Shooting modes in digital SLR cameras fall under the basic zone and the creative zone. Most of the newer point-and-shoot models have these features too. The basic zone is where all the automatic modes are — portrait, landscape, macro, night portrait, etcetera. Just choose which appears best for the photo you intend to take and the camera makes the necessary adjustments to achieve (what the manufacturer’s engineers think ought to be) the desired results. The creative zone is where you can customize the settings to your heart’s content — how blurred the background should be, where the focal point ought to be, whether underexposure or overexposure will yield better photos, etcetera.
Above, the basic and creative zones of the Canon EOS 40D. Everything above the green rectangle is in the creative zone; the green rectangle and everything below it is in the basic zone.
Normally, that’s how my DSLR is set — in full manual mode — because that’s the camera I use for shooting food photos at home for the food blog.
The Powershot G10 has basic and creative zones too. “SCN” means Special Scenes and under it is a submenu that includes the following shooting modes: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Sports, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, Indoor, ISO 3200, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Color Accent and Color Swap.
The basic zone is meant to take the guesswork out of photography. The automatic features are supposed to make the camera intuitive. But they also limit creativity because everything is pre-set for you. And there lies the rub. Because the basic zone is what makes a camera friendly to newbies, it carries a certain stigma too. I know DSLR owners (make-believe photographers) who scoff at anyone who shoots using any of the modes in the basic zone. Like you’re so dumb you can only shoot in auto mode.
I don’t subscribe to such snobbery — stupidity, actually. It doesn’t matter whether you shoot in the creative zone or the basic zone so long as you achieve the results you intended. And, sometimes, when you have to take a shot fast and there really isn’t much time to set the camera with the best combination of aperture and shutter speed settings, switching to the basic zone is the smart solution.
For example. One Sunday afternoon, I was standing (smoking) by the ledge of the 6th level of the Shangri-La Plaza parking lot and I had a panoramic view of SM Megamall, the high-rise buildings near it as well as a portion of EDSA and the MRT.
I took the G10 out of my bag and took the photo above in AV (Aperture Priority) mode. The trees at the bottom of the frame were too dark. And the focal point was already on those trees so that the overall lighting would be calculated based on the darkness and color of the trees.
I switched to the basic zone in landscape mode. Look at the trees in this photo and compare their appearance to that in the photo taken in AV mode.
I’ve been shooting with a DSLR for years and I owned an SLR before that. If I had acquired the irritating habit of camera snobs who think it’s belittling to even consider using any of the modes in the basic zone, where would I be? The basic zone is as much a part of my camera as the creative zone. If I don’t utilize it, then that would be dumb because that means I’m not maximizing the features of my camera.
So, never feel ashamed if you shoot in the basic zone. What you should start worrying about is if you’ve been using a camera with a creative zone for years and you’ve never even tried shooting in the creative zone. Now, that is just as sayang as not knowing the many uses of shooting modes in the basic zone.