How to use different modes on your EOS camera

How To Guide: Using Modes

Moving off the Auto

Full Auto (the "green square") is often the starting point on the Mode Dial for a new Canon camera owner.

In many cases it will give you great results but one of the main reasons for buying an EOS is all the creative opportunities available when you switch to one of the other shooting modes.

If you are just starting your creative journey the Basic Zone shooting modes are a good place to begin. This guide will cover four of these modes and explain what exposure settings are changed and why, so that you will understand a little more about using your EOS.

  • Close-up
  • Portrait
  • Sports
  • Landscape
Modes-Close-Up-Logo

Close-up Mode

Close-up Mode chooses the optimal settings for photographing small subjects and getting in close. The camera produces images with pleasing background blur and the images have well-balanced colour and sharpness. When light levels are low the pop-up flash will activate to assist in illuminating your subject.

© Kayhan Kayar

What your EOS does:

Close-up Mode selects a large aperture producing images with attractive background blur. The Standard Picture Style is utilised for balanced colour and sharpness. Shutter speeds are maintained so as to avoid camera shake and where this is not possible, such as in low light, the pop-up flash is activated. In low light the camera may select a high ISO.

Other types of photo to try:

If you have something to sell online, a good image can make all the difference. Set your camera to Close-up Mode to isolate your item from the background. Careful composition will yield pleasing, and hopefully profitable, results.

Lens option:

EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

To get really close up to your subjects a dedicated macro lens is a must.

* Requires Mount Adapter EF-EOS M for EOS M or an EF-S mount Canon DSLR body indicated by a white square on the lens mount.

Portrait Mode

Portrait Mode chooses the optimal settings for photographing people. The camera will produce images with maximum background blur and smooth, pleasing skin tones. Holding down the shutter will activate continuous shooting, useful when trying to capture a subject with their eyes fully open and for the ideal expression. The pop-up flash will activate if shooting in shade or low light to provide extra illumination.

Wake me up inside, © Christian Oliver Harris 2012, Canon EOS 1000D

What your EOS does:

The camera sets a large aperture to give maximum background blur, a suitable shutter speed for hand-holding the camera based on the conditions and a low ISO so your pictures are clear from noise. The Portrait Picture Style is selected which reduces sharpness and produces natural skin tones. The pop-up flash (with red-eye reduction) will activate if the camera tries to set a shutter speed that may produce camera shake.

Other types of photo to try:

Food and still life photography can also take advantage of the Portrait Mode's maximum background blur to isolate the subject from the background

Lens option:

EF 50mm f/1.8 II1

Compact and lightweight with a wide maximum aperture, this lens is a great choice for shooting portraits.

1Requiresuires Mount Adapter EF-EOS M for EOS M

Sports Mode

Sports Mode is for capturing subjects that move such as cars, surfers or athletes. Switch to this mode to achieve the highest possible shutter speeds. The camera switches to a focus mode that allows you to track the subject by half pressing the shutter. Fully depress the button to take the shot. Holding the shutter down activates continuous firing mode to get the perfect moment, allowing you to capture a number of frames in quick succession.

Got Cable, © Alexander Jung 2013, Canon EOS 5D Mark III

What your EOS does:

In Sports Mode the camera automatically sets a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and avoid subject movement blur. A large aperture maximises background blur to isolate your subject. The Standard Picture Style is utilised for balanced colour and sharpness. The pop-up flash is disabled so in low light situations to maintain high shutter speeds the camera may select a high ISO.

Something to try:

A fast shutter speed is not just useful for sports action. Children and animals can require a fast shutter speed to prevent movement blur. Using the Sports Mode's continuous shooting can also be useful; take lots of frames and select the ones with the best expressions afterwards.

Lens option:

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II2

Compact and affordable with powerful telephoto performance this lens gets you closer to the action.

2Requires Mount Adapter EF-EOS M for EOS M or an EF-S mount Canon DSLR body indicated by a white square on the lens mount.

Landscape Mode

Landscape Mode is suitable for shooting wide-open spaces when you want the image to have maximum clarity and sharpness throughout. The camera will select a shutter speed based on the conditions. This mode produces images with vivid blues and greens.

What your EOS does:

The camera sets a small aperture to achieve focus throughout the image. Shooting in low light, a slow shutter speed may be selected which could cause camera shake. In these situations the shutter speed indicator will flash and a tripod or camera support may be useful to obtain sharp images. The Landscape Picture Style is selected which enhances colours typically found in nature, blues and greens are rich and vibrant.

North West Highlands, © Tony Foster 2011, Canon EOS-1D Mark IV

Other types of photo to try:

The Landscape Mode isn't only useful for capturing natural beauty. Set this mode when sightseeing around a town or city, particularly on bright sunny days. Your EOS will produce crisp and vivid travel images.

Lens option:

EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Small and lightweight yet ultra wide, this lens will capture landscapes in all their glory.

Stay Informed

Coming Next: Seeing the world without a viewfinder

Subscribe to Newsletter