Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Digital Cameras, The Aperture Preferred Mode

The popularity of digital cameras has grown rapidly, it has also been responsible for the decline of conventional film based cameras. The 'point-and-shoot' ease of operating a digital camera, makes the whole process look like child's play. However there are a few professional tips that would allow you to get better images from your digital camera.

Most budding photographers use the 'Auto' feature for taking images with their digital camera but, this might not give the best result in all situations. In the 'auto' mode, the camera is programmed to set the aperture and exposure time of your digital camera, you just accept the results that you get. Let us know take the situation where you need to take the image of a building, the building is sufficiently far away for you to frame it in the shooting window. However the light conditions are not ideal, your camera in Auto mode would translate the scene as follows.

The light around the image would be calculated, the camera would set the aperture and exposure time for your digital camera. It is likely that you will get a dark image, the exposure time might be too long for a humanly held digital camera. This will mean that the image is out of focus and dark, but what if you wanted a better exposed image with little or no camera motion.

Firstly, you would set the digital camera to the 'Aperture Preferred Mode', this is often marked as 'P' on many digital cameras. The aperture is also called the 'f'-number and could be in the range of f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f22 etc. The larger the aperture number the smaller the aperture. The aperture is like a hole controlling the amount of light that will pass through the lens. The more the light passing through the lens the better the exposure, remember that there is a possibility of over-exposure too. As the aperture number increases (the aperture size decreases), the portion of the scene that remains in focus (depth of field/focus) increases. The bigger focus area is ideally suited to take images of buildings and monuments.

So the first thing that you will need to do when in the Aperture Preferred Mode is to, set an aperture number that is as high as possible. This will mean that the aperture size gets reduced and the amount of light passing through the lens decreases. To compensate for this, the camera will (automatically) set a slower shutter speed which, will in turn allow more light to pass through the lens. So you now have a smaller aperture size (large aperture number) and a slow shutter speed. A slow shutter speed will most likely cause your hands and the digital camera to shake, this will ofcourse ruin the sharpness of the final image.

In such a situation use a sturdy camera stand (tri-pod) and mount the camera firmly on the tripod. When you have framed and composed your image, gently depress the 'shoot' button on your digital camera. The chances of the camera moving or the degree of the movement will be drastically reduced. You will end up with a sharper and better exposed image. There are a few devices that can help you trigger the 'shoot' button more smoothly (no chance of moving). One of these devices is a cable that fits on to the 'shoot' button. The other end of the cable has a trigger button that can be depressed to shoot the image. With technical advancements, many digital cameras today have an option to trigger the shoot with a wireless device.

Experiment with the 'aperture preferred' mode on your digital camera, the results will gradually become more impressive. The aperture preferred mode is an option that lies between the 'auto' (completely automatice) mode and the 'manual' (both aperture and shutter speed are manually set) modes.

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