Most of the cameras available today, from Point & Shoots to DSLRs, have several “Scene” modes. These scene modes let you tell your camera where you are what you would like to make an image of. The different modes have names like: Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Museum, Close-up, Fireworks and Food. For the specific scene modes you can choose from and a description of what they do, check your camera’s owner’s manual under scene modes. To use one of these modes all you need to do is set your camera to the mode that most closely matches what you want to make an image of and you are all set.
The camera takes the settings from the scene mode that you have selected and uses them to help your camera make better exposures for your chosen subject or place where you are making photographs. For instance, Sports mode will use fast shutter speeds to help freeze the action, Beach mode will take into account that there is a lot of bright sand so that your images don’t come out to dark, Museum mode will not allow the flash to fire even in very low light and Night Portrait mode will help balance the camera’s flash with the light of the background.
The camera is still making the exposure decisions for you but now you have some input on how those decisions are being made. Getting to know the scene modes that your camera has will also help you understand where you can use a scene mode when not in that particular situation. One of my students in a Fredericksburg Parks & Recreation, Rock Your Point & Shoot class, was at a meet with someone writing on a white board. She took a photo of them against the white board and the photo came out very gray and underexposed. She remember that we had discussed Snow scene mode in class and thought, a scene with lots of white, I’ll give that a try. The next photo came out well exposed, right on the money. Read up on the different Scene modes that your camera has and let them will help you make well exposed photos when you need their help.