How to Use a Canon Powershot Camera

by Justin Kaehler

Canon's Powershot point-and-shoot digital cameras are packed with features and are high on quality. More than 20 different models in the Powershot line are available, and some Powershots pack more features than others. That said, many controls, functions and attributes--especially the important ones--are shared across the Powershot line. Mastering these basic controls lets anyone take high-quality, professional-looking photos.

Get acquainted with the Powershot's features.

With the wide variety of Canon cameras sold under the Powershot name, different Powershots have different methods of accessing the same basic functions. Some Powershot cameras utilize a touch-screen interface; others still rely on conventional buttons and dials. Knowing how to access the basic features makes shooting with the Powershot easier and more enjoyable. Spending some time with the user's manual, or even just playing with the Powershot's buttons, offers some insight on what makes the camera work.

Every Canon Powershot (as does every digital camera) comes with a "standard" Auto shooting mode, in which the camera automatically determines a proper exposure, ISO and flash settings for the intended picture. Some settings, including flash on/off, basic ISO controls and macro features can be adjusted while in this mode. In the controls and on-screen menu, this Auto standard mode is symbolized with a silhouette of a camera.

Canon Powershot cameras also have a modified Auto mode that allows users to manually tweak settings such as ISO, white balance, flash power and shutter speed. The icon for this mode is the same camera silhouette seen used for standard Auto mode, but with a capital "M" next to it. More experienced users use this mode for more control over their Powershot, enabling them to take more professional-looking photos.

A camera flash has the potential to enhance and ruin a photo. Sometimes a flash is needed on a sunny day to brighten an object hiding in the shadow; and sometimes a flash gives a harsh light to an object that was beautifully bathed in natural, ambient light. Adjusting the flash on a Powershot is easy: accessing the flash control--denoted by a lightning bolt whose bottom is an arrow pointing down--lets Powershot users determine if the flash should always fire, never fire, or fire when the camera thinks it's OK to do so.

Using the macro controls--denoted by a silhouette of a tulip on the control dial--enables a Canon Powershot to more easily focus on an object that is close to the lens. Macro mode is great for taking photos of flowers, detail shots of an object, or even text on a page. Conversely, pressing the Macro Mode button also brings up the option of infinite focus--for objects far off in the distance (such as mountains)--and revert the auto focus mode back to "normal."

Canon Powershots come with a variety of pre-programmed creative modes that automatically adjust shutter, white balance, flash and ISO settings for scenarios including indoor parties, outdoor fireworks, nighttime vistas and days at the beach. On the control dial, the Creative Modes icon is the letters "SCN."

Once the desired settings have been dialed in, shoot the actual photo. Use the built-in screen as a viewfinder to compose the photo. Press the shutter button halfway down to trigger the Powershot's auto focus; once the image is in focus, press the shutter button the rest of the way down to take the photo.

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About the Author

Justin Kaehler is best known in the media world for his work as an automotive writer and photographer, and has served as both and editor and freelancer for several major auto publications. He is also an active musician whose songs have been featured in major movies, TV commercials and video games.

Photo Credits

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