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The Secret Life of a (Digital) Camera

November 26th, 2010

Hey, how’d you get that shot?

Well, in today’s world of Point ‘n Shoots (compact digital cameras), everyone has a full toolbox available to them.  You might not know that your camera (not smartphone, but real camera) has a set of tools called ‘scene’ or ‘shooting’ modes.

These come in a variety of names like:  Portrait, Soft Skin, Self Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candlelight, Baby, Pet, Sunset, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial Photo.  Some other tools, often available,  allow more sophisticated changes:  illustration, sepia, monochrome, saturation, pastel.

For the most part these tend to be underutilized, if even known, by most casual shooters.  It usually requires the user to explore their camera and read the manual.  Not likely in today’s instant gratification culture.

So what are ‘scene’ modes?

They are sophisticated preprogrammed exposure/shutter speed combinations that allow the shooter to do what I learned in 3 years of photography school and 40 years of shooting!! Imagine that!

For example, choose sunset and it automatically increases the color saturation, opens the aperture, lowers the ISO sensitivity, and increases the shutter speed.  The sports mode attempts to freeze fast moving subjects by increasing the shutter speed, sometimes activating continuous shooting mode and implementing a fast focus tracking.

The sepia mode creates a digital image in brown tones, while monochrome creates a black and white image, just like I did in the darkroom too many years ago. You could do any of these manually (which I usually do on my DSLR but not on my compact cameras) but why bother when an algorithm has been created to do it.

So get your camera and look at the control dial or menu for a ‘best shot’ mode and start exploring them.  Let me know your results.

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