May 29, 2010

Use Scene Settings for Better Pictures

An article on the Digital Photography Review web site stated that scene modes on digital cameras were the least used feature. I was shocked and vowed immediately to do my part to change that.

So what are "scene modes"? These are shortcuts to better pictures of all kinds of subjects. Camera manufacturers provide tiny pictures, or icons, that represent common photographic subjects and situations. You select the icon that matches what you are taking a picture of and snap away. Scene settings are an automatic way to get better pictures than you might on regular Automatic mode.

Nearly all digital cameras have the two most common scene settings: "Landscape," represented by a mountain, and "Portrait," represented by a person's profile. Landscape scene mode is designed to help you get a colorful picture of a scenic vista with everything in sharp focus. 
Landscape Scene Mode

 Photographed with the Automatic setting

Photographed with the Landscape setting

Portrait scene mode is intended to help you take a sharp picture of a person with the background blurred. 

Portrait Scene Mode
 
You can even use the setting for a Portrait of a flower.



 Photographed with the Auto setting

Photographed with the Portrait scene setting

For the most dramatic results, stand close to your subject and have a distant background. The effect of this setting is more obvious with digital SLR cameras than compacts.

Another common scene mode is Action or Sports. Some compact digital cameras call it Kids & Pets. This scene setting helps you get a sharp picture of a moving subject.


Sports Scene Mode


Kids & Pets Scene Mode
 
  Photographed with the Sports scene setting

Compact digital cameras usually have far more scene settings to choose from than digital SLR cameras. My Canon Powershot A570 has half a dozen scene icons on the exposure dial on top of the camera. If I switch the dial to SCN, I can choose from even more scene settings using the menu. 

Scene Mode Setting
 
For summer time shots of colorful flowers, look for a "Foliage" setting. This scene mode makes the colors of flowers (and autumn leaves) more vibrant.
Foliage Scene Mode

Photographed with the Auto setting

 Photographed with the Foliage scene setting

Photographed with the Auto setting


Photographed with the Foliage scene setting
 
For winter snow scenes, look for a "Snow" setting. This scene mode makes the snow in your picture brighter and whiter.


Photographed with the Auto setting

Photographed with the Snow setting

The best way to practice with scene settings is to take one picture on the regular Auto setting. Then take a second picture with the matching Scene mode and compare the results. Sometimes you will like Auto better and sometimes the Scene version. 

So experiment with this feature and tell your friends so you are not missing out on this helpful digital camera feature.