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Understanding Shooting Modes

Understanding Shooting Modes - Some top tips for using the scene modes on your camera.

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Category : Digital Camera Operation
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Samsung NX300

When you're new to photography and are not quite ready to venture into the manual world, the basic shooting modes available on your camera's dial can help you get a better photo, in certain situations. These are pre-programmed modes which can be used to shoot a particular subject or scene.

Almost all digital cameras these days will have at least macro, sport, landscape, night, movie and portrait modes. Plus, there are a few modes / features that are individual to each camera for example, the Samsung NX300 has a Creative Shot mode which automatically analyses the scene when you take the shot, and prepares the appropriate effects.

These scene modes are usually easy to find on your camera. They will either be in the wheel on the top if your camera has one, or they will be clearly marked on the camera's menu system.

Here's a quick run down of what modes are available and when you'd use them:

Portrait Mode

Portrait mode's obviously for portraits and it tells your camera you're photographing a subject where you want the background to be blurred so all attention falls on them. By selecting this mode, the camera picks a larger aperture (smaller f number) to throw the background out of focus.

Landscape Mode

This tells the camera you want front to back sharpness so it will select a smaller aperture (larger f number) to give you this. This mode sometimes boost the greens in an image as you'll tend to be shooting scenes that have more of this shade in it with this mode. Be careful if it's a little dull though as the camera may use a slower shutter speed due to the smaller aperture size which can result in shake if you're not using a tripod.

Sports Mode (Action)

This tells the camera to use a quicker shutter speed so you can freeze the action/movement in front of you. It's designed to be used with moving subjects so try it out when you're by the football pitch or capturing cars at the go-kart track. Having a camera with fast AF, such as those available in the NX series, will also increase your chances of capturing a sharp action shot.

Beach/Snow Mode

Beach scene shooting mode is as the name suggests a mode to use when shooting pictures on a beach. Sand reflects a lot of light and fools cameras into under exposing so the shot comes out dark. When sand is recorded dark it looks muddy and not the lovely golden yellow depending on the time of day and weather conditions. The Beach scene mode increases the exposure slightly to compensate but also adjusts the white balance to make the sand look more natural. This mode is sometimes combined with a Snow scene mode which causes similar exposure problems for a camera. It's great for quick snaps on the beach when you're out on day trips or on holiday with your family.


Macro Mode (Close Up)

When shooting insects, flowers, coins and other small objects, this is the mode you want. Different cameras will have different macro focusing distances but all of them do let your camera know you'll be shooting something that's small and fairly close to your lens, with a narrow depth of field. A tripod will be a big help when working in this mode as the tiniest of movements can cause your shot to go out of focus.

Movie Mode

This mode lets you shoot short videos with sound. Some cameras capture HD movies. 

Other Modes that feature on some cameras:
  • Panoramic – Create wide-screen shots by simply choosing the Panorama Mode while moving the camera in the direction you want. 
  • Kids/Pets Mode – This is similar to Action/Sport Mode as it is designed to help you capture fast moving objects by quickening the shutter speed.
  • Fireworks Mode – Obviously, it's for photographing fireworks but it can also be used for light painting too.
  • Sunset – to help you capture the colours of a sunset in all its glory
  • Dawn – for those photographers who get up early to shoot their landscapes
  • Text - photograph text in documents clearly and easily with this mode.

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