My name is Ron Bowman and I’m a professional nature photographer based in New Hampshire. My photography is available on my website, as well as in 5 League of NH Craftsmen galleries (Littleton, Meredith, Center Sandwich, Hooksett, and Nashua). My 50+ year background also includes wedding photography, real estate photography, starting a photography club, and training on digital cameras and tips on how to create better pictures.
In one of my recent digital camera training classes, many students found their new camera intimidating and had questions on how to set up their digital camera and when to use specific settings. My goal is to provide some basic knowledge and help with understanding your DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera). The information I will be providing will expand on what you would typically find in your camera manual.
I will be producing a series of digital camera training blog posts, which are designed for non-professionals, and I will do my best to keep things clear, simple, and understandable. If you have further questions, I will be providing my contact information at the end of this blog post.
Before I get started, let me say that I own a Nikon D5600 digital camera. In my recent training class, all students either owned a Nikon or a Canon camera. That’s not to say there aren’t other manufacturers, but I believe the market is dominated by these two brands, especially if you are a non-professional. As you might expect, there are some differences between each brand and model, but where possible, I will try and present information that can be used by both Nikon and Canon users.
My first blog post will cover one of the dial knob settings on the top of your camera: M (manual), A or Av (aperture priority), S or Tv (shutter priority), P (program), Auto or A+ (automatic) and Scene or SCN (scene mode which includes things like portraits, landscapes, sports etc.).
“Auto” stands for automatic and is a common setting for beginners. In this mode, your camera will choose the shutter speed, aperture (lens opening), flash, and in some cameras, even the ISO setting which we will cover in a future blog post. In this mode, your results should be OK for many of your photos, but in some cases, your result may fall short of your expectation. You may want to start out using the “Auto” mode, but experiment with other modes as you develop more experience and knowledge.
“P” stands for program mode, and it is a common setting for beginners. In this mode the camera will choose the shutter speed and aperture (lens opening), but not the flash, based on how the camera’s meter is reading the scene. Again, in this mode the camera should do a good job with most photos, but there will be some cases where your result may fall short of your expectation. I will explain this in further detail when we explore the other modes below.
“S or Tv” stands for shutter priority. In this mode you will choose the shutter speed you want for a particular scene and the camera will choose the appropriate aperture (lens opening), to give you the right exposure. One of the reasons you may want to choose your own shutter speed is when you want to slow down the exposure when photographing waterfalls (1/8 second to 2 second exposure), or when you want to use a high shutter speed to stop action when photographing sporting events, or other moving objects. Also, when using a long telephoto lens, like a 300 mm lens, you should be shooting at 1/250 second or faster to help avoid any potential camera shake due to the weight of the lens. If you were shooting in the Auto mode or Program mode, the camera might not select the higher shutter speed. Another example is when you’re photographing flowers outdoors on a breezy day…you will need a higher shutter speed 1/125 sec, or faster, to stop the motion of the flower. Again, if you shot this in the auto or program mode, your camera won’t know to compensate for the breezy conditions, which means your flower may be out of focus due to movement.
“A” or “Av” stands for aperture priority. In this mode you will choose the aperture (lens opening) and the camera will choose the appropriate shutter speed to give you’re the right exposure. One of the reasons you may want to control the aperture is when you’re wanting great depth of field (objects in the foreground and background being in sharp focus) which will usually require an aperture of f11, f16, f22, f32 etc. On the other hand, if you’re taking a portrait of a couple and you want to render the background out of focus, so it isn’t competing with the portrait, you’ll need a larger aperture like f4, or f5.6. Again, if you rely on the camera to choose all the settings, it might not select the aperture you want.
“M” stands for manual and when using this setting, you will be choosing both your shutter speed and your aperture setting. This setting is usually reserved for more advanced amateurs, and professionals, because it gives them complete control over which settings they want to use. I don’t recommend using the manual setting until you become very familiar with your camera.
“Scene” or “SCN” stands for scene mode, which is a series of customized settings that the software has built in to accommodate specific photos. For example, in the scene mode you will find various options for landscape, portraits, pets, sports, closeups etc. Here the camera attempts to provide just the right combination of shutter speed and aperture setting to match the scene you are photographing. As a beginner, you may want to explore using the scene mode until you become proficient in using the shutter priority or aperture priority mode.
Every successful achievement requires practice, so if you’re patient and persistent, you too will master these camera settings. In the meantime, if you have any questions, send me an email and I’ll respond as quickly as possible. Ron Bowman [email protected] or use the contact page on my website: www.rbphotonh.com