Nanu Pics Part 1 – What do all these buttons do…?

Welcome to a new venture for Nanu Nanu – a small blog about starting up with how the hell to get your head around the basics photography. This series will follow our own attempts to get to grips with cameras, and how to use them properly, as and when we learn them. This will by no means be an extensive account of what you need to know but try to break down the complexity into laymen”s terms, and we will post links to places that offer more details when we have them available.


So you”ve just got a camera – what the hell do you do now?

So many buttons, so little time to press them all (and so many fears that what you will press will ruin everything) – but worry not, we are hear to help. Here are a few things to do before you get started!

Step 1) Look through the instructions – I know it”s boring to say it, but it will tell you most of what you need to know about what the camera does. What struck me as a first looked through the guide, was the amount of settings one could go through without even touching individual buttons, just from the main knob – so let”s take a look at what they do and how to use them.


Most cameras have a dial that you turn to different modes, with little pictures next to them which change the way the camera takes photos. Within these different types of modes there aretwo major distinctions between them – some are creative and some are basic preset modes. The first bunch, the so called “creative” appear on the dial as letters – could be things like M (Manual), Av (Aperture Priority AE), TV (Shutter Priority AE) and P (Program AE). Don”t worry, we are going to go through these modes one by one, and not use the technical jargon. The “basic” set of modes are more obvious and are set up according to specific needs. These may differ a lot depending on the camera model, but are more self explanatory.

Basic Set

The basic set are your off the peg options that you can just click your camera into the right gear and get shooting. Here we go through some of the modes and what they can be used for:

A – Scene Intelligent Auto – a “fully automatic shooting mode with auto scene detection” where many of the features of the camera are set automatically according to the scene you are in. Auto-flash, Brightness, Flash, Color tone are set according to where you are. This mode is ideal for when you don”t know what you want, and is great for learning the very basics of how to shoot, composition and so on.

Flash Off – flash is disabled. If you have a flash that pops out, this will prevent that from popping out, and even if not, will make sure that the flash is not on for any shot you make. This is ideal for when you are in museums, galleries and other places where flash photography is prohibited. Importantly, without a flash you will have to rely on natural light, and this has a massive effect on how your images will look. Without meaning to go into details, the camera itself warns me when I”m in this mode that my images may become shaky – this is because in low light areas it will take longer for enough light to get into my camera so I can see anything, so even the slightest nudge when I”m taking a photo will make the image change slightly.

CA – Creative Auto – Auto mode for easy setting of Image Brightness background blurring, flash, and everything else. This mode seems ideal for when you want to start messing around with the little buttons and features without going to far wrong.

Portrait – This is the mode you would use when the subject of your image is a person. This setting blurs the background, so that subjects stands out, and smooths skin textures and hair – making your image more flattering to people (I assume)

Landscape – this has a wide depth of field meaning that a lot more of the image is kept in focus (not just the background or foreground)

Close-Up – for capturing things incredibly close to the lens, typically flowers, insects that sort of thing. This sort of thing is ideal with “Macro” lenses, and will give really high quality images to things that are small and super close to your lens.

Sports – For shooting subjects in motion – the important thing for this is that includes a continuous shooting mode that keeps the subject in focus

Night Portrait – For taking portrait shots when the background is dark and full of illuminations (stars, lights at a fair, that kind of thing). When this is being used, as is similar to the non-flash mode) it may cause blurry images, so recommends the use of a tripod – or a very sturdy hand!

Handheld Night Scene – a shooting mode for at night which doesn”t require a tripod. This uses four separate shots taken almost at once to create a single stable image. This is very useful for taking simple images when you don”t have the use of a tripod (and frankly at our level – who does!).

HDR Backlight Control – combines three shots at three different exposures to improve the high light and show detail. Again, this will only work if you have a tripod, but what it does is when you take a photograph which has some light elements and some dark elements, it will take image on three different settings and amalgamate them into one image, so that things that are in shae are not simply blacked out or too dark to see, where as parts of the photo that are very bright aren”t over saturated in white light.


Creative Set

The creative set I would describe as more useful when you want to tweak and play around with the more complicated things available to you.

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