Moving Beyond Automatic Mode on your Digital Camera

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Do you keep yours on auto?

When using your digital camera, do you always keep it in auto mode? find all the settings and modes confusing? well, you’re  not alone, many people do. But you’re missing out on the creative, fun part of photography, you’re also preventing  your camera from reaching  its full potential by not using all the features it has to offer, such as aperture priority, shutter priority, changing ISO settings and bracketting to name but a few; you’re also missing out on getting better pictures.

Try a different one

Of course, when using auto mode on digital cameras these days the results will be pretty good most of the time, but not all the time.

There will be a time when you want to take a photograph of someone where the background is cluttered and will want to make the background out of focus to hide the clutter, but didn’t know how to use ‘aperture priority’ mode, or maybe you wanted to shoot someones silhouette against a sunset, but didn’t know how to use the exposure compensation setting. So perhaps it’s time to switch off auto-mode for a while and try a different one.

Where to start

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Most digital cameras have basic modes such as, portrait, landscape, sports and others, and creative modes too, which will include; aperture priority, shutter priority, manual and program. Although these modes will vary from camera to camera, you’ll find nearly all dslr’s and some compacts will have these modes and more. So, you could start by using the basic modes first; to wean you off the auto mode habit.

What’s your focal length?

One thing to remember is that the focal length on your camera lens will make a difference to the pictures you take in any mode, (have a look at my other post- Beginners guide to depth of field).

Basic modes

Try using portrait mode next time you want to photograph someone standing relatively close; there’s less contrast and less sharpening in that mode, and so making the image softer and more flattering.When taking pictures of a landscape, instead of using auto, try using Landscape mode, it  has more saturation and sharpness to give more vivid colours.

Aperture priority

After using the basic modes, why not try out the creative modes? you could start by using ‘aperture priority; if you want to take a picture where everything near and far is in focus; just move the dial round until you find a high f/stop number (small aperture), as high as the available light will allow and the camera will choose the right shutter speed, (you’ll probably need a tripod if your shutter speed goes too low)

Shutter priority

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If you want to take a picture of something fast moving, or when you want to freeze the action, then use shutter priority mode; just move the dial round to get the right shutter speed and the camera will select the appropriate aperture; you’ll need to check your cameras manual to find out which mode is which (eg Canons shutter priority mode is: TV, which stands for time value).

Program mode

This mode will allow you to select the basic exposure settings, but you can still override the cameras choices to fine-tune your image.

Manual mode

Use this mode when you want full control over the shutter speed and aperture to get creative effects. I’ve always used manual mode, it allows me to get more creative over what I photograph,along with aperture priority mode. So,the next time you want to take a photograph, try turning that dial away from auto and try something different, you might even like it.

 

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