Understanding Your Digital Point and Shoot Camera

How to use the right setting for the scene


Many of us think that you have to be a professional photographer with a high resolution, overly expensive DSLR in order to produce quality, superior pictures. I bet you can recall times when you get jealous of your friend, who invested in DSLRs, lenses, and all of these photography gadgets, and how epic his or her shots are of your weekend getaway. While it is definitely an advantage to have these nice professional gadgets, it does not mean that your point and shoot digital cameras are useless. In fact, modern digital cameras can do as great as DSLRs once you use the appropriate settings.


point and shoot digital camera scene modes

Image from Google

Setting your scene options

I, myself, am guilty of setting my camera on full automatic mode whenever taking pictures. I was at the verge of buying a Canon DSLR when I was assigned in a project related to photography and adding photo effects. During my research, I discovered that most of today’s digital point and shoot cameras have built-in automatic modes, which when rightfully used, can produced excellent quality images. You can find these options on the camera’s dial or menu (depends on your camera’s brand and model). By knowing when and how to use these settings, you can get your desired effect.

The camera I am using is an old model of Nikon Coolpix. Like most cameras, Nikon digital point and shoot cameras have “Scene modes” or “Assist modes”. These are pre-programmed settings that are manually selected by the photographers. Learn how each functions and choose the right setting suitable for certain conditions.


Different scene mode descriptions


Scene Auto Selector–in this option, the camera chooses the correct scene mode for the subject. It analyses the subject and conditions allowing the camera to choose the correct scene mode for optimized image results.

Portrait—portrait option gives the image a sense of depth. The camera aperture becomes wide and blurs the background to make it less distracting thus; highlighting the main subject.

Night Portrait—provides natural balance between the main subject and the background when shooting portraits against a backdrop of night scenery. In night portrait, camera combines flash and long exposure to provide the correct exposure. The flash is used for portrait subject and the long exposure is for the background. When using this option, make sure your camera is mounted on a tripod or a solid stable object.

Backlight—this option is used when the subject is lit from behind and their features are in shadow. Backlight is also recommended for subjects in the shade but the background is brightly lit.

Landscape—used to enhance outlines, colors and contrast for subjects such as skyscapes and forests. Landscape is also useful for taking pictures from windows of planes, trains, cars or tall buildings. The camera will lock focus to infinity and select an aperture to produce the maximum depth of field.

Night Landscape—similar to landscape mode but utilizes a slow shutter speed to produce stunning night landscapes. The noise reduction is turned on automatically to decrease possible digital noise (occurs during long exposures).

Sunset—while sunsets are a favorite subject by photographers, it is the most difficult to shoot. Trying to preserve the deep hues seen in sunsets and sunrises requires careful exposure. Sunset scene mode incorporated the optimum degree of exposure compensation to capture the color you saw when you took the image.

Dusk/Dawn—this mode provides correct exposure to capture the weak natural light just before sunrise or after sunset. Camera uses long exposures and turns on noise reduction.

Beach/Snow—captures brightness of subjects such as snowfields, beaches or sunlight expanses of water. Sand and snow are elements that can fool the camera into using the wrong exposure. Beach /snow mode compensates for these conditions and produces the right exposure.

Party/Indoor—used for taking pictures indoors. The camera utilizes longer exposures, which allows more ambient light from the room to be captured. Thus, it improves the exposure of the background and giving an impression of the environment where the picture was taken. Party/indoor sets the shutter speed at slow. Expect your camera to shake or become unstable. Use a tripod or mount it on a stable object.

Sports—useful for capturing fast moving objects. Sports mode use fast shutter speed to freeze the action and produce dynamic sport shots.

Macro—captures the colors in close up shots of flowers, insects and other small objects. It artistically turns the background blurred.

Fireworks—camera uses slow shutter speeds to capture the expanding burst of light from a firework. To prevent incorrectly exposing the scene, a degree of exposure compensation is used. It is recommended that the camera be mounted on tripod or stable object.

Museum—useful in other settings in which you don’t want to use the flash. In museum scene mode, the camera turns on the best shot selector and captures several images and only records the correctly exposed and sharpest image.

Multiple exposure—this mode creates special effects in camera wherein two successive exposure combined to form a single image. This mode is ideal to use in creating virtual twin photographs.

Copy—this mode provides clear pictures of text or drawings on a white board, business card, or printed matter using exposure compensation to provide the correct exposure. However, colored text and drawing may not appear as good as expected in the final picture.

Panorama assist—this is best used for shooting multiple pictures, which are to be stitched together. This mode ensures the exposure, white balance, and color remain the same for each shot. It aids framing by displaying the edge for the previous shot in the monitor.

Food—helps capture close-up images of food in restaurants without using the camera flash. You can alter the white balance of the camera to change the amount of red or blue in the image.

Maria Espie

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