Talking to Myself About; Shooting Better With Scene Modes

I am going to buy a High End DSLR.

Great. Why?

Because my point and shoot just creates really bad pictures and I am fed up with them, I want sharp focus bold colours and no more bad shots.

Buying a DSLR will fix that, is that what you think?

Yeah, because DSLR images always look great.

You are right that a DSLR can help to create great images but sometimes you don’t need to upgrade to them. Taking the leap form a point and shot to a DSLR can actually cause a slight drop in quality due to needing to learn how a DSLR works.

Oh so what do I do.

One of the easy ways to take great photos is to not us the Auto mode all the time and try using the scene modes.

What are the scene modes?

They are auto modes that are designed to use certain settings to enable you to take great photos depending on the scene.

Ok, so don’t use auto but use auto scene modes. You do know that you don’t make much sense. Where do I find these scene modes?

It really depends on your camera. On my Fuji point and shoot they are on the dial on the top of the camera and on my smart phone they are in the cameras menu. They….

What do they look like? I can’t see them!

I was just about to say, they are in Pictograms of the different scenes.


Arh, found them, there is a little picture of a person and one of a flower.

Yep, that’s them. The picture correlates to the type of image best captures by it.

So what does the running man mean?

sports-icon-1The running man is for action shots and is either known as the sports mode or the action mode. It is designed for capturing moving subjects for example people playing sports, cars and animals. It works by setting a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.  No more blurry shots of your kid winning the race at sports day.

Why are there two pictures of people, I am guessing they are for people shots.

There are two pictograms with people one is from the side which is the portrait mode and the other is from the front usually with a start which is the night mode.

portrait-mode-1The portrait mode is for taking pictures of people. When you select this mode the camera uses a large aperture (a small F number) to isolate your subject from the background. In other words this creates a blurry night-1background. The portrait is best used when photographing one person and it is also a good idea to not use the wide angle lens, zoom in a bit as well while trying to keep the sun to your back. If you can’t do this then turn the flash on.

The night mode is what photographers call slow shutter sync and is great for night shots, not just for people. The camera uses a long shutter speed to expose the back ground and then fires the flash to fill in details in the foreground. For the best pictures it is a good idea not to take pictures hand held unless it is a well-lit night, a tripod or a sturdy wall or table will help you out there.

These modes are quite self-explanatory.

Pretty much. What others do you have?

I well there is the flower mode.

Not actually a flower mode but can be good to take pictures of flowers with. This is the macro mode and allows you to get close up to your subject.

Apart from flowers what other pictures can I take with macro?

macro-1You can actually take pictures of insects, and other small objects. When I got engaged I used it to take a picture of my wife’s engagement ring.
Using macro mode can be a little tricky as the focus may not always hit the spot you want. Also cameras have a maximum and minimum distance of focus in macro mode, usually from 2cm to 10 cm, if you move out of this distance your focus is gone. To help with the narrow focus distance it can be a good idea to shoot parallel to your subject.
You also won’t be able to use flash because the flash will over exposure your image and you won’t have nice yellow flower but a white mess.

I am going to guess patience is needed with macro mode.

You could say that, it won’t be a quick photo but with patience you will hopefully get a good image.

There is one more I can see, it is of a mountain, so it must be landscape.

landscape-icon-1You are right it is landscape mode. Landscape mode is for landscapes or any photo where you want a lot of detail in focus. Landscape mode sets a small aperture (large F number) to create a large area of focus (wide depth of field). Because of the choice in aperture, the shutter speeds may be longer. On the plus side you can take a fantastic picture of a lake with the castle in the background and have everything in focus.

If I use these modes my pictures will be fantastic.

As with everything you need to practise but it won’t hurt your images. The best advice is to think about the type of picture you are going to be taking and set the mode to the most apropriate.

Why don’t they create more modes than these?

They actually they do but those are the most basic. The others that a camera may have are; Panoramic or stitching mode – to create panoramic shots, the way they work depends of camera to camera usually it is either take a shot and a guide will tell you how to frame the next one, or you pan your camera and it takes several shots and blends them together.
Snow mode – for balancing light in snowy conditions, this mode exists because the white of the snow tricks the camera about the correct exposure for the scene.
Fireworks mode – for those tricky firework pictures.
Kids and pet modes– works similarly to action mode but reduces the lag time for focusing to the picture being taken.
Underwater mode– to make sure the white balance and exposure times are right for the unique set up for underwater photography.
Beach mode– this should really be called super sunny mode as that is what it is designed for, ever been to a British beach in December, this mode would not be good then.
Indoor mode – adjusts the white balance and exposure for multiple light sources and colour temperatures.
Foliage mode– this should be called super saturation mode, boosts the saturation of the shot to give punchy colours.

A mode for everything.

Nearly everything. So are you going to buy that DSLR?

Let’s see what these modes can do for me first.

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4 thoughts on “Talking to Myself About; Shooting Better With Scene Modes

  1. Interesting 🙂 Personally I find nothing beats a DSLR. Well, that’s not strictly true – it needs a bit of work and a badly operated DSLR produces worse pictures than a ‘point and shoot’! For me, it depends on whether you want to take snaps/photos or create photos/images ….

    • I agree with what you are saying, that if I was given a straight up choice I would choose a DSLR. For some though a DSLR is a huge step especially if all they take is snap shots. Scene modes can really help those with a Point and shoot who want good snapshots.

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