First Steps Towards Being The Boss

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Taking control, or a certain degree of it, from the camera is not difficult and it opens the door to a world of images that will be that bit different to the average. As I said in the last post, this needn’t be a leap into the unknown with no support and the first and easiest step is to try Program mode. Different camera manufacturers have slightly different names for this option but it offers the same end result. I am going to talk about it from a Canon camera user’s point of view.

Canon offers 2 Program modes: Program and Creative Auto (CA). Starting with Program, how does it differ from Automatic? Well, in certain respects it doesn’t at all, which is why this mode is an easy first step. Just as in Auto, the camera will assess the scene and make decisions on exposure, aperture, white balance, ISO and focus point and it will do this as the shutter button is ½ pressed. However, at this point you can step in and change the aperture and/or exposure values; the 2 main variables when making an image. What effect changing these will have on the final image I’ll look at in later posts. Suffice to say that a considerable variation on the end result can be made. So essentially the camera tells you what the “standard” settings should be and you can accept (as with Auto) or make your own limited changes then take the shot.

When using Creative Auto you have more higher level options initially, presented in an easy to understand menu. These variations include, should the flash fire or not, image brightness, background sharpness, the number of images taken on a single shutter press as well as a selection of picture “styles”, e.g. portrait, landscape or monochrome. You have a greater degree of freedom here than Program, but the camera still takes care of the more technical elements: focus mode and point(s), exposure metering mode, ISO and white balance etc. That way the camera still provides a good degree of support while you can explore a wide range of variables that affect the final image without necessarily having a lot of technical knowledge about them.

A frequent criticism levelled against digital photography is that it is too easy to fire off 100s of exposures without worrying if you are “doing it right”; not like the old days of film when every exposure cost you money in terms of film used. Actually digital cameras give you freedom try ideas, without worrying about cost and the inhibition that comes with it. Yes, getting it “right in the camera” will undoubtedly lead to better final images, but particularly in early stages of learning photography there is no substitute for just getting stuck in and experimenting!