BY DAISY DICKINSON
The iAuto function on your Olympus camera is pretty great, and certainly has its place; it allows you to get your new toy out of the box and start snapping straight away, leaving the camera to take care of all the settings for you. But, it won’t necessarily allow you to realise the true potential of your photography – which can be so finely tuned, adjusted and adapted using the clever tech, and controls on offer, which is all at your fingertips – you just need a little know-how, and a touch of confidence to start unlocking some seriously good picture-taking.
Do I have to shoot fully manual?
There’s a common misconception that getting off auto means shooting exclusively on Manual. But this really doesn’t have to be the case, and depending on the look or style you’re setting out to achieve you may find you’re getting what you need by choosing a priority setting. This allows the camera to dial up or down some of the other settings automatically. Shooting manually is great for controlling every precise aspect of your shot, but you’ll need a decent understanding of the camera fundamentals like shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Don’t let this put you off, though – try shooting with one of the priority settings first, then as you gain in confidence, you can challenge yourself further.
I shoot about 60% of my images on aperture priority, mainly because most of the content I take I’ve identified depth of field to be a pretty important element in the shot. Depth of field is how much of the image is in focus. So, for a shallow – or short – depth of field the subject would be in focus, and the background nice and blurry. This type of shot is popular for portraits, and products, and works well when you want to isolate your subject. A longer depth of field would include more – or all – of the background or scenery in focus, for example, when taking a pleasing landscape picture.
On the top of your Olympus mode dial, spin to ‘A’, this tells the camera to prioritise the aperture, which you can dial up or down using either your dedicated dial; for me, that’s on the front of my OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, and the main dial on my PEN E-PL10 – but these can also be customised in the deep settings. Your camera will judge, and take care of, the shutter speed, but you can still change your ISO, and white balance – amongst other settings – should you wish to by hitting OK to access the Super Control Panel Menu. (Set that up here, you won’t be sorry.)
The aperture is measured by f-stops, which determine how wide, or closed the lens is. This affects how much light is let into the camera for the exposure, so as well as controlling your depth of field, it’s also handy for considering when shooting in different lighting situations; so a wide aperture would be particularly useful for shooting in darker conditions. A trick to remember which aperture you need is that the smaller the f-stop, the smaller – or more shallow – the focus. So, if you’re shooting with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-6.6, the aperture range is f3.5, up to f5.6. The smallest number is f3.5, so this will offer you the smallest – or most shallow – depth of field. Contrary to this, the larger number will offer you the largest – or deepest – depth of field. So, little number, little depth of field; big number, big depth of field!
Much like the aperture priority setting, shutter priority is accessed by dialing to ‘S’ on top of your mode dial, and will prioritise shutter speed as the most important function, which is great if you want to take pictures of speedy subjects. On your PEN, or OM-D the main dial will become shutter speed control, and you’ll be able to see the increments changing on the back of your screen. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re snapping pictures of your pets or kids outside in daylight, start with a shutter speed around 1/1000 second and then increase or decrease this depending on the outcome. The faster your shutter, the less light is able to reach the camera’s sensor, but the more action you’ll be able to freeze, so it’s a balance to get right. On shutter priority your camera will also use ISO to compensate for light, too.
Turning the mode dial to P will engage Program mode. This is a function where the camera will control both aperture and shutter speed – but leave you with free rein to control other elements like exposure compensation, making it a step above iAuto, in my opinion, but with less control than the other priority modes.
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