Using Camera Preset Modes


Well-Known Member
  • #1
Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras have lots of features and modes to help the budding photographer take stellar photographs. Full Manual mode can be tricky to use for beginners, so Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, and the rest devised a way to help, as well as teach, the newer user how to operate a somewhat daunting looking piece of electronics. Some of these modes include presets such as Landscape, Sports, Portrait, and Program that can pretty much take almost all of the thinking out of picture taking. Other modes such as Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority help a lot, but require the user to understand more about what they're doing. Many modes can be customized by adding or removing exposure. The nice thing is, there's a button and dial combo that's made specifically for this task. In this post, I'll be discussing all of the above. What I'd like to focus on is giving descriptions of each of these modes and explaining when someone might want to use them.

Aperture Priority

This priority mode is more advanced than the presets. With this mode, you'll need to understand what the aperture in a lens controls. There are two things photographers primarily focus on while using aperture priority mode; light and blur. The aperture in a lens is simply a hole that grows and shrinks, depending on the photographer's desire. If he or she needs more light, he or she can open up the aperture. The same is true for less light. Simply close down the aperture. A byproduct of allowing more light to travel through the lens is foreground and background blur. The larger the aperture, the more blur. The smaller, less.

So really, when using Aperture Priority, light is the more straightforward of the two. When someone is attempting to get creative or to separate the subject from the rest of the scene, they take advantage of the blurring aspects of this feature. Essentially, all they're doing is altering the amount of focus that contacts the camera's sensor.

Shutter Priority

Like the above, this priority mode controls light and blur. By slowing down the shutter speed, a person can obtain a level of creativity by allowing motion blur into their image. Speeding up the shutter speed will allow for a sharper and crisper image. The primary reason for keeping a slower shutter speed is to allow more light into the camera to touch the sensor. And the primary reason for speeding the shutter speed up is to allow less light. The motion blur thing is merely a byproduct of that speed. When photographing, decide if you're in a situation that may require a specific shutter speed, such as a sports game. If you're shooting something that's fast moving, you'd want to speed up that shutter speed.

Landscape Mode

If you look on your camera's dial, you'll likely see a preset mode that's identified by an icon of a mountain or something like that. This is called Landscape mode. It's basically a setting where the camera presets certain characteristics of the its options. This mode relies heavily on the camera's aperture size. Oftentimes, beginning photographers won't know which aperture size to use for which situation, so by clicking over to something that looks like a mountain when they're shooting a landscape, the camera does the thinking for them. This mode reduces the size of the aperture as to increase the depth of field. Basically, this deepens the clarity of a photograph and reduces blur in the foreground and background. The camera may also slow down the shutter speed to compensate for the light reduction caused by the smaller aperture. It may or may not also alter the ISO, depending on the lighting in the scene.

Action/Sports Mode

Very similar to above, you may find a mode on your camera that looks like a running man. This mode alters the shutter speed, likely making it faster as to reduce any type of motion blur in an action event. To compensate for this reduction of light due to the faster shutter speed, the camera may open the aperture a bit wider and increase the value of the ISO.

Portrait Mode

This mode will be identified by a flower or a face. Or something like that. The goal of this mode is to soften the photograph and to add some creative blur to it. To do this, the camera will increase the size of the aperture in the lens to add some foreground and background blur. Because there will likely be more light coming through the lens, the camera may increase the shutter speed to compensate. It also may reduce the ISO value.

Program Mode

This is the mode that no one knows what to do with. What does Program Mode mean anyway? How is it different than Auto Mode? Well, when you set your camera to Program Mode, you allow your camera to choose the exposure (aperture, shutter speed, ISO), but you choose which type of focus you'd like to use, whether or not you use your flash, and whether or not you want to use the exposure compensation feature. More on that next.

Exposure Compensation

In every mode but Auto, you'll have the ability to adjust your exposure via the Exposure Compensation feature on your camera. On the Canon T7i and pretty much every camera in the Rebel series, this feature can be accessed by pushing the +/- button to the right of the rear LCD screen and then rolling the top dial to the left and to the right. This is an extremely handy tool to have at your access, if you're not familiar with how to operate full Manual Mode. For example, let's say that you're in Aperture Priority and have your depth of field perfectly situated for a flower shot in your garden. The only problem is, you would like to brighten the shot up a bit. It's too dark for your taste. If you press the Exposure Compensation button and roll the top dial to the right, you'll increase the exposure in your camera to your heart's delight. The way the camera does this is to leave the aperture size alone, but either slow down the shutter speed, increase the ISO value, or both. Basically, when using this feature, the camera will change its settings to suit your needs. Obviously, the camera will change the settings depending on which mode you're in and what you need, but you get the idea. You're essentially overriding the camera's chosen settings.

A piece of advice I have to beginner and even advanced photographers is this: when shooting in any mode I described above, keep an eye on what the camera chooses to use in regards to aperture size, shutter speed, and ISO. Cameras are great at metering scenes and setting themselves up for optimal exposure. At any time, you're able to see those chosen exposure settings on your camera's rear LCD screen. Take the time to note which ones have been chosen so you can set them by yourself when you venture into full Manual Mode in the future.