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Scene Modes

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Scene Modes

20 Feb 2021 9:48PM   Views : 209 Unique : 134

Program Mode is useful for beginners and technophobes, but what if your creativity is kindled but you're not au fait with the finer points of apertures, shutter speeds and other camera settings?

If the thought that Program Mode removes decision making from the photographer then Scene Modes (Canon's term, other manufacturers have different descriptions) takes it further.

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Action Mode


Scene Modes enable some input of thought, in terms of a preferred result, but you're still reliant on the ideas of a team of computer programmers who don't see as you do to get that result. Think of ready meals where it's all done for you. In your favourite restaurant you can ask the chef to cook your steak as you like it or ask for less or more chilli. When cooking yourself you have even more free reign. Ready meals won't make you a gastronome and arguably Scene modes won't make you a photographer.

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Landscape Mode


However, Scene modes, like Program Mode, can be helpful to beginners. They aren't a new idea though (it sometimes seems not much is). Back in the 1990s (you may recall the Maastricht Treaty, John Major as Prime Minister nothing to do with Scene modes that I know of, just historical events of the time) Canon introduced the EOS 10. With it came an instruction booklet with numerous types of images, close-up, landscape, a sportsman in action, and so on. Barcodes were printed next to each picture. You read the barcode using a reader device. You then placed the reader adjacent to the camera to transfer that information. The barcode contained information about how the image was produced and set the camera accordingly. I recall a similar system designed to make the programming of a video cassette recorder simpler. Oh, we really are back in the 1990s.

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Night Scene Mode - be aware a tripod or other suopport is recommended


Minolta had a similar system where you could load 'expansion cards' into the camera to program it in order to take a certain type of image. They weren't 'cards' as we would recognise them today but a miniature type of floppy disc (remember them!). Extra cards could be bought at extra cost. Imagine the sports enthusiast asking for the match to be stopped while he nipped down to the camera shop to get the action card.

Very appealing to the inner geek or nerd.

The general idea though was meant to be helpful. In action mode the idea is to keep shutter speed high, set continuous shooting and continuous focus. Landscape settings would be single shot and biassed towards smaller apertures to get a lot of the scene in sharp focus. Portrait settings would favour wider apertures and continuous shooting to capture fleeting moments. That maybe not the way you work.

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Portrait Mode


There are issues. Landscape mode will often not set the smaller aperture you may want or need, especially in lower light levels. For shooting action, one minute you may want to freeze the action at 1/2000, the nect you may want a panning shot to show speed and want to use 1/125. That's where understanding what shutter speeds do, and why it' so quick and easy to change if you use shutter priority. Scene modes can also adjust other parameters. For example, Landscape mode can increase sharpness (not so good if you want a softer look) and boost blue and green (not so good in autumn, and may make spring greens look weirdly unnatural). Once these parameters are used to create the jpeg that's it. Shooting RAW you can adjust all parameters after the event but if you're using Scene modes chances are you won't be shooting RAW.

The sooner you wean yourself off Scene Modes and take control the better for your photography.


All text and images Keith Rowley 2021

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