Exploring Scene Modes with a Nikon D5100 - dummies

Exploring Scene Modes with a Nikon D5100

By Julie Adair King

Scene modes on a Nikon D5100 are designed to capture specific scenes in ways that are traditionally considered best from a creative standpoint. For example, most people prefer portraits that have softly focused backgrounds. So in Portrait mode, the camera selects settings that can produce that type of background.

And now without further ado, here’s a review of all the D5100 Scene modes:

  • Portrait: Choose this mode to produce the classic portrait look, with the subject set against a softly focused background. Colors are adjusted to produce natural-looking skin tones. You can set the flash to Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, or Off.


  • Landscape: In the time-honored tradition of landscape photography, this mode produces crisp images with vivid blues and greens to create that bold, vacation-magazine look. Flash is disabled.


  • Child: A variation of Portrait mode, Child mode tries to use a slightly faster shutter speed than Portrait mode. The idea is that a faster shutter speed, which freezes action, helps you get a sharp picture of children who aren’t sitting perfectly still.

  • Sports: Select this mode to have a better chance of capturing a moving target without blur. To accomplish this outcome, the camera selects a fast shutter speed, if possible. Flash is disabled.


  • Close Up: As with Portrait and Child mode, the camera selects an aperture designed to produce short depth of field, which helps keep background objects from competing for attention with your main subject. You can set the Flash mode to Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, or Off.


    Night Portrait: This mode is designed to deliver a better-looking flash portrait at night (or in any dimly lit environment). If you disable flash, an even slower shutter speed is used.

    Night Landscape: This setting uses a slow shutter speed to capture nighttime city scenes. Note that even when the camera remains perfectly still, any moving objects in the scene appear blurry. Flash is disabled.


  • Party/Indoor: This mode is designed to capture indoor scenes that are lit by room lighting as well as the flash, using settings that produce a nice balance between the two light sources. You can set the flash to Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, or Off.

  • Beach/Snow: Use this mode when you’re photographing a scene with lots of bright areas, such as sand or snow, which can fool the camera’s autoexposure system into underexposing the image. Flash is disabled.

  • Sunset: Use this mode when photographing sunsets or sunrises and the sun is in the picture; the camera chooses settings designed to preserve the brilliant colors seen at those times of day.

  • Dusk/Dawn: Use this mode to better capture the colors of the sky when shooting landscapes just before the sun rises, or just after the sun sets. Flash is disabled.

  • Pet Portrait: Despite its name, this mode is just like Sports mode, except that in dim lighting, the flash fires unless you set the Flash mode to Off. Note that if flash is required, the camera can raise the shutter speed no higher than 1/200 second, which may not be fast enough to capture a really speedy animal.

  • Candlelight: Use this mode when shooting subjects lit by candlelight. Flash is disabled, and because the ambient light will be dim, the shutter speed will likely be slow. Again, mount your camera on a tripod to avoid a blurry photo.

  • Blossom: Use this mode when you’re photographing a field of blooming flowers. Flash is disabled; again, use a tripod when photographing in low-light situations.

  • Autumn Colors: This mode yields pictures with saturated reds and yellows of autumn leaves. The built-in flash is disabled. Mount your camera on a tripod in low-light situations.

  • Food: This mode increases color saturation to render food more vividly. An important note about flash: Unlike other Scene modes, Food mode requires you to raise the built-in flash yourself if you want to add flash.