Although digital point and shoot cameras are generally designed so end-users do not need to understand photographic techniques, even the most sophisticated cameras do not take perfect pictures every time. Photos that are washed out, too bright, or have blown-out areas are suffering from overexposure. Keeping a few simple tricks in mind can help you to avoid this common photographic problem.
Point and shoot cameras are automated to measure the amount of ambient light in an environment and apply the proper settings to take a good picture. Sometimes, however, cameras can be tricked into improperly measuring the amount of light in a setting; for example, if you are taking a picture in which there is a bright light source. Conversely, when the camera thinks there is not enough ambient light, it will automatically use the flash, sometimes resulting in overexposed photos. When you are aware of such pitfalls you can easily change the settings on your camera or change the angle of your picture to avoid overexposure.
If you are shooting on a sunny day, extreme sunlight can wash out an otherwise good photo. Move to a shadier area to take your photos or change the angle so that the sun is behind you. A good rule of thumb is to always avoid taking pictures with the sun in the background. If changing locations is not possible, an easy way to trick the automatic settings of your camera is to pan away from your subject slightly to where the lighting is different, hold the shutter half way down to lock in those settings, and pan back to your original subject to take the photo.
Outdoor photos can benefit greatly by overcast skies or by taking photos early in the morning or in the evening. Taking photos when the sun is at a 45 degree angle will result in richer colors, whereas photos taken when the sun is high overhead tend to be more washed out.
Often the camera will want to use the flash, even though there might be enough light. In such a situation experimentation is key. If possible, take two photos, one with the flash and one with the flash disabled. Also, make sure you are not standing too close to your subject when using a flash, as this often results is overexposed and washed out photos. If you are indoors try to add as much light as possible so that you do not need to use the flash.
More advanced users who understand aperture can avoid overexposed pictures by using the manual setting on their camera and choosing the right exposure setting for the photo.
Practice makes perfect, and experimenting with various settings, angles, and locations will lead you to be able to take better photos with your camera.