Shooting Portraits With “Just” A Point-and-Shoot Camera

It’s not about the gear. It’s about who uses the gear. And how.

Or something like that.

You’ve probably heard the advice from photographers regardless of how it is phrased: the camera you use (your gear) does not guarantee your success or greatness as a photographer, but your knowledge of how to use that camera and the “basics” of photography will help you get there (wherever “there” is).

Last year I decided to add a point-and-shoot film camera to my arsenal of film cameras, so I bought a Canon Autoboy 3 from Kamera Club Store for a fair price of P1,500 (or around $29). I say “fair” because other online shops peg the camera at around P2,000. At the time I was just looking for a camera wouldn’t be so conspicuous when I brought it to a concert.

I’ve seen the Autoboy (Canon AF35m) before, once from a fellow Baguio-based photographer and another from a video by King Jvpes. However, I don’t see much content from YouTubers who use a Canon Autoboy 3, also known as the Sure Shot Supreme in the Americas or the Top Shot in Europe, Asia, and Oceania.

The Canon Autoboy 3 is a fully automatic 35mm Lens-Shutter autofocus compact camera. Mine’s fondly named Brendon, after Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, whose aforementioned concert I went out to see last year).

It comes with a 38mm f/2.8 lens that makes the camera ideal for low-light situations or portrait shoots. The focal length is wide enough for street photography where you can include as much as you want in the frame should you need to. But with the fixed lens, you will have to personally move closer to your subject for those “intimate” shots.

The camera is indeed compact with its 132 x 71 x 50mm dimensions and weight of 315 g (with batteries). It’s convenient and reliable in shooting situations like protests and marches. I used the camera when I shot the Baguio City Pride March last year (photos from which you can check out here) and the commemoration of the Martial Law declaration (photos from which are found here).

According to Canon, the camera has electromagnetic programmed shutter and aperture that ranges from EV 6 (f/2.8 at 1/8 sec) to 17 (f/16 at 1/500 sec).

The camera is easy to use with its auto loading, auto film advance, and auto rewind. The camera also reads DX coding in films so it recognizes what ISO you’re working with. I’ve recently tried shooting a non-DX coded film, but the results of that will be a post for another day.

It may be easy to dismiss a compact point-and-shoot camera such as the Autoboy 3 as “cheap” or not as good as an SLR or a rangefinder, but as proven by a recent photo shoot that I had, a point-and-shoot camera can take portraits almost as well as an SLR camera like Nikon F3 or FM2 (both of which are also in my personal arsenal).

The following photos were taken at Session Road and Burnham Park in Baguio City. I used a Kodak Gold 200 and Lomography CN100 as films.

These next pics are some of my personal favorites. It was like our little “Ugly Location Challenge” at Burnham Park, near the lake. Our location was what appeared to be an abandoned boat.

At this point of the shoot the Canon Autoboy 3 was loaded with a Lomography CN100

The camera has a built-in flash that automatically fires in low-light and backlight conditions. You can disable the flash by pressing a button at the bottom of the camera while pressing the shutter button.

Personally, I don’t like flash photography; however, lately, I’ve come to “embrace” the flash when I’m in situations that wouldn’t draw much attention to flash photography. Perhaps I’ll try a portrait shoot that’s purely flash photography.

The second photo from the preceding set fired the flash and I ended up liking the result. Perhaps there’s a parallelism there about letting things be? Let something function according to what it knows and needs and don’t intervene too much? Yeah, perhaps.

Don’t knock the point-and-shoot camera until you try it. Even though I think I need more practice with shooting portraits using the Canon Autoboy 3 when it comes to focusing and composition, in a more experienced hands I believe the point-and-shoot camera can keep up with an SLR when it comes to taking portraits.

Personally, I enjoy shooting portraits more with an SLR since I have more control over settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and focal length (I prefer shooting with my 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens when it comes to portraits).

But if you just want to practice your skills in directing subjects and/or composition, give the point-and-shoot a shot.

So if you’re a beginner who wants to try film photography without spending too much money on gear, I recommend going for a point-and-shoot. If the tug of analog photography is strong enough, then by all means, go for an SLR. Either way, go out there and shoot.

Thank you to Yena, Jerika, and Angelica for being my models for this shoot.

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