Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.


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    Chapter 23. Specialized programs

    The recording programs M, Av, S, Auto and P are general; in principle they can be used with any subject at all. But, in addition to these general modes, there are a number of more specialised programs, which are designed for special subjects, such as portraits and landscapes. They are called Scene Modes or Scene Program Modes.

    There are a lot of variants; some manufacturers use only a few of them in their cameras, while others might provide 10-20 different subject programs in their models. We have to try to understand what a subject program is, so here are some examples of what they can be used for.

    Figur 88. This camera has four subject programs, which can be selected directly by twisting the mode dial. The four programs are called Portrait, Sports, Sunset and Night Portrait. (Minolta A1)

    Scene Mode Programs

    Scenes is an English term for subject types, and scene modes is a special way of programming the camera so that it can adapt itself to certain exposure and recording scenarios such as landscape and portrait photography.

    General recording programs (M, Av, S and P) mainly differ from each other in the way you can select the diaphragm and shutter speed. Scene modes are on the other hand much more complex.

    If, for example, you want to photograph a landscape, then the camera’s settings can be optimized to exactly this type of subject. A small aperture maybe preferred for maximum depth of field. This and other settings, i.e. colour saturation, contrast, etc. are gathered together by the camera’s manufacturer in a special mode, which in this case is called Landscape.

    Another popular special mode is used for portraits, where you don’t necessarily want too much depth of field. A special mode is, therefore, designed for this.

    Scene modes are very differently designed from manufacturer to manufacturer. This is why they are a bit of a mixed bag.

    Figur 89. There are 15 different scene modes in this camera from Nikon. You can find them in the mode dial’s position SCENE.

    When you have selected SCENE, the camera opens a menu, where you can select the following image modes: Portrait, Indoor/party, Night portrait, Beach/snow. Landscape, Sunset, Night landscape, Museum, Firework show, Close up, Copy, Back light, Panorama, Sport, Dusk/dawn.

    Figur 90. This menu system gives all of 15 modes to choose between in the three last lines, all of which are tailor-made for one particular kind of subject. Nikon is one of the brands, which really does a lot with special scene modes. (CoolPix 5400)

    Advanced programming

    A lot of other recording qualities and camera settings, which can be programmed in different ways, are included in scene modes. These are among others:

  • Focusing

  • ISO and white balance

  • Noise reduction

  • Colour adjustment, focus and contrast

    The modes consist of certain settings, which are tailor-made for a particular recording situation – whether this is the photographing of sports events or fireworks.

    Advantages and disadvantages

    The disadvantage of scene modes is that you have to keep in mind all the modes that are to be found in the camera in question.

    Another disadvantage is that a number of the parameters can be locked in the individual programs. Maybe you can’t alter the ISO values or the white balance in some of the scene modes, which can be irritating. Scene modes are, you see, often fully automatic without much chance for individual adjustment.

    You can set your camera yourself in accordance to different scenarios. The only problem is that there can be many settings to remember in a particular recording situation. If you want to, for example, take a panorama, where several photographs are to be ”glued” together to make a big image, then the individual images ought to be taken with the same white balance and the same exposure values. The scene mode Panorama in, for example, Canons cameras is a great help – because you don’t have to fiddle about with manual white balance and exposure – the program does it for you. Let’s look at a couple of examples of the most usual scene modes. Then it must be up to the individual photographer to decide whether or not he will spend time getting familiar with the scene modes.

    The scene mode Portrait

    This mode is found in almost all cameras, where it is recognized as a little stylized woman’s face:

    The mode is used for one of the most common form for photographs, i.e. portraits. Scene modes can be designed so that the natural colour of skin is reproduced optimally. A soft colour tone distribution can be used without much contrast. The mode also selects, if it is possible, a big diaphragm so that the background is blurred.

    A photographer can easily set all these things himself but it is all ready for use in this mode. If you take the image with a moderate tele enlargement (like, for example, 2,5 X zoom) maybe supplemented with a flash, when there is direct light on the face, then the result can almost only be a fine portrait. Never use the wide-angle lens for portraits.

    The scene mode Sport

    This mode is meant for catching subjects, which are moving. The mode, therefore, finds the fastest possible shutter speed. Some cameras close their LCD screen down in order to ensure the fastest possible reaction time, and sometimes the camera takes three exposures right after each other (series photography), while the release is held down. A tripod and a powerful flash can be good accessories when taking this type of exposure.

    The scene mode Landscape

    A flash is not used when taking photographs of landscapes. So it is automatically switched off in this scene mode. The image computer is adjusted in some cameras so the colour nuances are optimal for typical landscape colours.

    The aperture is made as small as possible to ensure large depth of field. In addition, the lens is locked at infinite distance and the auto focus is deactivated.

    The last feature can be used in other situations, where the subject is a long way away because a camera reacts fast in this mode.

    With reference to fast reactions, Canon’s scene mode Pan-focus can be smart. The focal length here is locked to the maximum wide angle (you can’t zoom). With a fixed focus you can take exposures almost without delay (with minimum shutter lag), because the lens in the camera’s lens doesn’t have to spend time on finding a focus.

    The scene mode Night Scene

    This scene mode is called Night Scene or sometimes Slow Sync Flash. It is meant for catching background lighting at the same time as a flash lights up the foreground.

    A light meter calculates the shutter speed based on the background lighting, so that there is a long exposure time – typically between 1/10 and a whole second. This is why it is a good idea to use a tripod and ask people to stand still – also after the flash has gone off. The flash is shortly flashed so that the subject is lit up in the foreground.

    The flash can be activated either at the beginning or towards the end of the exposure. This is called synchronising the flash with either the “first” or the “second curtain” (1st and 2nd curtain sync). This mode is really good for exposures, where you want both flash and background light in the exposure.

    Other modes

    As mentioned, there are dozens of different scene modes. Here are a couple of examples, which can maybe give you inspiration.

    Dusk/Dawn and Sunset. These modes try to preserve the pale colours, which the light gives in the hours just before dawn and just after dusk. Noise reduction is automatically turned on.

    We find a more special example of a scene mode in Canons Single Lens Reflexcamera EOS 300D: Depth of Field Auto Exposure. This mode uses the camera’s seven auto focus points for registering the depth of the subject.

    The mode finds the distance to the part of the subject that is furthest away and to the part, which is nearest. The difference in the distance between the two parts of the subject gives the required depth of field. This calculates the largest aperture that gives the required depth of field and with it the fastest shutter speed. This is an elegant utilization of the camera’s various technologies in a completely new connection.

    Figur 91. Both images have been taken at night with flash. The shutter speed in the left image was the normal for images taken with flash, i.e. 1/60 second. The image on the right has been taken with the assistance of a tripod and the scene mode Night Scene. The shutter is held open one whole second which means that the night’s light is more evident in the image.


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