Whether you use a point and shoot digital camera, or a DSLR, you will quite often find yourself being
disappointed with your photography results. This is because there is a limitation to what the camera can actually
do. After all, cameras are only machines which have been programmed in certain ways. So, in order to take better
pictures, the photographer must learn a few things about the camera they are using and also know how to over ride
some default settings.
To over ride your camera settings, you will need to learn how to use your camera in manual or semi-manual mode.
Most point and shoot cameras have this functionality as do all DSLR cameras.
The three settings that you will want to learn for more manual control are Aperture, Shutter speed and full
You should be warned that when you first start learning about these settings, it is likely to sound complicated.
In fact, you may come to the realisation that photography can be a technical subject whether you are shooting
digital or not. There can also be a certain amount of math involved as well. However, you do not have to learn
complex formulas to take great pictures but you will need to have a rudimentary understanding of a few things.
Aperture, to put it simplistically, is the eye of your camera. Just as a human eye has a pupil which gets larger
and smaller based on how much light is entering the eye, a camera aperture, which is actually the lens aperture,
gets larger and smaller too. When your camera is in automatic mode, the aperture adjusts automatically based on the
amount of light entering together with other settings that are in place on the camera. However, when you put it
into full manual mode, you can set the aperture to your own specification.
Aperture settings start getting complicated because they are technically a fraction but are displayed on your
camera as if they were a whole number. However, because it is a fraction, the larger the number displayed, the
smaller your aperture opening will be. So an aperture of 3.5 is larger than an aperture of 6.7, and that is larger
than an aperture of 11 and so on. The aperture choices you have will depend on the lens you are using if it is a
DSLR camera, and it will depend on the capabilities of your camera if you are using a Point and Shoot.
This is the second manual control you will need to learn. The shutter is the "door" like item that closes inside
the camera when you push the picture button. The button you push to take the picture is actually called the shutter
button by the way.
Shutter speed is also normally referred to in fractions, and it is displayed as such on your camera. Those are
fractions of a second. A shutter speed of 1/500 is quite fast where as 1/4 is fairly slow. Slower shutter speeds
allow more light to come into the camera, so they are very useful when trying to take pictures at night or indoors
where there is not as much light available.
Slower shutter speeds will blur motion so they are not advisable to use when taking action shots. This can
become frustrating if you want to take a picture of cars racing at night or a football game on a dark cloudy
Both aperture and the shutter speed depend on each other to get a photo exposed properly and this is where the
semi manual control comes in with digital cameras. You can choose to set your camera on shutter priority mode, or
aperture priority mode. This allows you to control one while the camera automatically matches the correct setting
of the other.
If you set your camera to shutter priority mode for instance, it will be in a semi manual mode that allows you
to choose which shutter speed it should use. Your camera will choose the proper aperture setting to match the
shutter setting that you have chosen.
Alternatively, you can set your camera to aperture priority mode, and this will allow you to choose the aperture
you want to use. The camera will then choose the appropriate matching shutter speed automatically.
In full manual mode, you must choose both the shutter speed and the aperture value to use when taking each
picture. The camera will indicate if it thinks you have the settings wrong, but it will not automatically adjust
anything for you in full manual mode, so you have all the control.