Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Photography 101

In order to get the most out of taking photographs, it is important to understand some of the basic symbols, knobs, buttons, etc. of your camera. Let's go over the basics of the settings dial to get novices more in tune with their cameras.

Whether you have a point and shoot or SLR camera, you will more than likely be staring down at a dial that looks something like this:

AUTO is the basic mode on the camera where you do not have to do any of the thinking. The camera adjusts all the complicated settings that most camera users don't know how to tweak.

Av (Aperture) is the opening within your camera lens that controls how much light enters and hits the inner mirror to create a picture. You can also control the amount of blur in your photo background.

Tv (Shutter Speed) controls how fast the shutter opens and closes to capture a picture.

P (Program allows you to adjust the Av and Tv at the same time to insure the proper settings for a good exposure.

M (Manual) puts the responsibility of adjusting the Av and Tv independently to the photographer.

On the same dial, all digital cameras usually come with some preset settings for specific circumstances to insure properly exposed photographs.

Portrait (Face/Head) provides settings for the perfect soft light for smooth portraits.

Landscape (Mountain) settings allow for a sharper image of wide angle, landscape photos.

Party (Party Streamer) allows enough light to enter the camera for an indoors setting -- like a party -- to combat darker photos.

Night (Firework) sets the flash to fire to light up images where little to no light is available.

Sport (Runner) speeds up the shutter speed and fires the flash to freeze photo subjects in mid-motion.

Macro (Flower) adjusts the camera to focus on subjects -- such as a flower -- at extremely close distances.

Video (Video Camera) is available on most digital camera to record video with sound.

These are some of the basic settings on the digital camera's dial with descriptions for how to utilize each of these settings. If you have additional setting icons on your digital camera, you can consult your manual for reference.

Don't be afraid to adjust the settings to experiment with different styles of photographs. Sometimes it is better to learn by trial-and-error, and as long as you can always go back to AUTO mode to take photographs, you can never go wrong.


  1. While this is helpful information, doesn't a person need to have a very high-end camera to make the most use of these functions?

  2. I know a little bit about photography, but this blog will help me talk with my roomate. Especially when we start our own business together! Thanks

  3. Dimples - Glad to help, and wishes of success to you and your roommate's business.

    Raz - High-end SLR cameras will have all of the settings I mentioned and more. However, you do not necessarily have to a high-end camera to make use of these functions. Canon sells the Powershot A800 (MSRP $89.99) that takes advantage of the AUTO, Program, and the preset Scene Selection settings (e.g., Landscape, Portrait, etc). A camera that is nice, but not high-end like the Canon PowerShot SX130 IS (MSRP $229.99) has all the comforts of a regular point-and-shoot camera, while giving you all of the settings that I have listed in this post. Digital cameras are advancing rapidly, so the quality, settings, and other functions of the high-end cameras are being compacted into smaller consumer-friendly SLR-esque digital cameras. Thank you so much for your comment and question, and I hope that this answered your question adequately.

  4. Ah thanks for explaining all of those options! I never took the time to really understand what I could be using. So thanks for the help!

  5. I have a Nikon and this was very helpful!