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I've got a baby and a Canon Powershot A1000 IS, which consistently takes blurry photos of the baby unless the baby is very still — which doesn't happen. I am looking for some advice on which settings to use to take better photos.

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    Faster camera or slower baby. – bmargulies Feb 21 '15 at 1:44
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    More light. Put baby in front of window on cloudy day. – user4894 Feb 21 '15 at 18:22
  • red wine is often very effective. – paul Feb 26 '15 at 23:47
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Fundamentally, what you need is a faster shutter speed. On more advanced cameras, you'd be able to put your camera into "shutter priority" mode and directly set the shutter speed, but that won't be directly possible on your A1000. However, it may be possible to help the camera in the right direction - two things you could try would be:

  • Put the camera into either "ISO HI" or "ISO 1600" mode (press up on the four-way directional control to select ISO).
  • Put the camera into "ISO 3200" scene mode

Both of these work by increasing the amplification applied to the sensor, which means that it needs less light falling on the sensor, and therefore a faster shutter speed is possible. However, you may find that the image quality is unacceptable at high ISO values. In that case, you've reached the limits of your camera. We don't go in for specific product recommendations here (because they rapidly become useless when the models are no longer available), but what you fundamentally need is a camera with a larger sensor. An entry level DSLR would be one option which would get you there, but there are various other options depending on your budget and requirements - if you do feel you need a new camera, please ask a new question with more specific details.

  • A flash is an alternative to a fast shutter speed – both achieving the same result of a brief exposure. – ziggystar Feb 20 '15 at 9:34
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    It can, however, be a good way to check they don't have eye cancer. It's worth doing every once in a while. daisyfund.org/rb/leuko – ElendilTheTall Feb 20 '15 at 12:20
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    @ths Fortunately they won't be able to express their dissatisfaction until after the shot is taken! – user3739 Feb 20 '15 at 12:41
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    My experience isn't that the babies don't like the flash (mostly they don't care); rather it's that the photos don't come out looking nearly as nice. You can solve both these problems with a bounced flash. By bouncing the flash off the ceiling or a wall, it doesn't shine directly in the baby's eyes and it makes the overall lighting effect much softer and more natural. – Gabe Feb 20 '15 at 15:21
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    @Gabe - agreed, but bouncing the flash from a PowerShot A1000 is going to be tricky at best and impossible at worst. – Philip Kendall Feb 20 '15 at 15:38
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Try outdoors in daylight. Small cameras struggle at low light, and normal indoor room lighting is lower than you realize.

For better camera, the bigger the sensor the better. You might also get one that can control a big flash: aiming the flash to bounce off the ceiling can give nice results (like a ceiling lamp) and not bother the baby like direct flash.

Specific advice: Try buying a used dSLR of a older model (anything 2008 or later) for cheap on ebay or the like. Any dSLR will have semi-manual modes (which will let you specify the desired shutter speed), even if it doesn't have brand-specific smart scene modes like your compact camera. If Canon, those smart modes will be the same as you're used to (Rebel xti or something like that, or 3-digit number like 400D).

If you know people locally with different cameras (you might see your new-parent peers deploying them) you can find out who's having success, and what camera. Try using them if you can, to see what they are like. Some photo enthusiasts will have big cameras and play them like fine instruments, but don't let that make you not realize that "large" cameras can be used in a fully automatic way, just like your p&s (well, you need to remove the lens cap yourself, and posture is more important with that weight).

The key fact of "larger" is the physical size of the pupil where the light goes in.

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With a more sophisticated camera, I'd say: get a faster lens, or a bounce flash. (See Prime lens or flash: which upgrade will most improve baby photos? for thoughts from me and others on this topic.)

But your camera is a relatively simple point-and-shoot, where these system-addons aren't really an option. There are still a few things you can do, though.

First, if at all possible, get more light. Outdoors, or, if that's not possible, by a bright window. (Areas of harsh light and shade will also be challenging; you might want to try a diffuse white cloth over the window to make softer light.) Failing that, turn on all the lights you have; it may be enough to make a difference.

Second, zoom wide. Your camera's zoom lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.7 at the wide end, but only f/5.6 when zoomed in. That means that it has about has about a quarter of the light-gathering capacity at the zoomed-in end, forcing shutter speeds to be correspondingly longer or ISO higher, adding more wiggle or noise.

And third, if your camera had a "sports" mode, I might suggest this; this usually increases ISO, allowing shorter shutter speeds (at the expense of more noise). It doesn't, though, but it does have a "kids and pets" mode which is advertised as having faster focusing, and probably also biases towards shorter shutter speed. (You might also try the "ISO 3200" special mode; this will stretch the capabilities of the sensor, but depending on how much light you can get to the scene might make more acceptable results overall — worth trying!)

This will probably get you results that you'll be satisfied sharing on social networks and so on — blur and noise and other artifacts are less visible at small web-sharing sizes. But if you're still not, I suggest looking at a newer camera. That model is the better part of a decade old, and technology has improved significantly. (I wouldn't be terribly surprised if results from a modern high-end smartphone hold up favorably.) I know that when you have a new baby isn't a great time for big expenses, but you really will get a big improvement here with even a moderate outlay. And if you get really into taking photographs of your baby (as I did!) you might be able to justify taking your first steps into serious enthusiast photography with an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera.

  • A great list of practical tips for the user's camera, that also explains why they are important. – AmeliaBR Feb 21 '15 at 2:30
  • +1 because of the suggestion of "Sports" mode. I can confirm this works, because I use it every now and then too. You usually don't have a lot of time to do much about your settings if you want to catch those important moments. Sports mode is the quick and dirty way to fast shutter speeds, and usually burst shooting. – Nick Feb 24 '15 at 19:21
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Well, you are bringing a knife to a gunfight here. Babies typically exist inside your home where the light is dim. Others have mentioned that you can raise ISO (bad), get a dSLR (great idea, but probably not the point of your question) and shoot wide angle (good, but tends to exaggerate features and look pretty ordinary.)

So, some thoughts ...

You really need more light, so consider setting the baby up near a large window. Very near. That is beautiful light and you should be able to shoot at reasonable shutter speeds. All auto should work ok. The obvious other option is to take the baby outside :-)

But ... let's say that you love where the baby is situated and you want to capture images in situ. Well, a flash is what you need. And not just the direct flash on the compact camera (ugly is too weak a word for that) but rather a bounced external flash.

The way to get that to work is to obtain an inexpensive external flash that has a built in optical slave that is capable of ignoring the preflash, for example the Yongnuo 560. That way, you can use the flash on the camera with a bit of foil to point the light at the external flash and not the baby. That will trigger the external flash, which will fill the room with light. Obviously, you will need to test the flash at various power settings to see what give you the best exposure from a specific distance. The beauty with this method is that, once you have the distance calculated, you can always put the flash there and set your camera on manual and moving the camera around will not affect the results. So you can shoot close or wide and get excellent exposures.

And once you see those results, you might want to grab a cheap shoot through umbrella and light stand and really have at it :-) ... seriously, you would be encroaching on professional results at that point, and that small investment can be used with any modern camera so nothing is wasted.

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One technique I do is to either take timer shots about two seconds. No matter how still you are pressing the button there is still some motion.

However with larger capacities and higher write speeds of newer cameras I set the camera to continuous shot mode and hope one or two of them are good.

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    my guess is that the asker means the baby, not the camera is moving too much. – damned truths Feb 22 '15 at 4:09

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