Wednesday, February 13, 2013

All About Scene Modes

Harness the power of your camera's scene modes to make better pictures in any circumstances
By William Sawalich Published in Shooting

Use a tripod to get a background in sharp focus. For a bit of artistic blur, handhold and move the camera. If your camera has face-detection technology, enable it in order to focus on the subject rather than the background.


The five Scene modes listed here are by far the most common, and they're likely to be found on most cameras. But your camera also may include additional Scene modes to tackle even trickier situations.

SNOW/BEACH MODE enables exposure compensation (usually +1 stop) to prevent the underexposure that frequently occurs in these extra-bright outdoor environments.

PARTY MODE is subtly different than Night Portrait in that it won't use such a slow shutter speed and it doesn't utilize face-detection focusing (if available). Instead, it defaults to automatic flash instead of slow-speed synch.

FIREWORKS MODE works similar to Landscape mode, but it defaults to a long shutter speed, usually a couple of seconds, in order to allow the bursts of light to register as beautiful streaks on the sensor.

NIGHT LANDSCAPE MODE is a whole lot like Fireworks mode in that the camera defaults to long shutter speeds and no flash, both necessary for low-light imagery. Both also require a tripod.


Just because a mode is intended for one thing doesn't mean you can't use it for another.

If you want to photograph sports, you might consider choosing Portrait mode. Because of its wide aperture, the camera will be forced to use a fast shutter speed, which happens to be perfect for freezing fast-moving action.

You can harness the power of Night Portrait mode even in brighter light or when shooting indoors. It's a great way to treat the flash as a fill with plenty of ambient light creating the bulk of the exposure.

Food mode is a shortcut to macro shooting without a flash, which makes it perfect for situations in which you want close-ups comprised solely of ambient light—even if it isn't edible.

A great way to make beautiful portraits in soft ambient light is to go high-key. This eliminates blemishes and other skin details. Snow/Beach mode is a great way to ensure a high-key portrait.

Even if it's nowhere near the Fourth of July, you can use Fireworks mode to create gorgeous long exposures where motion blur would be beneficial—such as when water or wildlife is moving in a landscape.

If you'd care to create artistic blurs for creative effect, consider many of the long exposure modes—Fireworks, Landscape, Night Landscape or even Night Portrait—to employ a longer shutter speed that, when combined with a moving camera, can create some pretty cool motion-blur effects.

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