It’s typical of photographers to take advantage of the digital technology in their cameras, and shoot almost exclusively in the automatic shooting, or exposure, mode. You probably do it, and so do many professionals. Select the auto mode and your camera decides what combination of ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, focus and flash is correct. In most cases, you’ll be pleased with the results; however, remember, that digital camera technology (like all technology) only does what it’s programmed to do. There are limits to how much it can help you.
Many digital photographers don’t realize that the auto mode makes all those shooting decisions based on only what the camera sees; auto mode can’t read your mind (at least not yet). You may want to shoot a specific kind of photo or be so creative that you demand the camera to make choices beyond the limits of auto mode. Of course, that’s why camera manufacturers have added other shooting modes to most point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras. With those optional modes, you can shoot the specific digital photos or photographic effects you have in mind. Your camera will understand what you want and select the appropriate settings (which comes very close to reading your mind).
This two-part article explains these additional modes and the advantages they provide to digital photographers.
Portrait mode helps you take a picture of a person with a shallow depth of field, so only him or her is in focus. Your camera will select a small f-stop number for a larger aperture, or lens opening. Remember to move closer to your subject, so he or she fills the frame. You may also want to use your flash in portrait mode if the sun is behind the subject, creating a deep shadow on his or her face. The flash will eliminate the shadow, but not overwhelm the rest of the shot that is lit by the much stronger sunlight.
Landscape mode works the opposite of portrait mode. Now you want the entire contents of your digital photo to appear in focus. Your camera selects a larger f-stop number for a smaller aperture, or lens opening, which results in a large depth of field. Again, this mode will only respond according to the technology built into your camera. To compensate for the smaller aperture, your camera may set a shutter speed so slow that you may need a tripod.
Also known as “action mode,” sports mode was created to capture the fast action of athletic competitors or other objects whose movement you can’t control: a pet, a car, a horse, a wild animal, etc. In sports mode, your camera will automatically set a faster shutter speed to freeze that motion.
Macro mode allows you to take close-ups, even extreme close-up, digital photos, of small objects, such as flowers, insects, etc. Your camera will select an aperture to create a very shallow depth of field, from three-quarters of an inch to approximately four inches (two to 10 centimeters). Because the depth of field is so shallow, you must be very careful when focusing. You want to make sure the plane of your camera is parallel to the object, so all of it will be in focus. In many cases, you’ll take better digital pictures in macro mode when a tripod is used.
Look for more digital photography tips on how to use the other shooting modes of your digital camera in Part 2 of this series.
Image credit: saicle / 123RF Stock Photo