How to Know Which Mode to Use on Your Digital Camera

When professional  photographers take pictures of fireworks, a night sky, or a local football game they have made numerous adjustments to assure a quality image despite the special lighting conditions. A faster shutter speed to capture action, a wider aperture to allow more light in from a darkened scene, and so forth are necessary in many circumstances.  Even that photo taken in the living room on Christmas morning has much different lighting than the shot taken of the kids running out through the snow covered landscape later that same day. Clearly, changes in the settings on the digital camera are what can allow such diverse shots to produce acceptable images.

It is few amateurs who wish to take the time to select all of the appropriate settings on a camera for each shot, and few as well who choose to purchase a camera with many manual controls.  Luckily however, many digital camera models have scene modes that are readily available at the push of a button. These pre-programmed settings allow beginners to successfully adjust to the variety of conditions in which we wish to shoot.  Once a camera is selected with these scene modes, it is merely a matter of determining which of them is appropriate for a given shot.

Like any device, there are unique settings on the various camera models and different names applied by different manufacturers, however, there are some settings that are very common and understanding them will get a novice on the track to better photos in short order. 

Portrait Scene Mode

This mode is used, as one would expect, when shooting a “portrait” of a person or pet.  With this mode, the camera uses a large aperture, and perhaps a faster shutter speed to compensate for the large aperture.   This creates a sharper focus on a nearby subject and makes the background less distinct.

Landscape Scene Mode

In contrast to the portrait setting, the landscape setting on a digital camera makes use of a small aperture and perhaps a slower shutter speed in an effort to bring as much of a scene into sharp focus as possible.

Nighttime Scene Mode

This mode uses flash and a slow shutter speed in an effort bring in as much light as is available in a dark scene. Users still need to focus on maintaining a steady shot to assure good focus and a tripod or other steady surface is generally required for the best image.

Sports or Action Scene Mode

The fast shutter speed and wider aperture used when a digital camera is set on an “action” scene mode allows a user to capture rapid motion and minimizes blurring due to the movement.

Beach and Snow Scene Modes

In this mode, the digital camera will adjust white balance and contrast to keep colors more realistic and the photo from being too washed out or indistinct.

Macro Mode

This setting allows users to photograph items at close range using a smaller aperture.  This setting is appropriate when shooting a subject, often a flower, an insect,  or a small object such as a coin that is within 3 feet or less of the lens;  too close for the typical point and shoot digital camera to focus without special adjustments.  The subject of the photo should be clear and all of the background surrounding it blurred.  A tripod is recommended in these situations to help eliminate problems with camera shake and the resulting blurriness.

Using the appropriate scene mode when shooting pictures merely provides a digital camera the instructions it needs to adjust settings for the specific situation, allowing beginners to create better quality images with the push of a button.