The Right Shooting Mode for Nature and Landscapes - dummies

The Right Shooting Mode for Nature and Landscapes

By Doug Sahlin

The different shooting modes of nature photography are like sub-genres. When you photograph nature, you have myriad subject matter. You have grand landscapes that stretch on forever, wildlife, and small objects like flowers and insects.

You’ve also got lots of combinations of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO you can use to yield a perfectly exposed image. Choosing the right shooting mode can be a challenge if you’re new to nature photography.

Control depth of field with Aperture Priority mode

When you photograph landscapes, you want everything from the foreground to the most distant objects to be in sharp focus. When you photograph an animal, you want the animal, but not necessarily the objects in front of or behind the animal, to be sharp.

When you consciously control what is sharp in your image from front to back, you control depth of field. You can control depth of field by switching to Aperture Priority mode and then choosing the desired f-stop. Choose a large aperture (small f-stop number) for a shallow depth of field, or a small aperture (large f-stop number) for a large depth of field.

The focal length you choose also determines the depth of field. You get a larger depth of field at a given f-stop when you shoot with a wide-angle focal length. You get a shallower depth of field at a given f-stop when you use a long focal length (telephoto lens).

Photograph action with Shutter Priority mode

Nature photography is not all about shooting landscapes and flowers. Sometimes you photograph things in motion, such as birds in flight or animals on the move. When you photograph objects in motion, use Shutter Priority mode, which is listed as S (Shutter), or Tv (Time value) on other cameras.

Your choice of shutter speed determines whether you create an artistic rendering of motion or freeze the action. Use a slow shutter speed to create an artistic rendition of motion and a fast shutter speed to freeze action.