Tip of the Day – Camera Modes

Tip of the Day returns… finally.

Hello again. School is underway and I’m getting back to the tip of the day. Let’s pick up where we left off.

So far we’ve discussed the a basic composition technique, the way the lens and the shutter manage light, and how the sensor manages light. This tip is about how the camera’s software can help to make many of the decisions that photographers need to make in making good photographs. Some people call these the “dummy” modes, but with just a little understanding of how they work, you can use them in an intelligent way.

Most of the time, beginning photographers leave their cameras in the “auto” mode. They leave all the decisions about shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings up to the camera (or up to the software in the camera). That’s not a bad idea, really. The software driving contemporary cameras is pretty sophisticated (and getting more sophisticated all the time) and can handle a wide range of photo conditions. Because nearly all digital cameras (all, really) also allow you to view the results of your shutter snapping you can immediately judge whether or not the camera has chosen wisely (remember those Diet Coke commercials when Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail came out?).

Sometimes, however, you want to take a bit more creative control, and the little icons on your camera’s modes dial let you make changes to the way the camera behaves so as to get particular results. It’s exceedingly simple.

The little sprinter guy represents a sports mode which favors faster shutter speeds (at the expense of depth of field, usually).

The mountain icon sets your camera to a smaller f-number so as to achieve a deep range of focus (or depth of field).

The flower dealie (do people outside of Utah/Idaho even recognize that word?) sets your camera to a larger f-number (usually) and may also set it to a different focus mode (the macro mode, which we haven’t discussed yet).

Your camera may have other modes. If so, and if you’re not sure what they do, post a comment here and I’ll do my best to explain what is does.

The point here, of course, is that these modes settings are shortcuts to the kinds of decisions you learned about in earlier tips. They allow you to set several camera settings at one time, accurately and quickly. Pretty nifty, eh?

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