• Rich Engelbrecht

Why does my camera have so many buttons and dials?

Why does my camera have so many buttons and dials? What am I supposed to do with them?


Your camera, like your smart phone, TV remote, your car, and many other items you use every day, has controls so that you can tell it what you want it to do. Your camera is pretty smart, but you are smarter!


Like the above items, the more you use them, the more comfortable with that device you become. The next step is to start exploring some features you haven’t tried yet.


In most cases your camera will do it’s very best to get you a good image, but I’m sure you’ve run into cases where that picture just didn’t come out like you wanted it to. For example, the kids are playing in the water and you want to see the water being splashed and droplets shining in the sun. Your camera sees the kids playing and doesn’t “stop action” the splash.

Photographing sports and action is all about speed. We are trying to capture sharp, detailed photos full of excitement and drama. It’s time to change one of those dials. Take a look at the image with this column. This is my dog, Kooper, captured mid-leap, with the sport setting.


Find the “Mode” dial. It should look similar to the image on the right. Most times, having your camera set to Automatic will give you great results. In this case, however, try changing the setting to the “running man” or sport or action setting. Each camera calls it something a little different.


This tells the camera that you are trying to “freeze” the action. It makes the shutter open and close faster. The camera sets everything else to get the best picture; this mode tells it that speed is more important than the other settings.

Try it out. Take a picture of a flying bird; we have plenty of them around here. Try both settings; Automatic and then the “sport” mode. You should see a significant difference.


By the way, you’ve just doubled your comfort level with your camera.


I will be discussing some other modes in future columns. Most cameras have these other modes, although, as I said earlier, each manufacturer may call it something different.


After that we will look at those mystery settings that look like alphabet soup. These are the more manual settings where you can control specific aspects of the exposure.