Intro to the Digital Camera: Part Two - Camera Modes
How to use your Digital Camera: Camera Modes
Last week's blog was all about understanding the names/functions of the camera parts: shutter, aperture, ISO, depth of field, etc. This week, you're going to learn about how these things are used to take awesome photos!
Let me start off by cautioning you not to fall into the most common trap: don't let the names of the camera modes convince you that you can ONLY use them for their "intended" purpose. You can use Portrait Mode for taking photos of a landscape, if you want to. Think about what you would like the photo to look like as well as your lighting and other variables when deciding which mode to use; after all, photography is an art. :)
[Sometimes listed as AUTO or the green box you see below]
Automatic lets the camera do the thinking for you. This mode makes a best guess for your exposure settings (ISO, f-stop, shutter speed), flash, focus and white balance (we'll address what this is next week). Often times, it makes great guesses! However, the camera doesn’t know your artistic choices. So, while it may take a perfectly good photograph, Automatic may not take the photograph you want - that's why it's important to understand your camera!
Automatically sets your camera on a larger aperture to blur your background. This is great for isolating a subject and making the background less distracting. Get close to the subject when using this mode. Remember: larger aperture = smaller number = shallow depth of field.
In the photo below, you'll notice that the two bridesmaids are in focus, but the foreground and background are blurry. This was taken with an f/1.4. When you use a low f-stop, you are telling the viewer that one portion of the image (in this case, the two women) is more important than the rest of the photograph).
Landscape Mode is the opposite of Portrait Mode. This modes uses a small aperture for great depth of field (the entire image is in focus). Use this to shoot wide angle and distant objects. Be aware, due to the small aperture, the camera may adjust to a lower shutter speed; this means you will need more light or you may need to use a tripod to hold the camera steady for the shot.
The image below was taken with an f/22. You can see that each portion of the photo (foreground, middle ground, and background) are equally in focus. This means that each portion of the image is of equal importance.
As you can see, this is not actually a landscape photo - it's a portrait. However, the Washington Monument was important for me to include in the image. It was important for the groom (who secretly got in touch with me to shoot their actual engagement at this very spot about three seconds before this photo) that the national landmarks be a reminder of this magical moment. They were totally adorable.
Get SUPER close up with Macro. This is perfect for photographing flowers, insects, wedding rings, adorable wrinkles on a baby's foot, etc. It allows you to see EVERY detail of your subject. The depth of field will be very shallow; as a result, focusing can be a bit challenging. If you’re using this mode with a DSLR, you may have to change your lens. There are macro filters that create this effect for your camera (just be sure to look at your lens for the correct size), which is a much more cost-effective option.
In the photo below, you can see I was able to capture each detail of this baby sea turtle. The background is extremely blurry.
When set on Action, the camera will use a fast shutter speed, allowing you to freeze action. This mode is ideal for sports, pets, kids playing, guests dancing, and cars - pretty much anything that's moving. You'll need a lot of light for this because of the fast shutter speed. You can also compensate by increasing your ISO.
In the photo below, you can see that I was able to freeze motion. Remember that these things are not fool-proof and you have to work with lots of variables when you're using these programs.
Night Mode/Night Portrait
Night Mode will use a slow shutter speed (which means you will have a long exposure time) and flash. The long shutter speed will help to capture detail in the absence of much light in the background. The flash will capture your foreground (within 5-10 feet*). For crisp focus, use a tripod to keep the camera steady during the long exposure. I generally recommend not hand-holding the camera below a shutter speed of 1/30; it may look like the image is in focus on your LCD (display), but it will likely look different when you upload it to your computer and/or print.
*Objects closer than 5 feet might be over-exposed – too bright – from being too close to the flash. Objects further than 10 feet might be too dark because on-camera flashes don’t typically reach that distance. To be honest, I HATE the on-camera flashes on DSLRs and if I can avoid it, I 100% will. If you MUST use the on-camera flash, I recommend getting a flash diffuser to avoid weird exposures/contrast.
The semi-automatic modes give you MUCH more control over your camera settings than the automatic modes. Once you start to get really comfortable with your camera, I definitely recommend these over the automatic modes. Of course, the best is Manual, but these take second place.
Aperture Priority allows the photographer to set the aperture (f-stop) to achieve the desired depth of field. The camera will then choose the shutter speed, ISO, and white balance for the best exposure.
Manual is FULLY manual; it's the only setting that gives the photographer COMPLETE control over the camera. The photographer chooses the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, flash, etc. In order to use this mode and get a proper exposure, the photographer must know how to meter.
I'll explain metering in the future. For now, go out and take some photos with your new knowledge! Enjoy!
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