Taking better photos Our photographers show you how to get the most out of your digital camera Day 1 Day 3 Day 2 Handy tips Flash Angles Composition Day Day15 Day 4 Camera modes Your camera will have an Auto mode, and most of the time that setting will give you the crisp, clear photo you want. But sometimes you will want to take a particular kind of photo and Portrait Sport In a good portrait photo the subject’s face will be in sharp focus but the background will be blurred and out of focus. This makes the subject’s face stand out more. Your pointand-shoot camera should have a button with a picture of a face, indicating that you can activate Portrait mode. It will then change the settings so the background is out of focus. Advanced In Portrait mode the camera automatically selects a large aperture (confusingly, this is the lowest number. It might be f2.8, 3.5, or 4.5, for example) so that the depth of field is significantly reduced. This means that the point you focus on will be sharp but everything in front of and behind it will begin to blur out. The camera compensates for the large aperture by lowering the ISO, or light sensitivity, giving a cleaner image, and raising the shutter speed, giving a sharper image. Sport mode is great for taking photos of moving objects, particularly sports! If you use it in sunlight it should do a good job of freezing the action for your photo. A lot of point-and-shoot cameras are excellent in this mode but some action is just too fast for them, for example car racing. If your camera comes equipped with Panning mode (ideal for car racing) give that a try as well. Tips If you want the background even more out of focus get further back from the subject and zoom in. Remember that in low light zooming in makes the camera harder to hold steady and your photos may blur. Try resting the camera on a wall or seat, or use a tripod if you have one. Remember that when you prime the camera (push the photo-taking button down halfway), whatever is in the middle of your screen will often be what the camera focuses on. You can put your subject’s face in the middle, push your button halfway, and then recompose your photo to get the shot you want. But do not get closer or further away from your subject or the focus will need to be reset. Auto Sport mode isn’t just for sports; it’s good for your holiday snaps too. Try it with kids jumping into a pool, or your dog running around on the lawn. Advanced Sports mode cranks up the shutter speed to freeze the action in your photo. This means less light is getting into the camera and it will need to compensate by raising the ISO and using a large f-stop. If the action is too fast or the light is quite low, this may push the capabilities of your camera. Tips Because of the high shutter speed your camera uses in this mode it is most effective in bright light. If you are in low light the action you are shooting could turn out blurry. This isn’t a matter of changing any settings; it is just showing the limits of your camera. Try forcing the flash to go off by pushing the button with a lightning icon beside it; if you are close enough to your subject this will help. Portrait Landscape Landscape mode is exactly as it sounds, great for shooting a landscape. To activate this mode find the button with a picture that looks like two mountain peaks, or something similar. The camera will then do its best to get every part of your photo in focus. This mode is also useful if you are shooting through glass or chain-link fencing. In Auto mode the camera can have trouble deciding whether to focus on the glass or what’s behind it. In Landscape mode the camera works to get everything in focus. Advanced Landscape mode sets up your camera with a small aperture or f-stop (large number, eg, f22) so that the depth of field is maximised, the opposite to the way it works in Portrait mode. This ensures that you can get as much of your landscape in focus as possible. The camera will compensate for the small aperture by lowering the shutter speed and pushing up the ISO. Landscape Tips Because your camera is changing settings to get as much of the photo in focus as possible the effectiveness of landscape mode is reduced in low light. You may end up with a blurred or grainy photo. Try using a tripod for landscape mode if you are shooting in conditions other than a sunny day. Sport night Advanced Auto Instead of keeping a fast shutter speed and firing the flash, as the camera will do in other modes, in Night mode the shutter is slowed down and then the flash is fired. This allows the extra light to come into the camera so that you can see some of the background. It’s a good idea to have a tripod handy for night shooting if you want a sharp photo. Resting the camera on a wall or table can also help but try not to bump it when you push the shutter button. If you want to get really creative, try putting some extra lights in to highlight certain parts of your shot. The Southland Times will again be running its popular Wish You Were Here holiday photo series this summer. Readers will be invited to send us photos from their holidays and each day a selection will be published in the paper, starting Monday January 2. Last summer many of the photos sent in electronically were too small for us to publish. To remedy this, make sure your camera’s image file size is set to “large JPEG’’. This means your memory card will hold fewer photos but they will be of higher quality. See our Summer pages, beginning Boxing Day, for details on how to enter your photos in Wish You Were Here. Depth of field: A measure Auto Macro mode changes your aperture (f-stop) to the largest your camera will allow. This means that the depth of field is reduced and you have a shallower plane of focus. You will notice that the part of your subject in the middle of your photo will be in focus but around that it will blur. sensitivity to light. It is similar to ASA for film users, or iris for videographers. Macro Tips Be patient, the camera has a harder job focusing in this mode so it might take a few seconds longer. If it won’t focus, you might be too close. A lot of cameras let you get within 10cm of your subject, but not all will allow you to get this close. of how deep the focus plane is and therefore how much of your photo will be in focus. At a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) more of your photo will be in focus. ISO: A measure of the camera’s Advanced Night here camera limits the amount of light that gets to the image sensor. It is controlled by the f-stop setting, in the same way the iris in your eye gets larger and smaller depending on how much light is around. The smaller the aperture the greater the f-stop number, eg f22, and the smaller the opening, letting less light in. Linked to this, the smaller the aperture the greater the depth of field. This switches the camera into a special focus mode that lets you get really close to the object you are photographing, often between 2 and 10cm on smaller cameras. Try it not only with nature but with your kids as well. Tips you were Aperture: This part of the Ever wondered how to get close-up photos of bees on flowers or ladybugs in the grass? Most cameras come equipped with Macro mode. You’ll know if yours does because there will be a button with a little picture of a flower beside it. Auto wish glossary macro Night mode is a great setting to play around with and create some colourful, crazy photos. The flash will fire and pick up everything nearby. The cool thing about Night mode is that it makes allowances for the low light and tries to pick up some of the background, avoiding photos of bright faces with a black void behind them. Try putting some fairy lights in the background and see what you can come up with. the result will be better if you use the corresponding mode. Today we will look at the options and how these alter the settings on the camera to achieve the desired result. Macro Page written by Nicole Gourley, designed by Shaun Yeo The Southland Times Plane of focus: When you pick a focal point in your shot, everything that is the same distance from your camera will be in focus. It’s like a flat plane in front of you. The greater the aperture, the less thick the plane is, and therefore a smaller area in front of and behind your focal point will be in focus.