Digital Camera Auto Exposure Settings
Digital Camera Auto Exposure Settings
Mark Comon (Vice President, Paul's Photo, Torrance, CA) gives expert video advice on: What does my digital camera's "landscape mode" do?; What does my digital camera's "night mode" do?; What does my digital camera's "kids and pets" mode do? and more...
What does the "auto exposure" setting on my digital camera do?
In the green auto exposure mode on your digital camera you really can't do anything except take the picture. That's the whole point of it. The green auto exposure setting (idiot-proof mode) prevents you from making any gross mistakes. So if I (as a photographer who knows what I'm doing) am going to hand my camera to a waiter to take a picture, I put it on the green auto exposure setting so he can't fat finger the buttons and mess me up. However, if you just bought your camera today and you want to take pictures I recommend you put it in the green-auto setting. Let the camera do all the work for you. Later on as we get into this a little more, we'll go into some of the other modes and get you better pictures, but not for today. Start with the green auto exposure setting and be happy.
How will auto exposure impact my digital photos?
Why do you use the green auto? Because it's there. And some people are not comfortable with anything else but fully automatic. Why would you not use it? Because you want to take better pictures. You want to take control of the picture. You want to tell the camera what kind of an image you want, what kind of vision you have, how you want the subject to be treated. That's why we have the scene modes, and the manual side of the dial, with program aperture priority, center priority, and manual, so that I, or you, the photographer, can take control and make the picture look the way you want, not just fully automatic. You wouldn't just take a cake, and stick it in the oven, and tell the oven to just cook, right? That's what green auto is. You've got to be able to take some control if you want professional, beautiful quality pictures.
What does the "backlight" feature on my digital camera do?
The back light mode on your digital camera allows you to tell the camera that your subject will normally be a silhouette. And you can tell the camera to lighten the picture so the person is not dark in the fore ground with the back ground normally lit. That's what back light is, the back ground normally lit, the subject in the shadow. So, in the back light mode, the camera lightens the exposure to make the face of the person in the fore ground to look normal. The back ground will then be to light or blown out.
What does the "spotlight" feature on my digital camera do?
The spotlight mode on your digital camera tells the camera that you have a brightly light subject with a black background or dark background behind it. So, the camera looks at the subject and sets the exposure so your subject (generally in a play or stage production, something like that) will be normally exposed and the background will generally come out too dark in your picture. That's what the spotlight mode's for.
What does my digital camera's "portrait mode" do?
Portrait mode is one of my favorite scene modes. In the portrait mode usually denoted by a head or a face on the mode dial on your camera. The camera is going to try to isolate the subject, so for those of you who want the technical talk it gives you a wide lens opening or a wide aperture to blur the background and give you little depth of field, thereby, isolating the subject so the subject stands out from the background, because the background is blurry and the subject is supposed to be clear.
What does my digital camera's "landscape mode" do?
The landscape mode on your digital camera is another one of my prefered scene modes. It's a great mode for general purpose photography because the camera gives you a narrower lens opening, trying to give you foregrounds to backrounds focus. Good for general scenic travel photography, also for taking a large group of people. The landscape mode is generally denoted by a mountain, a mountain with tree or person in the foreground. Great for travel and general purpose picture taking.
What does my digital camera's "macro mode" do?
The close up mode, or macro mode, is generally denoted by a picture of a flower, and that's what you use it for: flowers, insects, stamps, things like that. So, if you want to get close, you use the close up mode. You have to be very careful, and you have to go to the instruction book on your camera which will tell you where the close up mode is active. Most cameras, if you're on your compacts, have a very finite distance. Between 2.5 centimeters and 8.4 centimeters you can shoot close ups. On the SLR cameras, you'll have a lens that focuses down to a certain range like 1.2 feet, so you can go 1.2 feet all the way to infinity. Where the macro mode is just depends on the camera or the lens you're using.
What does my digital camera's "sports mode" do?
The sports mode is another of my preferred scene modes, and I recommend the sports mode for any moving subject, whether you're moving or the subject's moving. The sports mode gives a faster shutter speed to stop action. In some cameras, it boosts up the ISO, so it gives you more action-stopping ability. In some cameras, it even switches you to the motor driver continuous shooting, so you can go "clickety-clickety-clickety-click" with your pictures. The sports mode is a great mode for moving subjects, because it's hopefully going to stop the action for you.
What does my digital camera's "night mode" do?
The "night mode", or "night portrait mode" is generally denoted by a moon or a star and a building. And what the "night portrait" or "night mode" does, it's a flash mode, so the camera's going to fire the flash. But instead of taking a normal flash picture where the flash fires with a fast shutter speed, the camera's going to leave the shutter open a little bit longer so you get some ambient light from the background, so that you don't get those flash pictures with the background, with your subject, rather, in the front, and the black void behind. Hopefully you'll get some detail in the background, but be careful because in the "night portrait" or "night flash" mode, you will get some blur if you don't hold the camera absolutely still.
What does my digital camera's "snow mode" do?
The "snow mode," or "sand and snow mode" on some cameras is used when you're shooting against a bright background, like at the beach or on the snow. What the camera does in snow mode is to tell the camera to look at the subject, rather than the background, for determining exposure. If you don't do that, quite often your background will be normal and your subject will be too dark because of the bright background. This is where snow mode is useful.
What does my digital camera's "fireworks mode" do?
The way fireworks mode works is it leaves the shutter open a longer time, so you get multiple bursts of fireworks. It's a great mode for doing lightening too. It's a lot of fun to be able to go to the Fourth of July, go to your local theme park and open the shutter, (you need to hold very, very still or use a tripod when doing the fireworks mode) so it leaves the shutter open longer so the fireworks can burn into the imaging chip or into the film.
What does my digital camera's "kids and pets" mode do?
The kids and pets mode on your digital camera is a light duty version of the sports and action mode. It knows that kids and pets move quickly, so it's going to give you a little bit faster shutter speed. I would tell you to go to the sports mode and get the real deal. You're going to be a lot happier in the long run using that than the kids and pets mode.
What does my digital camera's "underwater mode" do?
The underwater mode is used on cameras that can...go underwater. I always have a saying: "if your camera doesn't go under water, it can go once and then you're done." The underwater mode is going to adjust the light, because underwater, it's really, really blue as the warm rays are filtered out by the light. So, the camera's going to put back in those rays of sunlight. If you want a cool sunset picture, use the underwater mode in bright sunshine and see what happens, it's kind of fun.
What does my digital camera's "beach mode" do?
The "beach mode" on your digital camera is just like the "snow mode." The camera is adjusting for a bright background. So normally, without this mode engaged on the camera, the subject would be a silhouette, because the background's so bright. So by turning on the "beach" or the "snow" mode, the camera's going to lighten the picture. Your background may be too light, but your subject will be properly exposed in beach mode.
What does my digital camera's "indoor mode" do?
The indoor mode on your digital camera is going to adjust the ISO on the white balance of your picture for shooting indoor pictures without a flash. Generally, indoor mode is going to boost the ISO up to 8 or 16 so you can shoot indoors without a flash and adjust the white balance so that color on the picture looks better than if you just shot with green automatic.
What does my digital camera's "movie mode" do?
The movie mode on your digital camera, only on the compacts now, allows you to make ether an AVI or MPEG file, that's a moving picture. It's not a substitute for having a real video camera but you can, if you see something fun or exciting or the kids are doing something silly, you can whip out the movie mode, shoot a little file, you can then download to a computer, burn to a DVD, and share.