Look, in a perfect world we’d all be experts on the manual settings on our fancy cameras… but in the mean time, I”m all for cutting corners with preset camera modes like Portrait, Sport, and so on. My goal with the Better Pictures Project is to get good, blogable pictures every time. Photography is a means to an end, and the end is blogging!
Back during MMM, I asked Heather how she got her pictures so sharp and in focus. Her answer was “Portrait mode!” I’d been shooting in Program mode (where the camera controls shutter speed and aperture, and you control the rest). Since then I’ve switched over to Portrait, and I have to say, I really do think there is a difference! Since Heather is my photography “muse” for the month, I thought it was the perfect time to test the modes and see if they really do make any difference.
Can you see the first problem? Why are 4 of the settings so dark? Turns out, I’d left the camera set to underexpose. That’s really my problem with these manual settings in a nutshell – when I’m thinking about everything else on a photoshoot, it’s too easy to make a mistake with the settings and ruin all the pictures. (I actually think this is what happened on the project which could not be photographed…)
Now, if we ignore the darkness, can you see how the whole background is in focus? I could change that with the aperture settings, but, um… I don’t really understand how. I will learn eventually!
Now on to the automatic modes… Let the camera do the thinking!
(Oh, and I’m not making gang signs – I’m showing which mode we’re using so I don’t get confused!)
You can really see the different depths of field in these photos, eh? The backgrounds in Night Landscape, Landscape and Macro are all in focus, Personally, I think that distracts from the clothes, so I prefer a blurry background. I’m surprised that the night settings work just fine in the day – I thought they’d be blown out and way overexposed.
In both the close-ups and the full length pics, I think Portrait is just a smidge brighter than the others – though Action seem quite similar in exposure and depth of field. Which one do you like best?
I’m quite pleased with this little experiment – in truth, I expected even less difference between the modes. I think Portrait is a winner. According to one site, “[Portrait] is all about a single main subject at a moderate distance away and a background you want out of focus.” That sounds perfect for blogging, right?
A couple of tips:
- I set the camera to focus automatically on multiple points – before I figured that out, I was manually focusing on a spot on the ground, then dancing back and forth where I thought that spot was to try to be in focus. (Please tell me I”m not the only one doing that? I’m so embarrassed. At least 2/3 of all my pics were way out of focus!)
- I think Portrait mode works best when you stand far away from what is behind you. There’s a real temptation to go stand just in front of a wall, but then the wall is in focus just like you. If you stand a few metres in front of the wall/tree/etc, it will be nicely blurred behind you. On the flip side, Heather mentioned that her camera focuses more reliably when the background is close, so it’s up to you and your camera!
But don’t just take my word for it – here are some useful resources I’ve found online!
- Nikon Vs. Canon Camera modes compared and explained
- Why you should use creative modes (Program, Aperture, Shutter and Manual)
- Choosing scene modes with a Canon
- And if you only read one, read this one! Adjusting your camera settings to get the picture you want
Do you shoot on Auto, Manual, or somewhere in between? If you have experimented with modes, I’d love to hear which one works best for you. And if you try Portrait, let me know how it goes, and we can all thank Heather for her tip!