What do all the symbols on the dial of my camera even mean? Part 1: Auto Mode

Break out your camera, boys and girls! Today we demystify the little symbols on your camera without making you read the manual. (Not that I’m condoning skirting the task of reading your camera manual!) There are 2 sides to every dial: manual, and automatic. Today, we will discuss the auto side.Auto Mode Dial Explanation-Title

Learning the Dial: Auto Mode

While the dial is different depending on what kind of camera you have, you get the jist. The lady’s head may not look the same, but it’s still her head, right? So let’s dive right in!Auto Mode Dial Explanation

  1. First, there is full auto. This is the green square or block “A” on your dial. This is where your camera has completely taken over. It doesn’t take into account what your trying to photograph. It just says, “I know what I’m doing” (even though, that’s not always true). It takes the ambient light, and makes a decision. You will still compose, and decide on your focal length (zoom), but everything else is in the hands of that pre-programmed setting.
  2. The portrait mode. The next symbol is of the side of a lady’s face. This mode will open up the aperture to give you more of that blurry background (or bokeh) that everyone tries so hard to achieve. This is only as good as your camera, is, though, so you might not see much of a difference. Little tip to get the best bokeh- don’t place your subject directly in front of the background. The further away they are from the background, the blurrier it will be. (A more in depth post will be coming out at a later date on this!)
  3. The landscape mode. This symbol is of a mountain. This mode closes the aperture down, to create a much more crisp image. You want everything to be in focus when you are shooting a wide landscape picture, right?
  4. Macro mode. This is a picture of a tulip. This is also known as the “close up” mode. This is kind of a silly mode, because it opens the aperture back up. Just like it does in portrait mode. It doesn’t let you get any closer to the thing you are trying to photograph than it would in portrait mode, because you are limited by the capability of your lens- not your camera.
  5. Sports mode. This symbol is of a runner. This mode will speed up your shutter speed (how fast the little curtains inside the camera let light in), so that you don’t get blurry shots. Think about it like this, if the curtains are open for a long time, it will blur, and if they are open for a short time, it will not. We’ll get more into shutter speed at a later time. Just know that this will help you get photos of things that are going fast.
  6. Night Portrait Mode. This is a picture of a man and a star. You will want to use this if you are photographing at night or in the dark. What it does is slows down the shutter speed (see above- it will also allow blur), and it also fires the flash. What this does is allows the flash to light up the subject, and the slow shutter speed to allow enough light to hit the background, so you will hopefully have an evenly-ish lit image.
  7. “No Flash”. It’s the box with the zigzag arrow, and the “no” sign across it. If you’re in auto mode, and your camera thinks you need to add a flat look flash to your image, it will automatically pop that flash up. If you know better than that because you read about low light photography on my post here, then you would want to turn that off, by selecting this dial.

So, there you have it. As you can see, there is a rhyme and reason to all of these settings, which is why you should just learn to use the other side of the dial. If you can understand the why’s of the modes we discussed above, you can easily understand the next part of our series- Manual Mode! Aren’t you so excited! I’m gonna break it down!

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