Quick Photography Tip
Make sure that the background in your photos doesn't compete for attention
Digital cameras can be put in different photo shooting modes. The most used mode is automatic - the only thing you need to do is point and shoot. However understanding and using the other options will allow you to get better photos in certain scenarios. Here is how.
We will go over the various camera modes. Some modes might not be available on your camera. You can set the mode either by using the camera menus on its LCD in which case you can read and choose the mode by its name or you can set it by rotating a dial in which case you choose the mode by its visual icon. Spend some time learning the icons your camera dial uses - some are simple to remember (like 'A' for Aperture priority and 'S' for Shutter priority) others can be confusing.
Automatic mode - This is the simplest mode and is also sometimes known as Program Shooting. In this mode the camera does everything for you - it sets the shutter speed, aperture, focus and fires the flash if needed. This mode is the easiest to use and is good if you have to capture an event and have no time to play with the settings. It is also a good starting point for amateurs and a good choice if you just want to capture a moment or an experience and do not care so much about the fine photographic qualities of the photo.
Aperture priority - in this mode you manually set the aperture value. The camera automatically takes care of everything else for you - for example setting the optimal shutter speed for the aperture you chose. There are physical limitations and not every aperture value that you choose can be accompanied by other settings that will result in a good photo. The camera will let you know by flashing a green LED or in another way if it found the optimal settings that work with your chosen aperture value. One of the most common usages of this mode is when you need a narrow depth of field. By decreasing the aperture f-number the depth of field gets narrower. A narrow depth of field results in a photo that is focused on a specific object at a specific distance while the background is blurred. This is commonly used for example when taking portrait photos.
- in this mode you manually set the shutter speed. The camera automatically takes care of everything else for you - for example setting the optimal aperture value for the shutter speed you chose. There are physical limitations and not every shutter speed that you choose can be accompanied by other settings that will result in a good photo. The camera will let you know by flashing a green LED or in another way if it found the optimal settings that work with your chosen shutter speed. Using this mode is useful if you need to capture fast moving object or want to freeze the scene by setting the shutter to high speed. In other scenarios if you want to capture the feeling of motion in the photo a slow shutter speed would do the trick. For example when taking photos of water setting the shutter to relatively slow speed blurs the water and captures its movement making the photo more alive.
Manual mode - In this mode you can set both the aperture and the shutter speed to whatever value you want. It gives you the most flexibility in shooting the photo but it is also harder to use. Although the camera does not set the values for you most cameras will still let you know if the values you chose are good or not for the photo you are shooting.
Portrait mode - This mode optimizes the camera settings for portrait photos. The camera sets the aperture to a low f-number and the shutter to high speed in order to shoot with a narrow depth of field resulting in a focused object and blurred background. Portrait mode should be used in a well lit environment such as outdoor daylight or a well lit studio. It is better not to use this mode with a flash.
Landscape mode - This mode optimizes the camera settings for landscape photos. White balance is set for natural sun light and the depth of field is deep allowing to capture objects at great distances.
Macro mode - This mode is used when taking extreme close-up photos. How close you can get to the object depends on the lenses you use.
Sport mode - In this mode you can take photos of high speed object such as runners or cars in a car race. The shutter is set to high speed to capture the object without blurring it and the auto focus is usually set to continuous to allow focusing on the moving object.
Night mode - The camera optimizes the settings for night photos. Usually when taking night photos in other modes the result is a black photo and some scattered dots of light. In night mode the photo will include more details of less lit objects. Since night mode uses very slow shutter speeds the camera needs to be stabilized either on a stable surface or using a tripod.
In conclusion take advantage of the fact that taking extra digital photos is free. There is no added cost in taking more photos. Experiment with different photo shooting modes and learn which one works best in which scenario. You will quickly find yourself naturally changing the camera modes to accommodate different conditions.