Compact Camera Manual Settings

I mentioned in the last entry that I had shot a point-and-shoot camera on manual to enable me to shoot night shots. Now, that particular camera did not do “manual” like my SLR does manual, and probably there are many different ways “manual” is implemented on compact cameras, but the basic theory is the same.

I will tell you what I did using another of the photos from that night.


This is a shot of some groovy building in the background with the barracks wall of the Alamo in the foreground. If I remember my Alamo history correctly, so many men were sacrificed inside this very window, they were piled several layers deep, Tejanos, Texans, Mexicans, and others together. “Remember the Alamo”…and not just the picturesque facade.

Alamo barracks and background building

I used a Canon PowerShot A720 IS. I had tried other settings besides manual, but nothing really got me to the point where I could hold the camera without blurring the shot. How did I know? Well, you basically have two settings on all cameras (though companies have increasingly confused us with millions of variations of those two settings). Those are shutter speed and aperture.

Aperture is how big the camera makes the hole through which the light enters the camera. I was watching the shutter speed, though, and that is how long the camera opens up the aperture. So, obviously, 1/20th of a second is slower than 1/50th of a second. Almost all these shots were shot at 1/20th. Normally, that is too slow…meaning, though I try to hold the camera still it will move while the light is coming in, thus blurring the photo.

As a parenthesis, many of my shots were blurred. 20 (or 1/20th) was just too slow, but that is what I needed to get the light necessary to make a visible photo and not just a black frame.

Besides that, I did not do too much. Hold it still! Oh, and turn that blad-durned flash off! It is not going to light a 50 story building.

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