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Setting a scene mode #photography

My Nikon D3200 has a scene mode to shoot landscape, portrait and sports shots, etc. It also has the aperture priority, shutter speed priority, programmed auto and manual settings. For new users, programmed auto is really useful and gives the user some control over aperture and shutter speed. Simply putting the camera on auto will produce good shots in good light but the problems start when the light isn’t so good, then you need more control over the camera.

scene mode

Scene mode

Understanding a little about how a scene mode works will help you take better photos. Shutter speed is how fast the shutter opens and closed and aperture is how wide it opens.

Landscape setting

On landscape, the aperture is quite narrow which will bring your whole picture into focus. The ISO, that’s how sensitive your sensor is to light, will be on auto. Your picture will be quite bright on a sunny day and darker on a cloudy day. There are a few things you can do to get a sharper picture on landscape mode. Don’t focus on anything too far away. If your scene is a field with trees in it focus on a tree in the middle ground. You also need to hold the camera still and level as you take your shot.

The portrait setting

On the portrait setting, the aperture will be wide bringing close objects into sharp focus. The macro setting, signified by a flower, will also give you a wide aperture. The depth of field is shallow so your subject will be in focus but objects closer to the camera or further away from the camera will be out of focus.

The sport setting

I have found the sport setting to be quite useful. It uses continuous focusing and so is useful when people are moving around. It continually tries to focus on whatever your focus point is on. It also uses a fast shutter speed to capture the action and you get sharp images. This mode also uses wide apertures especially when you focus on something close. The disadvantage is the camera sets the ISO quite high and that can lead to noisy pictures, especially in low light.

Aperture and shutter priority

When you have some experience shooting using scene modes the next step is to use aperture priority and shutter speed priority. If you select S for shutter speed priority, you can set the shutter speed with the thumb wheel. Set it at 1/100 of a second and then see what apertures the camera sets when you focus on subjects close to the camera and further away from the camera. You can also see what the camera sets the ISO on if you have ISO sensitivity set to auto. Higher ISO settings will produce noise, especially under artificial light.


When you take ISO off auto and set it to 100, then you will encounter slow shutter speeds on aperture priority and your images will tend to be underexposed when you don’t have enough light. This is when you begin to balance your shutter speeds, apertures and ISO to get the best image you can. Shooting landscapes at f/8 and focusing on the middle distance will allow more light into the camera on a dull day.  If you still don’t have enough light for the exposure you need, you can increase the ISO, bearing in mind that if you increase it too high, your image might be noisy.

That’s all for this week. Don’t be afraid of your camera, experiment with settings and see what it can do. On dark days with a lot of clouds, your images don’t have to be dark and under-exposed. You can shoot with wider apertures or increase the ISO. You are in control of the camera!

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