So you’ve bought your new camera, charged it up, turned it on and started snapping away, yes? Now that we’re in the digital age, where you can take as many photos as you wish with no cost, you’d be forgiven for thinking that if you take a big bunch of photos, at least some of them will be okay— won’t they? Unfortunately, no, not always. It sounds like a boring (and obvious) subject, but you need to know how to use your camera. Sure, your photos will come out nicely most of the time on the automatic setting, but what if you want to do more than that? I’m sure you didn’t buy your camera with all those amazing specifications, just to point it at your subject with your flash on and hope for the best!
First Things First, Choose Your Shooting Mode
Most cameras have the same modes. I’ve written a summary of each, below. Pick and choose between the ones that are most relevant to you:
Automatic • Does what it says on the tin! Auto mode tells your camera to use it’s own judgement when it comes to shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance and focus, and use the built-in flash in low light, if required. It’s easy to use and particularly quick if you want to snap something right away and don’t have the time to faff with settings!
Portrait • When you switch to portrait mode, your camera will ensure that your subject (i.e. the person you’re taking a photo of) is in focus and the centre of attention, while your background is a little more out of focus. This mode works best when you’re shooting a single subject.
Macro • If you want to get in close to small objects like flowers, bugs (and your Nails of The Day, haha) then macro mode is what you want! If there’s not much light, the flash will go off, which sometimes throws things a little off balance, so make sure you’re not blocking any light yourself and use as much natural light, to avoid it. If it’s an object you can move, the windowsill is always a good place for a photoshoot!
Landscape • This setting is great for scenery and wider shots, as well as landscapes, as everything from near to far will be in focus and most cameras will make the blues and greens more vivid. Usually, the flash won’t trigger, so you won’t need to worry about illuminating anything at the front of your photo.
Sport • Sports mode isn’t just for sports, but anything that’s fast moving, like water, running children and fireworks too! You’ll get stop-action photos, meaning that your camera will take your photos very fast (using a fats shutter speed), freezing anything in motion. If your camera allows continuous shooting, then try it out in this mode! (Read more about it below!)
Night • The automatic night mode will help you take a better portrait in low light or at night. This mode will help to make your background more natural looking. If you are able to use a tripod or flat surface with this mode it will help— the built-in flash is used in this mode, so your subject will be frozen, but camera movement may blur the background if it can not be reached by the flash.
No Flash • This is my fav mode and probably the one I use most often. It’s great for times when flash photography is prohibited, but it’s also great in natural light and when you don’t want the flash bouncing off of things. I hate flash!
Shutter Priority • You choose if you want a fast or slow shutter speed and the camera will do the rest of the working out for you, to get the clearest photo possible!
Aperture Priority • The exact opposite of shutter speed priority— you choose your aperture and the camera does all the tricky stuff.
Manual • Manual is a more creative mode and probably best used by pros, but there’s nothing stopping you having a play around. You can choose the aperture and shutter speed you desire, to essentially make your photo lighter or darker (plus a few other little tricks which we’ll come onto later!)
Automatic Depth of Field • The automatic depth of field mode will set the aperture for you. It will choose a higher aperture (a smaller hole), to allow the foreground and background to be in an acceptable focus.
What Are All These Other Buttons For?
If you’re using a DSLR, you’ll see a whole bunch of other buttons too— and many point & shoot cameras have these options in their settings menu too.
Continuous Shooting • Also known as “burst mode”, you can shoot several photos in a row with just one click of a button. This is really useful for moving subjects, like cars or children!
ISO • This is a little difficult to explain, but it basically measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the number, the less sensitive your camera is to light (so it’s great for daytime) and the smoother, less grainy your image will look. Higher ISOs are great for darker shots, but your image will have noise (grainy.)
White Balance • White balance determines the colour of your photo. You can usually choose between a few options including cloudy, flash and tungsten (standard household bulb.) If you pick the wrong one, you’ll notice your image will be too blue, red, etc. You can rectify this later in photo-editing, but it’s best to get it right the first time!
Auto / Manual Focus • I’m an auto-focus kind of girl. Your camera will focus for you when you push the button (to take the photo) down halfway. I only use manual focus if there are lots of objects in the frame and it doesn’t focus on the right one. There’s a ring at the end of your lens that you can twist to focus— just make sure you’ve flicked the switch to manual focus, or else you might damage the lens!