Okay, so you've got a good digital camera. It has all the settings you could ever use. Or maybe it has settings you will never use. I would encourage you to try get off "Auto" mode and try some of those other camera settings that your nice, new digital camera has to offer.
Hopefully, you have at least tried the "Scene" modes with their accompanying little images of a mountain, a runner, a face, or a flower. Those scene modes change your camera settings without you having to worry about (or know about) what is happening inside your camera. If you haven't tried your scene modes, that is a good place to start.
But first you should know the three basic camera settings that affect exposure and image quality.
1) Shutter Speed - As with all three of these settings, there is a compromise. The faster the shutter speed, the better you can freeze motion - motion of a moving subject or movement of the camera as the shutter button is pressed. The slower the shutter speed, the more light we let into the lens.
2) Aperture - The aperture is the size of the lens opening. It is measured by f-stop value. The larger the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture, resulting in more "depth of field" or "depth of focus," meaning that more of the subject from near to far is in focus. The smaller the f-stop number the large the aperture allowing more light into the lens.
3) Sensitivity - ISO values measure the sensitivity of the image sensor to light. Smaller ISO values mean less "noise" is produced in your image. Noise is seen as graininess or small color specks that reduce the image quality. Increasing ISO numbers indicate higher sensitivity causing more light to be captured by the image sensor, but with increased noise.
So ideally, we want a fast shutter speed for sharp pictures with no motion blur, a small aperture (large f-stop) to have good depth of focus, and a low sensitivity (ISO) setting to reduce image noise, but each of these means that we are capturing less light. The secret is in compromise. Decide what's important for each situation and apply those settings.
The easy way to do that is using scene modes. The sports setting will set a fast shutter speed to capture motion. Other scene settings may also adjust the focus as well as shutter speed, aperture, and sensitivity.
But if you want to take control of your camera, try the P, A, S (or Tv), and M settings:
- P or Program Mode generally allows you to set the ISO value and exposure compensation value, but uses its own algorithm for shutter speed and aperture, using the built-in light meter.
- A or Aperture Mode allows you to set the aperture or f-stop and uses the light meter to determine the shutter speed.
- S (Tv for Time Value on some cameras) allows you to set the shutter speed and uses the light meter to determine the aperture.
- M or Manual Mode allows you to set the shutter speed and aperture (as well as the ISO sensitivity), but does not use the light meter to determine exposure. Correct exposure is up to you.
I recommend you experiment with these modes. Take the same picture with different settings and you may be amazed at the results. Experiment. Play. Take lots of pictures. It costs nothing with a digital camera.
I also recommend you read and reread your camera manual. Or do a Web search for more information. If you would prefer a short class in using your camera and composing the perfect image, sign up for the class being held on Saturday, June 9, from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Copperstone Executive Suites on Land O' Lakes Blvd. For more information on this class or to enroll, go to www.con2000.com/pixels or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: Have a question about photography? Email Maury Griffith at email@example.com. He will answer select questions in future blog posts.