Friday, February 1, 2013

Photography Lesson with Detta - scene modes

Last time we talked about composition. Today, I want to talk about the different scene modes on your camera. Again, these are all pretty common to both point and shoots and DSLRs. You might find them on the dial on top of your camera and it looks something like this
or, as with my point and shoot, they might be found in your menu under auto scenes.

The first one is auto. In the picture above, the auto mode is depicted by a camera. Some cameras have the word "auto." Some just have the letter A. When you shoot in full auto mode, you are letting the camera make all the decisions for you. It decides how much light you need, how fast to set your shutter speed, what white balance to use and whether or not to use flash.Most people leave their cameras on this mode and are perfectly happy with their pictures. However, there are some other choices.

Not shown above is the portrait mode. It is usually depicted by the side view of a woman's face.
Portrait mode is best used when taking a picture of a single person or object with minimal background distractions. It will throw your background out of focus so it does not compete with your main subject. If you are using the portrait mode, try to fill your frame with your subject by zooming in. You might also remember from our lesson on Christmas tree light bokeh that putting some distance between your subject and the background will also help get that creamy background look.

Macro Mode is usually depicted by a flower. This mode is good for taking pictures of small things like insects or flowers. It enables you to focus at a very close distance to your subject, sometimes within a couple of inches but that varies by camera. Check your manual. When using the macro mode, you will need lots of light and a tripod is suggested to minimize camera shake and keep your focus sharp. A good suggestion is to utilize your camera's self timer feature. That gives your camera time to stop vibrating after you push the shutter. If you are able to turn off your camera's flash, you should do so. If not, you could diffuse your flash by taping some tissue paper over it. That much light so close to your subject will give it a flat appearance. It is much better to have lots of ambient light. This mode uses a large aperture to give a shallow depth of field.

The landscape mode is depicted by mountains. When using the landscape mode, the camera automatically sets your focus to infinity. This insures that everything in the shot is sharp from front to back. This is great for shooting scenery outdoors. Because the aperture in this mode is extremely small, the shutter speed slows down to let in more light. You should also use a tripod on this mode in order to keep the camera really still. This mode is also good for shooting through windows and through fences. Because the auto focus won't keep trying to decide what to focus on, you are able to get everything in focus. This is also a case where you should turn your flash off because it will only light up about 10-12 feet in front of you.
Action mode is symbolized with a running man. Some cameras refer to it as the sports mode. Action mode automatically sets the camera's shutter speed and aperture to the ideal settings for action photography. Action photography requires a fast shutter speed and more light to "freeze" the subject's motion to produce a crisp, clean image. This is the automatic mode I would keep my camera on when shooting children and pets because they are constantly moving. It is an ideal mode to use outdoors where the light is bright to prevent a blurry picture.

The Night portrait mode is sometimes depicted like this with a star behind a person or sometimes it uses a moon and a star.   If you were to set the camera to full auto mode, the camera's flash would cause the entire scene to be too brightly lit. Night portrait mode automatically slows the shutter speed to allow time for adequate light to hit the camera's sensor. It also adjusts the timing of the flash to only light up the object or person in the foreground. The slower shutter speed, combined with the flash timing, helps to create more natural looking night shots.Again, a tripod and the timer will help keep the camera still enough and prevent a blurry shot. If you are shooting pictures of people, you will need to ask them to stand very still for several seconds even after the flash has gone out to give the shutter time to close. Otherwise, any movement will cause a ghostly looking blur.

These are the most common modes. Some cameras will also have a mode called beach and snow. It is usually depicted by a palm tree. Mine does not have this. Others might have a fireworks mode and some even have a children mode. The children's mode is simply an action mode.

If you want to experiment with these different creative modes on your camera, you might be surprised at how much different your pictures turn out than they do in auto. Next month, I will discuss flash photography.


Jean said...

This is such wonderful inspiration Detta. It is so easy to move the dial or change the mode, yet I bet we usually forget or don't bother! Thanks!

Megan Smith (aka Daisymeh) said...

Great descriptions and explanations Detta! I truly appreciate you sharing all your insight with us!