Taking charge of your digital camera Pt. 3
September 12, 2011 6:54 AM - denton
In earlier installments we covered the operation of our camera in P (Program) and A (Aperture Control) modes. Lets finish up the other modes here, which are T (Time Value), M (Manual Mode) and B (Bulb Mode).

As you recall, A mode allows us to control the size of the lens aperture, while the camera then chooses a shutter speed. T mode is the reverse: We choose the shutter speed (Time Value) while the camera then chooses the aperture. (The more common name for T mode is Shutter Priority).

Why would we want to choose the shutter speed? Basically, the shutter speed controls how we want to have motion and/or moving objects displayed in our image. A fast shutter speed ensures that moving objects will display as sharp. A slow shutter speed ensures that moving objects are displayed as blurry, or moving.

You might ask, who wants blurry pictures? Well, consider the following pair of waterfall photos.
http://www.pbase.com/dentontay/image/137980827
http://www.pbase.com/dentontay/image/137980875
The subject (rapids downstream from a waterfall) is exactly the same in both images. In the first image, the rapidly moving water is frozen. In the second, the water is a blur. The first image was shot at 1/500th of a second. The second image was shot at 1/15th of a second (and yes at speeds that slow you should have the camera on a tripod).

Heres another waterfall image showing how forcing a slow shutter speed results in some interesting creative effects.
http://www.pbase.com/dentontay/image/137980909

(And Ill use these images to point out one great thing about digital photography over film. If you can imagine it in black and white, you can convert it to black and white with one mouse click).

I can think of any number of situations where I would want to switch to Shutter Priority mode, besides waterfalls:
-Cat photos! Chasing that damned cat around the house, Id want to use a fairly fast shutter speed to stop it in its tracks (assuming there is enough light).
-Baby photos at the playground! Ditto.
-Fireworks! A slow shutter speed allows light trails to appear just as we want them, as in this image:
http://www.pbase.com/dentontay/image/137981475


The last two camera modes we can dispense with rather quickly, as they are of limited usefulness.

M (Manual Mode) means that we must set _both_ the aperture and the shutter speed. Therefore, it becomes incumbent on the photographer to make sure the overall exposure is correct. Almost the only time I use M mode is with studio flash.

B Bulb Mode is found mostly on DSLRs. Its T mode, Shutter Priority on drugs. Depending on the camera, Bulb Mode can operate in either of two ways. With some cameras, when you depress the shutter release, the shutter opens up and stays open, until you depress the shutter release again, which closes it. Other cameras keep the shutter open as long as the release is depressed. So, you can get exposure times of many seconds, minutes, or hours. Obviously you will need to have the camera on a tripod. This mode is typically used by astronomers and photographers working in the deep night. Experiment!

This concludes the series on camera control modes.

8 comments
September 12, 2011 8:42 AM - DeadCatBounce
It is unbelievable how camera manufacturers have complicated the whole thing.
Focus. Aperture. Shutter Speed.
That is about it.

Edited at September 12, 2011 8:42 AM
#1
September 12, 2011 9:33 AM - Arkady
You make it so understandable! Really terrific. Thanks.
#2
September 12, 2011 9:44 AM - Slopefarm
denton -- I just wanted to stop by and thank you for this series. Your explanations are simple enough to lead me to want to try these features. I've always stuck to the basic, plus "landscape" "portrait" "kids & pets" etc. settings, which I take it automatically make quick and dirty versions of the kinds of adjustments you are discussing.
#3
September 12, 2011 11:03 AM - GortFromPlanetX
This was really excellent again! Thank you for putting this informative series together!
Edited at September 12, 2011 11:03 AM
#4
September 12, 2011 2:54 PM - denton
Thanks everyone. Do you think I should continue? While that exhausts exposure modes, there are things like flash, ISO stettings and a few other basics that I could cover
#5
September 12, 2011 7:52 PM - InsertSnappyNameHere
Denton this was great! Yes, please keep writing! I wanna learn more. I love how you give photo examples because it makes the explanations that much more understandable.
#6
September 13, 2011 8:04 AM - GortFromPlanetX
Yes Please!!
It is easy for us to say because you are doing all the work but your tutorials are greatly appreciated. :o)
#7
September 17, 2011 10:16 AM - Legion
Hi Denton,

Just finished reading the series.
Thanks for explaining everything with picture references.
I will definitely be experimenting with my digital camera!
I usually ignore the other symbols on the camera dial, out of sheer laziness. Now I'm going to find the manual and apply some of the techniques you mentioned.

If I could suggest another topic in your series,
I have played around with the black and white mode in the past and that makes for some interesting photos. Any suggestions on B & W photos would be great.
Edited at September 17, 2011 10:16 AM
#8