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Photography: Camera settings

The White House

The settings on cameras can be difficult to get used to. They tend to be similar on both bridge cameras and DSLR’s. On my Nikon D3200, there is a Guide setting on the dial that will help you learn about how to take different types of image.

The auto setting is common to most types of camera and is great for  snapshots and it does all the work, detecting how much light there is and even switching on the flash if needed.

The next setting on my camera is auto with the flash forced off, that is a useful setting too. Turning the dial on to the next setting gives you the portrait setting and as the name suggests is used for portraits. This setting gives you a wide aperture and focuses on the person you are photographing. You will see they are in focus, but the background is out of focus. You can’t get the whole image in perfect focus and so rather than compromise, the camera gets your subject in focus and the rest of the image out of focus.

The next  setting on the dial is landscape. For landscapes you want depth of field and so a narrow aperture, the camera does this for you on landscape and selects the best aperture and shutter speed for the shot. This is a slight compromise and on the D3200, it’s a good idea to try to give the camera a subject to focus on. This setting will focus more on objects farther away.

The next setting on the dial is a setting for photographing babies and small children. It operates the shutter quietly and so is a useful setting that is similar to portrait. It gives us a wide aperture.

The next setting on the dial is a sports setting, that is useful for sports and any type of event where you will see a lot of movement. This setting gives you a fast shutter speed and will freeze the action. The setting on the Nikon D3200 also sets the camera for spot focusing on the subject and also multiple shots. This is a setting favoured by some paparazzi photographers who like doing the candid shots. I have used that setting for a few events and even though it’s a fast setting, it adjusts well to the light.  I’ve even used the setting in low light at night time, with no flash just street lighting.

The next setting on the dial looks like a flower and it’s a macro setting for taking pictures of flowers, butterflies and it’s good for food photography too. You can get macro lenses for that type of photography for better results, but that setting using a normal lens gives reasonable results.


For some macro pictures you can use a long lens like my 55 – 300mm lens and stand some distance away and try different settings. I used the long lens to photograph this butterfly that landed on my window one morning.

The next setting on the dial is a portrait setting for use in poor light and at night. Again it will use a wide aperture and adjust better to the low light.

The next setting is more complicated and for the more experienced photographer and is marked with an M for manual. On this setting, I can manually change both the aperture and shutter speed. You change the shutter speed with a thumb dial on the back of the camera. Press down the +_ button at the same time and the same dial sets the aperture. Using this setting takes a lot of experimentation and practice.

The next setting is the A setting, this allows you to set the aperture and the camera sets a suitable shutter speed. This is called aperture priority and a useful setting.

The S setting allows you to set the shutter speed while the camera decides on the best aperture for the image. This is useful, in poor light you can make moving water look more interesting by using a slow shutter speed.

The P setting is a programmable mode that is quite complicated and perhaps more suitable for the advanced user. I could probably devote an entire post to that setting.

You can try all the different setting and see how they affect the light that ends up on the sensor. Experiment and see what different images you can produce.

Please comment and share your thoughts or ask questions! You can also follow me on Twitter.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: What you need to know about Landscape Photography INayan Hazra Photography

  2. Pingback: The Review: Tipton Canal & Community Festival | Mike10613's Blog

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