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Compact, point-and-shoot cameras are convenient, travel-ready, and inexpensive. They're also more capable—and complex—than ever. In Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera, photographer Derrick Story shows how to use a compact camera to take photos that rival those of far more expensive cameras. Derrick shows how to get the most out the camera's lens as you shoot wide-angle, telephoto, and even macro shots. Derrick also discusses the camera's exposure system and clarifies the differences among ISO settings and scene modes. He also shows how to get the best pictures in a variety of lighting conditions, including making judicious use of the flash to supplement existing light.
A lot of photos you take probably fall into certain types of scenes. Landscape shots when you are on vacation, photos at the beach, a sporting event, indoor photos at parties. Wouldn't it be nice if you could tell your camera, "Hey! I am about to take some landscape photos, set yourself accordingly?" Well, scene modes allow you to do just that. I have my Olympus here hooked up to the smart board, so we can go through some of those important ones together. I am going to start with landscape. Now landscape is basically short for aperture priority mode.
What do I mean by that? Well, in landscape mode what the camera does is it sets that aperture down a little bit and gives you greater depth of field. So that the plants in the foreground and the mountains in the background are all in focus. It also sets the white balance perfect for this type of shooting. So instead of having to think about all that stuff, all you have to do is put your camera in Landscape Mode and start taking photos. The next scene mode I want to talk about is Night Portrait and this is very handy in urban settings, parties, so forth, when you want to have more of the ambient scene along with the flash of the subject.
What the camera does is it slows down the shutter, so it can capture more of that ambient light. Now the thing you have to remember is to hold the camera very steady when you are using this scene mode. Let's go down to Sport. Sport is another very handy scene mode. However, before we get into that I have to caution you, your camera is not going to capture Olympic type shots, all right. Compacts are not designed for that. They are too slow for the most part. But there's a lot of fast moving objects in the world and when you are going to shoot a fast-moving object, whether it be a little kid, a pet, sports, whatever, this is the mode to use.
It speeds up the shutter, puts you in burst mode and it's a very handy shortcut for fast-moving objects. Also I want to talk a little bit here about indoor photography. I am going to bounce back up and we can see there is all sorts of scene modes in here and there are lots to play with, but again we are just focusing on the key ones right now. Indoor is a little different than Night Portrait. In that, it mainly keys off the flash. So in other words, the camera is using the flash to illuminate the scene. It may get some of the background. It may not.
But the advantage is you don't have to worry about holding the camera as steady during these shots. So Indoor is nice when you just want to shoot a party or something, not worry about a lot of techniques. Just fire away. It's a very good scene mode. Now I also want to show you Beach & Snow. We got to work down here through all these other cool scene modes that would be fun to play with. Now Beach & Snow is terrific. Your camera is not really calibrated for very bright scenes. It tends to underexpose and make them grey, whereas Beach & Snow tells the camera, hey, I am in a very bright scene, keep it bright, keep it white, and that's its main use.
The advantage is you don't have to think about Auto Exposure being off. You don't have to think about Exposure Compensation, do I go plus or minus. Just put it in Beach Mode for any bright scene and it will record it much better. So these are the five scene modes that cover most of the situations you encounter. They are helpful when you want to customize your camera, but don't really have the time to play with the number of settings. If you don't know where the scene modes are on your camera, just check your owner's manual, but make sure you give them a try. They are really helpful.
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