Using Your Cameras Exposure Modes

Almost every digital camera on the market makes it easy to take quick-and-dirty snapshots using an automatic exposure mode. Automatic exposure is great much of the time, but I hope that you will sometimes want to get a little more creative. And when that happens, you may need to adjust the exposure of your photographs as we talked about both in this chapter and in Chapter 2.

Not all cameras provide manual exposure settings; if yours does not, then you might want to think about upgrading at some point in the future to a more full-featured camera. In my experience, most cameras that cost about $500 have at least some manual exposure adjustments. When you reach $1,000, these cameras are about as full featured as they come, with all of the amenities you'd expect from a 35mm SLR camera. The Nikon CoolPix 5000, for instance, is an excellent example of a camera that has automatic exposure modes as well as manual, priority, and program settings. Here's what each of these settings does, and when you would want to use them:

■ Automatic In this mode, both shutter speed and aperture settings are selected by the camera to match the current lighting. Some digital camera automatic modes try to select the fastest shutter speed possible in order to minimize camera shake when you take a picture, while most choose something in the middle, a compromise between speed and depth of field. There's generally nothing you can do to change the settings that the camera chooses when set to fully automatic, except for adjusting the exposure compensation (EV) dial to over- or underexpose the scene.

■ Program The program mode (usually indicated by the letter P on your camera's dial or LCD display) is similar to an automatic mode. Although the camera selects both the aperture and shutter, you can generally modify the camera's selection by turning a dial or pressing a button. The effect: you can increase or decrease the shutter speed, and the camera will adjust the aperture to match. This is a good compromise between fully automatic operation and manual selection. Use this mode if you don't want to worry about devising your own exposure values, but still want some say over the shutter speed or aperture.

The program exposure mode is often the best all-around setting for your camera. In this mode, the camera chooses a good exposure setting, but you can turn a dial to tweak the shutter speed. The camera will instantly compensate by changing the aperture setting, keeping the overall exposure the same.

■ Shutter priority This setting is usually indicated by the letter S on your camera's mode dial or LCD display. Using this mode, you can dial in whatever shutter speed you like, and the camera accommodates by setting the appropriate aperture to match. This mode is ideal for locking in a speed fast enough to freeze action scenes, or slow enough to intentionally blur motion.

Aperture priority This setting is usually indicated by the letter A on your mode dial or LCD display. Using this mode, you can dial in the aperture setting you like, and the camera accommodates by setting the appropriate shutter speed. Use this mode if you are trying to achieve a particular depth of field and you don't care about the shutter speed.

■ Manual The manual mode (typically indicated with an M) is like an old-style noncomputerized camera. In manual mode, you select the aperture and shutter speed on your own, sometimes with the help of the camera's recommendation. This mode is best used for long exposures or other special situations when the camera's meter is 3

not reliable.

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