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Camera Auto Modes

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What do your camera auto modes actually do? What's happening inside your camera when you set portrait mode, landscape, sports and macro modes? Is it really so complicated you can't do it yourself?

Despite all the knobs, buttons and menus you camera has only four main controls and they are Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and White-balance. The first three are setting an exposure and the fourth is setting the colour cast of the image. On the image capture side - that's basically it.

There are other parameters programmed in, for example if you're shooting a sporting even you'll obviously need a fast shutter speed to freeze movement. In sports mode your camera will strive to achieve this by opening the aperture wide and / or using a high ISO.

Let's say you're shooting a landscape. What do you want from a landscape? 90% of the time you'll want as much depth of field as possible so it'll set a small aperture and adjust shutter speed and ISO to allow that. But again you may find the ISO gets pumped right up so the shutter speed is fast enough you don't get a blurred image from camera shake. And as the ISO goes up, image quality comes down.

Auto modes also adjust something else - the processing of the RAW file into a jpeg image file. Depending on which mode you set the camera will make adjustments in the processing and working with a pre programmed set of parameters, make the image file for you. For a portrait you probably want softer tones and a pleasing flesh colour. A landscape image might want more saturation and contrast etc.

Now, that's all very clever and some brilliant minds have done a lot of work to make it do that. But here's the rub. What if you want high colour saturation and a contrasty portrait? Or maybe you're shooting sports and want some movement blur in the image for creative effect? A muted soft coloured landscape?

You are the creative one. The camera can't compose the image for you. It can't ensure you have perfect and appropriate light on the subject. It can't choose which focal length lens will give the best effect. And it certainly can't choose the subtleties you can bring to an image if you process your own RAW files. Which is why I invited Serge Ramelli to say a few words.

There is nothing your camera's auto modes do that you can't do for yourself. And I can help you with my courses and workshops. By investing in yourself you truly will be able to feel great when you put one of your images on the wall, or see it getting 1000s of like on Flikr....

If you're starting out with photography and want to take photos you're proud of the place to begin is my beginners DVD / Download Digital Photography Exposed - the movie. Then when you've mastered your camera you have to learn how to think like a photographer so you can string it all together, seamlessly and effortlessly. You can't BE a photographer if you can't THINK like a photographer, just as you can't BE a musician if you don't THINK like a musician.

My 7 Building Blocks of Photography 7 week course explains this thought process which links the creative and technical aspects of photography with weekly tutorials, videos and exercises.

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commasopencommasclose I completed your 7 Building Blocks of Photography course last summer. The main benefit for me is the ability to pre-visualise the subject as I would like it, then create it using the relevant blocks. This makes the whole process much more interesting, creative and rewarding. It has added a new dimension to my photography.
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