Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quick glance at the Creative Shooting Zone - Digital Photography

Understanding the settings on your camera makes you half the photographer you once thought you could not become. Knowing when, where, and how to use them completes you. Your level of dedication then holds your hands and walks you forward towards differentiating you from another "wanna be photographer", to people actually recognizing you in public because your work inspired a lot of them to take up photography as their hobby, and they made you their role model.

I am sure many of you have noticed "Tv", "Av", and "M", "B", "C" modes listed on the mode dial (or at least a couple of those modes), but the question is, how many of you have tried them out? 

Those creative modes are there on the camera for a reason. If you are ready to make a leap in to the world of exciting shooting modes, here is a crash course on various creative modes of a digital camera to get you started:

NOTE: The terms I have made references to in this post are based on the Canon system because that is what I use. Other camera users, kindly find out the respective terms used for the same / similar feature(s) on your camera. A wise person once said, thee refer to the instruction manual of thine camera when you needeth the instructions on operating it (or something similar to that).


1) P = Program
You are shooting outdoors, your try to capture a moving subject, and there is constant change in the lighting. The "Auto" mode isn't helping you get the best exposure of the scene that you had in mind, which makes you want to smack the subject to the ground. Well, with Program (P) mode at your disposal, you don't need to go that far.

In this "semi-automatic" mode, the camera analyzes the scene and quickly makes the necessary changes to the Aperture and Shutter values depending on the ISO value we set, and comes up with the final exposure. It may be one of the easy ways to understand ISO.

Scenarios where this mode comes handy:
a) when very quick adjustments are needed
b) when we want / need control over the ISO
c) when you need control over the Flash
d) when we want to manually control the white balance
e) when we want to shoot in the Adobe RGB color space which has more broader and accurate color range than the traditional sRGB color space that produces subtle colors suitable for web viewing (for basic explanation, see: color spaces).

To sum it up:
Shutter speed = Automatic
Aperture = Automatic
ISO = Manual

2) Tv = Shutter Speed Priority
This is a semi-automatic mode in which the camera allows you to select the Shutter speed of your choice, while it varies the aperture (f) value automatically, depending on the lighting conditions. Irrespective of which mode the camera is in, the final exposure operates on the principle of "exposure triangle".

To sum it up:
Shutter speed = Manual
Aperture = Automatic
ISO = Auto / Manual

3) Av = Aperture Priority
Aperture is set to manual control in this mode, thus allowing the camera to handle the required shutter speed for a scene - based on lighting. Remember, when you are in control of the aperture, you control the depth of field too, along with the amount of light you allow to reach the sensor.

Shutter speed = Automatic
Aperture = Manual
ISO = Auto / Manual

Note: In both the modes discussed above, ISO is a user configurable variable. Users may choose to change the ISO value for a scene, or let the camera adjust the ISO value automatically (by setting it to "A")

4) M = Manual
As the name indicates, this is a complete manual mode, in which you have total flexibility over every individual setting of your camera. Yes, now you are in complete control of your camera and you are its boss!

Initially, you may find it hard to manage all the settings by yourself for a particular scene, but once you get used to the Manual mode, all other camera modes start to appear redundant. I take pride in this, as I have transformed myself from using semi-automatic modes to full manual mode for quite some time now. For someone who is learning photography, it is a kind of an achievement really.

Personally, I feel it is a wise choice to use any of the semi-automatic modes under dynamic shooting conditions, as changing every setting manually won't be feasible all the time.

To sum it up:
Shutter Speed = Manual
Aperture = Manual
ISO = Auto / Manual

5) B = Bulb
Almost all DSLRs these days come with a fascinating, one of its kind mode called the "Bulb" mode. It gets its name because the exposure can be controlled for longer periods of time, varying from seconds, to hours. The technicality behind this mode is that you can lock the shutter open for extended period of time, so you can let your brain go creative to produce long-exposure shots.

Eg:// Capture lightening, star trails, light painting, motion trails, shooting fireworks, etc.

If you don't find the Bulb mode on the mode dial of your camera, check the camera's instruction manual to find out if your camera really has one such mode, and if yes, instructions to access it.

The highest we get to keep the shutter open in other modes is 30 sec to 60 sec, depending on make and model of the cameras. That is more than enough for beginners and amateurs to try out different things when the sun goes down.

There are a few constraints that one needs to understand before attempting to capture images in this mode. Your biggest concern will be the battery backup, especially if you decide to expose the images for extended periods.


Lightning bolts
(Image source:

My first successful lightning capture

Star trails
(Image source:

(Image source:

Light Painting
(Photographer: Aaron Bauer)

City trails
(Photographer: Andi Andreas)

6) C = Custom
This is a unique, and a very useful camera mode which only DSLRs host, normally. With this, you may customize the settings as per your shooting requirements, and save it as a preset for future use. This helps especially when we shoot under static lighting conditions, as we won't have to change the settings time and again as we do in the other shooting modes.

To sum it up:
Shutter Speed = Manual
Aperture = Manual
ISO = Auto / Manual

Last but not least:

In conditions where there is scarcity of light (low light / night), there are only two options available in any shooting mode to get the right exposure for your photos:
a) Long Exposure using available light, with the help of a tripod (to avoid blurry images)
b) Use flash / fill light / any light source for regular kind of shots

Photography is all about light. Understand light, and you can manipulate it to suit your needs. That's the common strength shared by all the famous photographers - no shortcuts.

What time is it now? It is try out time!

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