This week’s topic is Photography Basics – Understanding Camera Modes. How many have you tried to use? Anything other than full Auto? I hope so! If not, your challenge after reading this is to GO PLAY WITH YOUR CAMERA! You might not be ready for full Manual Mode – my personal fave – but I want you to explore all those wonderful things your camera can do.
Understanding Camera Modes
When I say camera modes, I am talking about that nifty dial on the top of your camera. While every camera is different, the settings are similar. Even if you shoot with a point and shoot compact camera, your camera will still offer some of these modes. I won’t cover all, but we will discuss a few of the most used modes, the benefits, and disadvantages of their settings.
Automatic Camera Modes
Auto modes are the modes that do all of the thinking for you. This can be good and bad, as the setting the camera chooses may or may not be right for the shot. If you are a novice, they are a good place to start, but the more you learn, you’ll better understand the shortfalls of only using automatic modes. Here’s a few of the most popular Auto Modes.
- Auto: In this mode, the camera does all the thinking. It analyzes the scene and chooses the best settings. Auto mode produces very basic images since it doesn’t allow for any creative adjustments. This may be shown on your dial by a green square or a camera icon
- Portrait: The camera adjusts the aperture (makes it wider) so that the background is more blurry. The disadvantage is that it is best for images of an individual subject. Often identified on your dial by a profile image.
- Sports: Sets a faster shutter speed to freeze action. The flash typically will not fire in this mode. Running man on dial.
Creative Camera Modes
Creative modes give you more flexibility in your photography. If you are at the point that youwant to experiment more with your photography, then try out the creative modes.
- Program: Camera controls aperture and shutter speed, but allows you to adjust white balance, ISO, and flash use. The disadvantage is that you may end up with blurry images since you cannot adjust the shutter speed. This mode is usually represented by a ‘P’ on your dial. I would suggest you avoid this one…..
- Shutter Priority: (TV – on Canon) – You set your shutter speed and the camera sets the aperture. This can be useful for shooting moving subjects, but I haven’t found it to be very useful.
- Aperture Priority: You get to set the aperture and the ISO in Aperture Priority Mode. This is useful when you want to have some control over your depth of field (DOF). If you want a shallow DOF, you choose a large aperture – like f/1.4. Remember that shallow DOF gives you the really blurry background. The camera selects your shutter speed so that your image is properly exposed. **This is my favorite of the semi-manual modes because I think it’s the most useful.
- Manual Mode: I know this mode seems completely out of reach and intimidating, but it allows you the utmost creativity! You choose all of your settings – ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture and use your camera’s meter in the viewfinder to determine the settings you want. When you have time to play, start trying to use Manual mode. You can’t mess anything up by playing – if it doesn’t work, just delete the image and try again!
Understanding camera modes and when to use them will help you start to improve your photography immediately! Bottom line – play with your camera. Try out the settings, find tutorials online. You won’t hurt your camera. You might have some overexposed or underexposed images, some blurry and out of focus images, but that’s a starting point! Once you understand the basics, you can begin to expand your creativity and be your family’s official photographer!
What are your questions about camera modes? Comment below or contact me with your frustrations and success stories! Want to learn more? I will be hosting a Basic Photography Class this summer, so be sure to sign up for PCP emails for priority notifications and receive our complimentary Family Photography Welcome Guide as our gift.