Some Photo Tips | On-Camera Flash, Self-Timer, and Modes

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The summer is time for family functions like vacations, reunions, parties, cookouts, and picnics.  I know you’ll always bring along a camera and setting it to “automatic” mode will probably result in photos that look decent.  But if you know and understand just a few key functions on your camera, you’ll be surprised by how much better your photos can look.

[Keep in mind that I am not talking about the cameras on your phone.  While excellent for sharing files quickly and taking photos on the go, they don’t have all of the functionality of what I call “real cameras.”  So while you read this blog, pick up that old point and shoot that you never learned how to use.]

Know how to turn off your flash

While knowing when to use your flash is a bit more in-depth than this blog post, knowing how to turn it on and off is the first step!  Maybe the flash is too bright, it’s creating an annoying reflection, or you want a photo of a nice landscape at dusk.  If the flash isn’t helping the photo, simply turn it off.  The camera will adjust to make you a decent photo without the on-camera flash.

flash-off copyTo turn off your flash, look in your camera’s menu for the graphic of a lightning bolt in a circle with a line through it.  The other options you might see are a lighting bolt with an “A” near it, which tells your camera to use the flash if it needs it, and an eye ball, which means red-eye reduction (usually not very helpful, in my opinion.)

If you want some examples of when is a good time to turn off your flash, read this excerpt from “Photography for Dummies,”  which is full of great examples and visuals.

Know how to use the self-timer

One problem with family events is that you may want a group photo with everyone in it.  So who will take the picture?  This is the perfect opportunity to use your self-timer, and it’s easy to set up.

self-timerTo use the self-timer, look in your camera’s menu for the graphic of a clock.  If you don’t have a tripod, just balance the camera (carefully) on a porch railing, the top of a car, a table, or something else sturdy.  When your camera is set to self-timer, you can frame the shot, push the shutter button, and have around 10 seconds to get into the picture yourself.


Know your camera modes

mode dialEven the most basic of cameras have several modes to offer, and each of them will result in a slight difference for your photos.  Most of our dials look like the one pictured here, but yours may differ slightly or these options may be embedded in your camera’s menu.

The person with a hat on is “Portrait Mode,” the little flower icon is “Close up Mode,” the mountains are “Landscape Mode,” the running person is “Action Mode,” and the person with a little star over their head is “Night Mode.”  Don’t be afraid to turn that dial and experiment with the different camera modes, which will adjust your camera settings to the kind of photography you’re working on.




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