Enthusiast DSLRs generally provide a range of pre-set ‘scene’ modes to help novice users choose appropriate exposure settings for …


Enthusiast DSLRs generally provide a range of pre-set ‘scene’ modes to help novice users choose appropriate exposure settings for different types of subjects. Sometimes they are selected via the mode dial, while at other times a special set of pages in the shooting menu is used. Some cameras use a combination of mode dial and menu settings and a few provide sample illustrations and/or text explanations on the LCD monitor to explain what the selected mode does.


Types of shots that are commonly covered by pre-set shooting modes (clockwise from top-left) – portrait, landscape, close-ups and sports.  

When you select a scene mode, you effectively hand over control to the camera’s microprocessor, which is programmed with adjustments that the manufacturer deems appropriate for certain shooting situations. Interestingly, the adjustments used by one manufacturer may not be the same as those used by another – although they will be similar for the same scene type. Cameras from the same manufacturer may also vary when new models are introduced.

The most common scene mode settings are portrait, landscape, sports, close-up and night portrait. Other modes may include: fireworks, sunset/sunrise, night scene, beach & snow, children & pets, candlelight and document/text. The table above shows how the more popular scene modes work and when to use them. Use them with discretion because some of the subsidiary adjustments (such as increasing saturation or boosting blue and green) may not be appropriate for your subject.

Portrait – selects the widest practical lens aperture to blur the background. May enhance skin tones.
Use it for selective focusing where you want to isolate a subject from a potentially distracting background.

Landscape – sets the focus to infinity and stops the lens down. May increase sharpness and saturation and/or enhance blues and greens.
Use it for distant subjects where maximum depth of field is required.

Sports  – selects a fast shutter speed and wide lens aperture plus focus tracking (if available). May set high ISO value. Flash is activated if required.
Use it for moving subjects.

Close-up – selects the closest focus for the set focal length. May also set high colour saturation.
Use it for close subjects.

Night Portrait –  sets a slow shutter speed and red-eye reduction flash (if available). May also enhance skin tones.
Use it for shots of people after sundown, where a natural-looking balance between subject and background detail is required.

Parameter/Image Tone Adjustments
Most DSLRs provide a range of adjustments for the key shooting parameters of sharpness, contrast, colour saturation and colour ‘tone’ (or hue). As a rule, these settings can only be adjusted in the PASM shooting modes. Up to five levels of adjustment are provided for each parameter and some cameras can ‘memorise’ up to three sets of parameter adjustments for future use.

Sharpness adjustments work mainly on edges and allow photographers to sharpen or ‘soften’ their shots. Contrast and saturation (colour vividness) adjustments are similar, with the minus settings reducing and the plus settings increasing the selected parameter.


Colour tone adjustments are used mainly for tweaking the camera’s colour reproduction system to produce better-looking skin tones. The minus settings in this parameter make skin tones a little redder, while the plus settings bias them more towards yellow.


The same subject photographed in colour and monochrome modes.

Canon’s Picture Style system is a variant of parameter adjustments, which allows photographers to match image colour and tonal reproduction to certain requirements. The Standard setting produces images with slightly enhanced colours and increased sharpness. The Portrait setting delivers attractive skin tones. The Landscape setting enhances blues and greens and boosts overall sharpness. The Neutral setting records images with natural colours, contrast and sharpness and the Faithful setting is designed to produce natural-looking pictures in normal daylight. No sharpening is applied with the Neutral and Faithful settings. The Monochrome setting allows users to capture B&W or sepia-toned pictures. Raw images captured with this setting can be converted back to colour with the bundled software – although JPEGs can not.

The main problem with all parameter adjustments is that the adjusted settings are locked into the image file (unless you shoot raw files). The adjustment range is also somewhat limited, compared with the adjustments available in image editing software – including raw file converters. For this reason, we advise photographers to use these in-camera controls judiciously.

It is usually better to make most parameter adjustments on your personal computer. The computer’s processing system is much more powerful than your camera’s microprocessor. Your monitor is also much larger and more colour accurate so it’s easier to be discerning when tweaking image files. Finally, if you don’t like the changes you have made, it’s easy to go back to your original (unadjusted) image and start again.


The above diagram shows how much larger the Adobe RGB colour space is than the sRGB colour space, which can be displayed by most computer monitors. The D65 spot marks the position of pure white.

Colour Space Settings
The colour space setting on a digital camera delineates the range of colours it can reproduce. The default setting on all digital cameras is sRGB, which covers the colours that can be displayed on a computer or TV monitor. Most enthusiast and all professional DSLRs offer an additional colour space setting, known as Adobe RGB, which can record a wider range of hues and tones (see above diagram).

Landscape photographers who plan to print their best shots usually find the Adobe RGB setting gives them more colour information to work with and produces prints with a wider colour and tonal range. It’s also suitable for photographers who like to shoot raw files and edit them before making prints. However, it’s less relevant for portraiture and images captured with this colour space setting may look a little flat on many computer monitors. Many entry-level and multi-function printers can’t reproduce all the Adobe RGB tones.

The default sRGB colour space setting will generally give the best results for most normal photography, especially shots of people. It should also be used for shots that are destined for online applications (emails and websites) and photos that will be displayed on a TV screen.

File Numbering
Two file numbering methods arecommon in DSLRs: continuous and auto-reset. It’s important to understand how they work because selecting the wrong one can cause images to be over-written and you may lose valuable shots.

Selecting the continuous option ensures the files are numbered in sequence. When you load a new card (or a card from which previously-captured shots have been transferred), the first shot you take is numbered sequentially from the highest file number in the last batch of shots you took. This prevents images from having the same file number and makes it easier to manage images on your computer.

When the auto-reset function is selected, the camera will automatically start numbering images from the first file number in the folder (e.g. 100-0001) each time you insert a new memory card. In some cameras, earlier files on the card are detected and the file numbering starts from the file with the highest number. Where image files are likely to be replaced, the camera (or your file downloading program) should warn you and give you the opportunity to download the files to a different folder or change the numbering system. Some applications will do this for you automatically – but the end result can be confusing. The most common result is images from two or more different shooting sessions mixed up together in the same folder on your PC.


Always check the camera’s file numbering system before you start using a new DSLR. We recommend using the continuous setting as it makes file management much easier in the long term.



Canon. Advanced Simplicity. Visit canon.com.au for more details.