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Digital Camera Settings and Their Meanings

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This ‘Digital Camera Settings’ lesson is split into two parts… if you’ve already read part one, click here for part 2

Are the digital camera settings on your newly purchased dslr confusing you? I’m not surprised. If you’re a beginner, you may be wondering what all those images and letters on the dial of your dslr really mean.

Not to worry, take a look at the following explanations and you should be well on your way to learning how to use your dslr camera as it was designed to be, and allowing you even greater control and creativity.

Let’s begin from the middle of the dial downwards:

Automatic (a green square-Canon; or, a green camera, with the big-hint words I so love, subtly saying ‘AUTO’-Nikon):

Just like it says, its automatic, completely. This rather reduces your dslr into a glorified compact digital ‘point & shoot’ camera, all be it, a rather good one with changeable lenses.

This setting should probably be used only when you suddenly see something you want to take a shot of, but you don’t have time to alter your digital camera settings for manually.

Many people buy an entry level dslr and simply remain stuck at this stage, as you can still get some really good shots. I would advise moving onto one of the priority settings, and beginning to experiment as quickly as possible. Look upon the priority settings as learning to ride a bike with stabilizers on.

The Picture modes
The picture modes you will see on a dslr camera represent pre-programmed settings, between the shutter speed, aperture and other aspects, that the cameras manufacturers think will give good shots for those subjects.

In truth, bearing in mind situations and conditions always vary, that’s something of an impossibility.

These modes are represented by pictures such as a head (portrait), a mountain (landscape), a flower (macro/close up) and a person running (fast movement photography).

There’s not much point in using them really, as you may as well have bought a much cheaper compact digital camera instead, for all the good it will do you.

These setting can’t even guarantee a decent shot with the aforementioned subjects. At least begin with the Automatic Exposure settings (AE).

Automatic-Flash (man with a star beside his head):

Just like it says, this makes the flash work on an automatic setting, and has it primed and ready. You might just as well put the camera on the usual automatic setting really, as the flash will come up anyway, should it be needed.

Relatively pointless in use.

Flash-override (lightening bolt/arrow-Canon; moon and building-Nikon):

A mode that allows you to turn off the flash, but still use the camera automatically.

Possible uses include night time photography, where you don’t want the light you are capturing to be affected by the cameras flash, or, you already have a sufficient fill-in light source, or you are deliberately going for a certain effect.

For the digital camera settings from the top of the dial downwards …

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