it’s worth, “point & shoot” is an outdated term. For one thing, most DSLRs have “dummy” modes where everything is automatic and all you need to do is point and shoot. That’s a DSLR.

    Second, many compact cameras have very advanced features. The Canon G line (you mention the G9 in your post) features manual exposure modes and optional manual focusing. The Lumix LX3 I use has aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, and full manual exposure mode. It also has manual focusing and a choice of three aspect ratio. Exposure and focusing modes are controlled by physical switches and dials, not obscure menu items buried deep in the system.

    I think what you really mean is “compact” instead of P&S. And BTW, I like to think I take some pretty good shots with my compact!

  3. Blork,

    I think you missed the point of the article and that photography is about seeing and not about the hardware. Three of the last four pictures in this post where all taken with Compact / Point & Shoots and you can con’t argue that they are not great shots.

    I did check out your blog and totally agree that you do in fact take some great pictures. I’m also convinced that your captures would have been as good regardless of your hardware. It’s the eye that takes the shot. That was the main essence of the article.

    As for terminology, dSLR (digital Single Lens Reflex) implies a mechanical mirror lifting for you take a shot, you see what the lens sees. The Pentax K2000 is a Compact dSLR, but still a dSLR.

    Point & Shoot has become the acceptable term for any camera you look at an LCD on the back in order to take a picture without worrying about your ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Whether you feel happier calling in a compact, micro 4/3, Range Finder, Chicklet cam that’s up to you. The important thing is to take the time to compose your shot and think about what you are trying to capture.

    And to be quite frank, anyone who buys a dSLR to point and shoot as you imply it, has missed the point of the camera.

  4. I’m not the pro here, I’ve always owned point & shots (some more compact than others), but from the photography courses I’ve done I’ve always taken “SLR” to mean Single Lens Reflex. Without the little mirror that flips-up it’s not an SLR, but if it has that mirror – well, it’s an SLR. If you put an LCD on the back and CCD or CMOS behind the mirror then it’s a dSLR.

    The other big difference between dSLR and P&S is the size of the light capture surface. Typically on a P&S it will be very small. But on a dSLR it will be bigger, more and more the size of 35mm frame so you can capture more light and get a better picture.

    I realize there’s no hard rule on this. Especially with the digital cameras – you can put whatever you want in the firmware and control everything from the focus to automatically cropping annoying relatives out of the photo!

    But typically a dSLR, apart from the Single Lens Reflex mirror, means you’re getting higher end components and much more flexibility and ultimately better pictures (or rather more data from which to develop better pictures).

    But like Johnny says, you gotta start by composing a good picture, the hardware you use the icing on top.

  5. I have to agree with Johnny and the Schultzter. I have a Canon A95 P&S and a Nikon F60 SLR (still haven’t decided on a dSLR). I definitely can do almost everything on my A95 than on my F60, but not with the same ease and speed.

    Let’s take composition out of the equation, and let’s take the hardware on a side by side. SLRs smoke P&S on the speed at which they take the shot, the speed at which they are ready for their next shot and obviously boast much quieter pickups.

    I find P&S cameras to be too interface clunky to exert too much control on a scene with active components. Shooting a bowl of apples makes it more of a tossup. I’d much rather have an SLR for shooting pics at a hockey game or catching the breaking of a F1 car in the hairpin.

    Bottom line, right tool for the right job.

  6. I pretty much agree with everything here. My only point of contention was the term P&S. As I said above, you can P&S with a dSLR (whether or not it makes any sense) and you can manually focus and expose with compact non-SLR cameras. Therefore, the distinction should be between dSLR and compact. Just a minor point of semantics.

  7. If Flickr and the rest of the community calls ’em Point & Shoots, then that’s what they are.

    This article was about getting people to take better pictures not about arguing semantics and terminology.