Lesson 10: Automatic modes

ModesSo now you have your digital camera in your hands and you are about to take the first shots. Most beginners in this situation will put the camera into full auto mode, or into one of the auto mode presets. In this lesson we will talk about these modes so you can know their advantages and their limits.

AUTOMATIC MODE: Auto mode tells your camera to make all the adjustments to take the best shot that it can. Some cameras lets you make your own settings for flash or red eye reduction. This mode will give you nice results in many usual shooting conditions, however you need to know that you’re not telling your camera any extra information about the type of shot you’re taking so it will guess what you want. As a result some of the following modes might be more appropriate to select as they give your camera a few more hints without you needing to do anything more.

PORTRAIT MODE: When you switch to portrait mode your camera will automatically help to keep your background out of focus. Portrait mode works best when you’re photographing a single subject so get in close enough to your subject or use the zoom function so that your photographing the head and shoulders of them. Also if you’re shooting into the sun it will be a good ideea to trigger your flash to add a little light onto their face.

MACRO MODE: Macro mode lets you move closer into your subject to take a close up picture. It’s great for shootinginsects, flowers or other small objects. Different digital cameras will have macro modes with different capabilities that includes different focussing distances, usually between 2-10cm for point and shoot cameras. When you use macro mode you’ll notice that focussing is more difficult as at short distances the depth of field is very narrow. Keep your camera and the object you’re photographing parallel or else you’ll find that a lot of it will be out of focus. A tripod is very useful in macro shots as the depth of field is so narrow that even moving towards or away from your subject slightly can make your subject out of focus.

LANDSCAPE MODE: This mode is almost the exact opposite of portrait mode in that it sets the camera up to make sure as much of the scene you’re photographing will be in focus as possible. It’s ideal for capturing shots of wide scenes, particularly those witch points of interest are at different distances from the camera. Your camera might also select a slower shutter speed in this mode so you might want to consider a tripod or other method of ensuring your camera is still.

NIGHT MODE: This is a fun mode to play around with and can create some interesting shots. Night mode is for shooting in low light situations and sets your camera to use a longer shutter speed to help capture details of the background but it also fires off a flash to illuminate the foreground (and subject). If you use this mode you should use a tripod or your background will be blurred – however it’s also fun to take shots with this handheld to purposely blur your backgrounds – especially when there is a situation with lights behind your subject as it can give a fun and experimental look.

These are the most important fully automatic modes. Different digital cameras can have more additionall modes but they are not so commonly used. In the next lesson we will talk about shutter speed and aperture so we can talk later about the semi automatic modes.

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