Photography 101 Lesson 2: Understanding Your Camera's Automatic and Manual Settings

Hey guys, it's time for lesson number 2 in our little Photography 101 course. This lesson should be extremely helpful for anyone wanting know more about their DSLR's or point-and-shoot digital camera settings. Let's jump right in. Most digital and DSLR cameras have a spinning wheel on top of the camera that allows you select a shooting mode. In this lesson we will go through what each one means and what setting you should focus your efforts in. I have separated the automatic settings from the manual settings. Every professional photographer uses manual settings so you should really focus your efforts on utilizing these settings, rather than relying on the camera to make decisions for you. AUTOMATIC SETTINGS Full Auto Designation: Green Camera, Green Square, Green A, or "Auto" Description: This setting will choose aperture and shutter speed for you. Most times it will just give you a perfectly exposed image. This mode will make use of flash whether the scene really requires flash or not. Portrait Designation: Face of a person Description: This setting will choose low f/stop (aperture) which will give you a shallow depth of focus which makes the background soft, out of focus, and not distracting. This mode will also make use of flash, which can be unappealing without proper experience. Landscape Designation: A mountain or mountains Description: This setting will choose a high f/stop (aperture) which, depending on how high the f/stop is, will give you an overall sharp focus with a very large depth of field. Flash is turned off for this setting. Close up/Macro Designation: A flower Description: Similar to the portrait setting, the close up setting will choose a lower f/stop (aperture) which will produce a soft, appealing background for your image. The flash is also automatically in this setting like it or not. This shooting mode may also help focus on close up object, depending on the lens. However, you can see how these settings are getting a little redundant. Sports/Action Designation: Running person Description: This mode will set importance on high shutter speed rather than f/stop. A faster shutter speed allows you to capture moving objects with more clarity, ensuring that your photographs will not come out blurry because of the motion of the object. Flash in this setting is turned off. Night Portrait Designation: Person with star/moon in background Description: This mode is similar to portrait and close up/macro modes. However, this mode will select a slower shutter speed and automatic flash setting in order to properly exposure your subject. Unfortunately a low shutter speed will cause your pictures to suffer from camera shake, which means blurry photographs. It is best to use a tripod or rest your camera on a flat surface for this setting in order to achieve the best effect. No Flash Designation: Harry Potter-esque arrow with a diagonal bar across it. Description: This setting is similar to the full auto setting, however flash will not be turned on automatically. This setting is only found on a few cameras and is redundant and useless in my opinion. CA (Creative Auto) Designation: CA Description: Similar to auto, but with slightly more control over focus, exposure, and aperture. This setting is only found on a few cameras and again, in my opinion it is redundant and useless. MANUAL SETTINGS Programmed Autoexposure Designation: P Description: This setting selects the combinations of shutter speeds and f/stops that would properly expose your image. For example: an f/2.8 and shutter speed of 1000 and an f/12 and shutter speed of 60 may both give you a proper exposure, however the settings will effect depth of field and motion within your image. Shutter-Priority Designation: Tv, S Description: This setting allows the photographer to select a shutter speed that they want, and the camera automatically selects a f/stop that will create a proper exposure. This is far superior, in my opinion, to the automatic Sports mode. Aperture-Priority Designation: Av, A Description: This is the opposite of the shutter-priority setting. The photographer is able to select an f/stop and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed for a proper exposure. You will get the best of both the portrait and landscape automatic settings within this one manual setting. Remember that f/stop (aperture) controls depth of field, which essentially means how big of a focus area the camera has (either shallow/small or deep/large depth of field). Manual Exposure Designation: M Description: This is the mode that is truly fully manual without any control from the camera itself. You will be able to select shutter speed, aperture, flash, and ISO yourself. Once you have a good understanding of both shutter speed and aperture, you should be using this setting. In my opinion you can get exactly what you want out of a picture, without the camera telling you what it thinks you want. Movie Designation: Looks like a movie camera Description: This sets your DSLR or point-and-shoot camera into video mode. Note, not all cameras have this ability. Automatic Depth of Field Designation: A-DEP Description: This is a rare setting found on only a few cameras. This setting chooses an f/stop that will keep everything inside the camera frame as close to in focus as possible. I would suggest using the aperture-priority setting or manual setting before using this setting.

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