Scene Selection

In Essential Photography Skills and Tips by Dale Sinclair


Have you ever just posted something online because you thought it was neat? Have you ever wished the picture had turned out just a little bit better? Well then, read on…

Even the most basic of phone cameras, tablets or point & shoots typically have settings that will allow you to perfect your focus. The simplest option to consider, when you want to improve your photography, is scene selection.

For many consumer SLR cameras there will be a scene selection option directly on an external dial, which will in turn allow you to select the preferred scene on your camera’s display. For most other devices you will find this either as a touch screen option or somewhere in the menu system. It is usually easy to find, but if you can’t find it – take a read through the user manual.

So, looking at the manual for one of my first digital point and shoot cameras I purchased, a CoolPix 995 (circa 2001) with a whopping 3.34 megapixels, 15 minutes into reading I realize it doesn’t have a scene selection option. Terrible example; moving on…

My outdated phone, however, has some basic scene selection options to choose from. Two of the more commonly used options that everyone should consider are Action (sometimes listed as Sports) and the Beach/Snow setting. A lesser used setting, but equally as important would be the Night option.

An Action scene selection will give you a faster shutter and increased light sensitivity to compensate for the speed at which the subject has to be captured at. This will allow you to get better focus when a runner is crossing the finish line or you are trying to capture the funny expressions your dog has when you throw her some treats.

Beach/Snow scene selection is more of a setting to deal with light exposure than focus, but should be used when you are taking shots where there is lots of light that may turn your photo into a white smear. Not just to be used at a beach or in the snow, but consider light reflection from water surfaces or shooting into the sun.

Night shooting is tricky at best. The Night or in some cases, Fireworks option will slow down your shutter speed and drive up the amount of light the camera takes in. This will most likely generate blur regardless, but it will be an improvement on the full automatic mode. If you can, brace your camera against something while using a timer, use a tripod and a remote trigger or at the very least brace your arm against a solid wall or a friends shoulder to cut down on the amount of shake. This scene selection will also improve shots taken at a big venue concert, as an example.

Newer consumer grade SLRs, point & shoot cameras and the latest smartphones will have many more scene selection options like Portrait, Food, Macro and Pet to name a few. You should pick the one that most closely suits your shooting environment.

Until next time- Happy Shooting.