Digital Camera Scene Modes - Powerful Ways to Set-up Your Camera

Camera Scene Modes

Camera scene modes are a simple way for you to command the camera to automatically adjust to the type of photo you are shooting instead of making all the settings by hand. Isn't technology is a wonderful thing? Each year Digital camera manufacturers come out with new models, enhancements and products two or three times a year, each company constantly trying to one up the other.

Now they've gone nuts with the types and sheer number of scene modes being added to the new digital cameras. Camera scene modes are a simple way for you to command the camera to "automatically" adjust to the type of photo you are shooting instead of making all the settings by hand. Your camera will optimize the settings for that particular shot and in some modes determine whether or not the flash fires, other modes change how colors are recorded.

Scene Modes Printout from Panasonic ZS5 Camera
Scene Modes Printout from Panasonic ZS5 Camera

A trend has started by the camera manufactures to add special effects and other bells and whistles that you'll probably never use. How many times will you need a pastel color mode? Do you need a Starburst effect?  Even the Sepia mode is not necessary. a simple mouse click in Photoshop and you've got Sepia. If you're like the majority people, you'll only use a few of the scene modes on your camera.

Automatic scene modes

Using an automatic mode the camera selects every facet of exposure, selecting exposure settings for the application being used within the limitation of proper exposure, including aperture, exposure, focusing, white balance, light metering, and equivalent sensitivity. For instance for portrait mode a wider aperture is used by the camera to cause the background to be out of focus, while trying to find and focus in on a person's face in place of some other image content.

For similar lighting environment a slower aperture would be selected for a landscape, while face recognition would not be facilitate for focusing. Some cameras may feature up to 30 or more scene modes. countless cameras do not authenticate exactly what each of their modes do exactly; for full knowledge of these camera scene modes one must test them.

Some these modes are: Art Filter, Anti blur, Aquarium, Baby, Backlight, Candlelight, Children, Close-up, Color Swap, Coupling, Documents, Face detection, Faithful, Fireworks, Film Grain, Fisheye, Flash, Foliage, Food, High dynamic range, High speed burst, Indoor, Intelligent Auto, Kids, Landscape, Macro, Monochrome, Movie, Museum, Natural green, Night Portrait, Night scene, Party, Panning, Panorama, Pets, Pinhole, Portrait, Sepia, Soft skin, Smile shutter, Soft, Sports, Starry Sky, Sunset/Sunrise, Underwater, Vivid, You Tube Capture

Here are the five modes you'll probably get the use from.

1. Beach (May be called Beach/Snow): Use this setting for capturing bright, sun-saturated scenes. Scenes with an abundance of light colors or or white, typical of beaches and snow-packed vistas, will most often mislead the light meter on a camera into underexposing, creating an image that's way too dark. On a beach, the camera automatically compensates for this by exposing one to two additional stops, making the scene brighter, and (in a few cases) reducing the contrast. Tip: This scene setting may also be used when a white area dominant the scene, like a glaring sunny building side , also when shooting normal landscapes but you would like it to appear as if it was photographed closer to sunset-- by providing an overall slightly warmer cast.

2. Landscape (Resembles Scenic): On the typical camera, this mode adjusts the lens setting to wide-angle setting and uses a small aperture, while fixing focus at infinity allowing the greatest portion of the scene to be in focus. Some more advanced cameras automatically make the image sharper to show off greater foliage and geology detail; a few models continue on to enhance contrast and colors. Tip: To further improve sharpness and diminish camera shake, mount it on a tripod or hold the camera touching a solid surface. Additionally, some cameras feature a "grid" mode within the LCD screen. Make use of this to help while composing your scenic, plus keeping the horizon level.

3. Portrait The Camera selects settings that will be the most flattering to the person you are photographing. Aperture (the lens opening) is going to be larger, which effectively blurs the background, plus a lower ISO is selected for clear detail. Newer digital cameras incorporate this autofocus technology to scan the image seeking faces. This is typically labeled Face Detection or Face Priority. It is especially useful when using the rule of thirds or if there's a grouping of people. Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Panasonic, Sony and others are installing this new technology in several of their new models. Take a look at your camera owners manual to find out if your camera uses this new technology and if it's pre-set or if you must manually set it. Tip: Try photographing with diffused daylight, such as light streaming in from windows either behind the camera or off to one side of the subject, to get more flattering, softer light.

4.Sports - Capturing moving subjects is what the sports mode (may also be labeled ‘action mode’ on some cameras) is created to do. It's ideal for capturing images any moving subjects including people while playing sports, cars, wildlife, pets etc. Sports mode makes an attempt to freeze action by upping the shutter speed. When shooting quick moving subjects you will also increase your odds of capturing them by panning your camera in harmony with the subject or by making an attempt to pre focus the camera onto an area where your subject will end up where you want to acquire it (this learned with practice). 

5. Sunrise/Sunset - While all the Scene Modes above change the shutter speed or aperture, Sunrise and sunset mode changes the way scene colors are recorded. During sunrise or sunset are those times of the day when all the world is immersed in stunning warm light. Photographers call this the Golden Light or simply Golden Hours. The objective is to record this beautiful light quality during these portions of day. By making use of this mode in place of just leaving your camera stuck Auto mode you'll record those dramatic colors and beautiful light. Go for this mode the very next time you shoot a sunset and you will be visually impressed at the difference.

Mode Dial
Typical digital camera mode dial showing a few of the most common modes. (Actual mode dials will vary from camera to camera.  A majority of point-and-shoot cameras don't often have manual modes.) Manual modes: Manual (M), Program (P), Shutter priority (S), Aperture priority (A). Automatic modes: Auto, Action, Portrait, Night portrait, Landscape, Macro.
There are many times when you just want to manually take charge of your camera. If it's a DSLR you most likely contain a mode dial. Although many point & shoot cameras also contain a mode dial, while these controls might be within a menu. 

Manual modes

Manual modes include:

  • Av or A: Aperture priority controls the aperture, while the shutter is controlled by the camera.
  • M: Manual mode separately controls aperture and shutter speed.
  • P: Program mode offers partial control over shutter speed and aperture.
  • Tv or S: Shutter priority regulates the shutter speed, while aperture is controlled by the camera.

 Open your camera's manual and take a look at all the various scene modes that your digital camera features on it's menu or mode dial . There just might be a few scene modes that you haven't taken a look at and adopt for your style of shooting. Try all of them, you'll perfect the images you shoot.  

DSLR Know-How 6 Scene Modes: Andre discusses how to use and get the most out of these preset scene modes

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