Learn to use your camera

camera top view Different cameras have different functions. Toy cameras usually only have a button for taking pictures. Compact cameras may come with different "modes" so that you can take better pictures in certain situations, for example at night or of moving objects. More advanced cameras will let you set all sort of values by hand, which will make things much more complicated but it will also let you take better pictures.

To learn to use your camera properly, you need to understand what it can do and what all the different things mean. Below you can find a description of the more common modes that you might have on your camera. These are the simple, automatic modes, which are very easy to use.

If you have an advanced camera, like a DSLR or hybrid, you will eventually want to learn more about setting up your camera by hand. When you area ready, have a look at the articles in the advanced section (coming soon).

Here are some of the most common camera modes; just remember, not all cameras have all these modes, so remember to read your instructions manual:

Portrait Mode

Use this mode if you want to take portrait pictures of people. Portrait mode will blur the background so that only the person you are photographing is in focus. It will also help keep your subject in focus if he/she moves.

Landscape mode

A good landscape picture gives you the feeling like you can stare deep into it. If your camera has a landscape mode it will set up your pictures as best as it can to get this effect. Basically, it will give you a smaller aperture (larger f-stop value) so as to produce pictures with more depth.

shenadoah river
This landscape is a great example of depth since you can see details close up as well as far away

Sport Mode

Sports Mode is used to capture movement and to reduce movement blur.

When in sport mode, the camera will choose a fast shutter speed so as to "freeze" the movement.

Night Mode

This is good for night photos where the background cannot be light up by the flash. The camera will use a slow shutter speed to capture the light from background, and then the flash will light up to capture the people in the foreground. This basically means that the shutter on the camera stays open longer so it is really important that you hold the camera steady. Moving even just a bit may be caught on the picture. If you have a tripod or monopod, use it.

Macro Mode

Macro mode is good for taking pictures of small things close up. If you set the camera to macro mode it will try to focus very close to the camera.

Rose shot in macro mode

Macro Mode works by choosing a wide aperture (small f-stop number) to give a shallow depth of view, this means that the background in the photo will be blurred and all the focus will be on the subject of the photo.

Disable Flash

This mode will disable the flash for those situations the using a flash is not wanted. Sometimes using a flash is not permitted or it may cause nasty reflection (see our article on using the flash), other times the flash may scare pets, or annoy the people around you.

by Simon James Allanach, edited by Alan Frost
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