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Digital Camera Modes

Modern day digital cameras have many modes built in which helps the users get the most out of the device by selecting appropriate modes for specific shooting conditions. There are Primarily three types of pre-set modes

a. Full Auto
b. Semi Auto and
c. Full Manual

What all these modes basically do is to change exposure values based on general preferences which are input by the user (by selecting the particular mode). The variables which are affected by the various camera modes are

Digital Camera Modes
Digital Camera Modes

1. Aperture
2. Shutter speed
3. ISO
4. White Balance
5. Flash and
6. Focus

At any given shooting scenario different modes when selected comes up with different combinations of the above variables to get the desired effect. A better understanding of what really happens when you select each of these modes will help you choose the ideal mode for each of your shooting situations and also get the most out of your digital camera.

Full Auto Mode

Fully Automatic Mode denoted usually by a green icon is the most commonly used of any digital camera modes. In fact most people who buy their first digital camera start out from this mode. But the sad fact is that a large portion of them never really gets out of this and do something creative. It is partly due to not having a better understanding of the different modes of the digital camera, partly due to fear of getting it wrong and partly due to laziness. Automatic Modes of modern digital camera are very smart and give better results than ever. But as people with creative minds for us photographers it is when we get out of the Automatic mode and start exploring the creative side of photography that the real fun begins.

In Automatic Mode the camera’s exposure algorithm is in control of each and every element of the camera like ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance, Flash etc. It will evaluate the scene and do what is needed to get the best picture. All you have to do as a photographer is point the camera at the right direction, compose your shot and click.

Portrait Mode

portrait modePortrait mode is designed to get good people photos with clean uncluttered backgrounds that make the person pop out of the picture. When you select the portrait mode for a shot the camera picks wider apertures than other modes so as to render the background out of focus. This mode is best suited for taking close up shots of individuals. However if you are taking a group photo consisting of many people spread over a certain distance you might want to use some other mode that gives you a bit more depth of field like the landscape mode. Also if you are shooting with the sun behind your subject you might want to turn on the flash to be used as a fill source.

Landscape Mode

landscape mode iconLandscape Mode is ideal for shooting subjects which require more depth of field like sceneries, landscapes, waterfalls etc. In landscape mode the camera attempts to use the lowest aperture possible to gain as much depth of field as possible. While using this mode keep watch of your ISO and Shutter Speeds, the camera in its attempt to gain depth of field could increase ISO and decrease Shutter Speeds. High ISO = Image Noise and Slow Shutter Speed = Camera Shake. Either use a tripod or place your camera somewhere stable.

Macro Mode

macro mode iconMacro mode is ideal for shooting small objects. However it is to be remembered that in the macro mode the depth of field achievable is very low and so you might want to use narrower apertures than usual. Also the digital camera's autofocus system will have trouble focusing on subjects that are very close to the lens. Do refer your camera’s manual to find out the closest focusing distance for your camera. Another thing that needs attention while doing macro is the flash, the built in flash of the digital camera is not ideal for shooting macro. Either the light will not reach the subject (the lens may cast its shade on tiny subjects) or it will completely overexpose the subject. So it is better not to turn on the on camera flash. When working with such shallow depth of fields the use of a tripod is very much recommended.

Sports Mode

sports mode iconSports mode is useful for freezing action. When sports mode is selected; the camera attempts to use the fastest shutter speed possible. It will result in less depth of field. Keep an eye out for high ISO values and low depth of field while using this mode. Ideal for sports, action, wildlife etc.

Night Mode

night mode iconWhen set to night mode, the camera understands that you are shooting in dim light and so will use a slow enough shutter speed to expose the background and combine it with flash to expose the subject. Use a tripod so as to eliminate camera shake while using this mode.

Video Mode

video iconMost digital cameras allow recording of movie with sound. Although the recorded movie will be limited in resolution and may not be comparable with results that of professional quality movie cameras, it’s a handy feature to have. Especially to record such moments like your child's birthday party, having fun at the park etc. Video quality of small digital cameras is hugely influenced by the quality of light; so make sure there is ample of light when you shoot videos. If possible use a tripod to eliminate shake. Shooting video takes up more battery power and more storage space in your card.

Panorama Mode

Panorama mode helps you take several shots in an automated guided sequence and then it stitches together all those frame to form a stitched panorama. When shooting panoramas make sure your camera movement is only done horizontally and in the indicated direction, move slowly and make sure the vertical alignment is not altered.

Beach / Snow Mode

Beach / Snow mode is best suited for very bright scenes with highly reflective surfaces.

Foliage Mode

Enhances the colours in a scene by increasing saturation, suited for very colourful scenes.

Depending upon the make and model of your digital camera you may also have other modes like fireworks mode, underwater mode, kids and pets mode, indoor mode etc. Their very name suggests what situations are they intended to be used for.

Semi Automatic Modes

In semi automatic modes the camera lets you decide some of the variables and fills in with the rest of the settings to get the best results.

Shutter Priority Mode (TV)

In the shutter priority mode you select the desired shutter speed and the camera decides the corresponding aperture, ISO, white balance etc. The choice of shutter speed depends upon whether or not you wish to freeze the action or convey motion. To freeze action use fast shutter speeds and to show movement use slower shutter speeds.

Aperture Priority Mode (AV)

In aperture priority mode the camera lets you select the desired aperture and comes up with matching values for shutter speed, ISO, white balance etc. The desired depth of field in the image is what affects the choice of aperture values. For increased depth of field (all elements in the frame is in focus including background) use narrower aperture values (f/11, f/16 etc.) and for shallow depth of field effects (blurred background) use wider aperture values (f/2.8, f/4 etc.).

Program Mode (P)

Program mode is very similar to Automatic mode and lets you shoot in full automatic settings. However it also allows you to change variables like aperture, shutter speed, iso, white balance etc, offering more creative control.

Fully Manual Mode (M)

Fully Manual is the exact opposite of the Automatic mode and in it the camera lets you decide all the variables and does not interfere. Some understanding about shutter speeds, aperture values, ISO and white balance settings, the use of flash etc. is necessary to get good results in Manual mode. It is recommended that you try Manual mode only once you have a fair idea about the basics of exposure. Only then will you be able to make the most out of it progress slowly from Automatic to Semi Automatic to Manual and once you master the Manual mode you could afford to get lazy, go back to those semi automatic modes, dial in some compensations and still come up with fantastic shots. Well that’s what most pros do; Isn't it great.

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