MASTER EXPOSURE MODES
Photography week|September 09, 2021
Learn how to shoot with confidence by following our field guide to mastering the Mode dial and exposure modes. While we’re focusing on Canon DSLR settings here, and some settings are exclusive to Canon cameras, most of these settings, or equivalent ones, can be found on most cameras, and the principles and techniques that we cover apply whichever make and model of camera you’re using

BASIC ZONE PART 1 Learn which ‘picture’ modes to use for which subjects, from landscapes and portraits to sports and close-ups, and delve into the ‘scene’ modes for more artistic touches

BASIC ZONE PART 2 Move from Full Auto, where the camera does it all for you, to Creative Auto, where you have some control over the look of your shots, and learn what the creative filters do

CREATIVE ZONE PART 1 Discover how setting your aperture determines the depth of field in your shots, and how to apply exposure compensation when your camera gets things wrong

CREATIVE ZONE PART 2 Learn to freeze moving subjects – or give them an artful blur – by adjusting shutter speed, and master Manual mode for complete control over your camera

BASIC ZONE PART 1

Perfect for absolute beginners, these automatic picture modes are a great way to ease yourself into photography

Within the Basic Zone (and what used to be called the Image Zone) on Canon DSLRs are the ‘picture’ modes. These fully automatic modes are helpful for beginners, as your DSLR will take full control over the exposure, focus and other settings to help you get a good shot. However, you’ll be working within restricted parameters, with little control over your results: your camera will focus on what it wants (usually what’s closest in the scene), will expose averagely for the scene or subject, may not set the best aperture or shutter speed for a shot, and won’t know if you’re using a tripod, and so may set an unnecessarily high ISO, creating image noise; and, on some cameras, you’ll be restricted to shooting JPEGs rather than raw images. These auto modes still have their advantages, though, and are great for specific subjects and scenes…

LANDSCAPE

Ideal for landscape photographers who aren’t confident manually setting apertures, Landscape mode is best used with a wide-angle lens to further increase depth of field so that scenes are sharp from foreground to background. Your camera will set as narrow an aperture as possible to maximise depth of field (although this could be as wide as f/5.6 in low light), and apply the Landscape picture style to capture vivid blues and greens and sharpen the image.

SCENE MODES

Newer beginner-level cameras, like the Canon EOS 800D, have a Scene (SCN) option on the Mode dial for accessing available Scene modes, while on older models (such as the 650D) Scene modes are individually accessed via the Mode dial. Scene modes on the 800D include Group Photo, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene, HDR Backlight Control, Food, Kids and Candlelight. Handheld Night Scene helps you to capture shots after dark without using a tripod by pumping up the ISO and combining consecutive shots to create a ‘stable image’. HDR Backlight Control helps when shooting something with bright and dark areas. It fires three bracketed exposures and combines them in-camera to try and improve shadow and highlight detail.

MOVIE MODE

All newer EOS DSLRs enbable you to record HD video using Movie mode. This is found on the Mode dial on some cameras, while on other models it has its own switch; on the 650D to 800D cameras, Movie mode is initiated by the On/ Off/Movie switch next to the Mode dial, while on the 5D Mk IV there’s a Live View/Movie mode switch close to the eyepiece. For all cameras, you need to press the Record Start/Stop button to begin recording video.

SPORTS

Not just for sports, this mode is suited to anything that moves, from wildlife to children. It uses your DSLR’s fastest Continuous shooting mode (for example 5fps), sets AI Servo mode to track moving subjects, and a fast shutter speed (around 1/500 sec) to freeze the action; to facilitate the latter your camera often sets a high ISO, especially in low light, which could be as high as ISO6400.

PORTRAIT

In this auto mode, your DSLR will use a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field to blur the background and make your portrait subjects stand out. It will also make skin tones and hair look softer by using the Portrait picture style, while the flash pops up automatically if light levels are poor. You’ll need to ensure that the AF point covers your subject’s face or eyes.

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