This is the text for a video I am working on.


I am going to take some time to describe each of the T4i’s automatic modes, tell you how they are useful, how they are limited and occasionally make refeeces to the creative modes on the other side of the dial.

First up is the Green A+ – The Fully Automatic Shooting Mode.  In this mode you have very little control over the camera, you point and press the button.  You can decide if you want to shoot single frames, continuous or self-timer, that is the only decision you have to make in this mode.   Benefit – you will get a decent photo without having to think.  Downsides – because the camera decides focus points it could focus on something other than your subject. When you look through the viewfinder you may see muliple AF points flash red – those are the points that it has achieved focus on.   You might also see the flash popup and it will fired a series of little strobes or mini-flashes, this means it is dark enough that the camera is having trouble focusing and is using the flash to shed a little light on the subject – also means the flash will be used for the photo. The camera may also make a less than intelligent guess about the scene and not do a great job setting exposure. If you are really close to your subject it might be very bright, move further away from your subject, you might also see the shadow of the lens if you are close to your subject or have a longer lens on when the flash fires.

The next mode is identical except the flash will not fire, no matter how dark it is – useful where Flash photography is prohibited but you still want the camera to make all the decisions.  There are other modes (P through M) where the flash will not fire either but you have loads more control.  Flash photography is often not allowed at smaller venue concerts, art museums, aquariums etc.

CA mode gives you control over the style of the image – vivid, soft, warm, momochrome B&W etc, Drive mode, flash and background blur.   Now this is not a bad tool for learning a bit, it is quite easy to adjust the background blur setting here and you can watch what that does to your aperture – sets it as wide as it will go, all the way to the left and watch the apeture change – this is what determines background blur – there is nothing magical here, no extra tricks the camera is adding, it simply sets the aperture as wide as possible.   All of the ambiance-based shots can also be done in the computer but it ca be fun to have those options availble to you.  the one downside I see – if you shoot a bunch of B&W photos you can’t turn them back to color later, same for all the options in this list. But you can always turn a standard color shot into any one of these options.  You do have the option of no flash or forcing the flash to fire in this setting too.  I give this mode a thumbs up for the learning it provides.

Portrait mode on the dial again sets the aperture wide open, wide aperture creates a shallow depth of field which in turn can separate the subject from the background. It also  sets the colors to be pleasing for skin tones and provides you with WB and ambiance based controls (again).  You don’t have control over the flash.   If you are shooting a person or group of people you could use this to get a slighty better looking skin tones but with all of these modes you are forced to shoot JPEG and you can get even better results with skin tones if you shoot RAW and then do a little post processing in something like Lightroom or photoshop elements.  It really all comes down to how involved you want to be with your photos.  If you want quick results that look decent use these modes if you want results that look really good you need to learn the other modes and a bit of post processing.

landscape is just about the opposite of Porrait mode, the camera sets the aperture small keeping everything in focus and sharpens the image and saturates the colors a bit to make your greens and blues more vivid.  The flash is disabled.  You do still have the ambiance based and light based options.

Macro mode – This one probably bothers me the most out of all the modes – on a point and shoot when you select macro mode there is almost always a change in the lens setup and the minimum focus distance is lessened allowing you to take a macro photo.  On a DSLR there is NO change that allows you to get closer.  It does try to set a reasonable aperture but really that is all.  If you want to take macro images you need a macro lens – pretty simple.

Sports shooting does actually make some helpful changes, it will prioritize a faster shutter speed over aperture, change the focus mode to AI Servo and switch the drive to continuous.  AI servo is like the servo mode in live view, it is constantly working to focus, it uses the center point and will only beep softly when it achieves focus, so as not to be annoying since it is constantly focusing. Prioritizing shutter speed is an attempt to keep from blurring higher speed sports.

Night Portrait mode – Combines a flash firing with a slightly longer exposure to capture the background too. In a normal shot at night, when the flash fires the exposure is going to be such that anything not lit by the flash will be very dark.  Night portrait mode fires the flash but leaves the shutter open a bit longer to capture the ambient light/background.  The trick to avoid blurry photos in this case is to use a tripod and ask your subject to stay still even after the flash fires.  You also need to make sure they are properly in range of the flash and on the T4i that is likely to be less than 50 feet.

Handheld night scene does a 4 shot combo to create one stable image – in my tests it just seemed to crank up the ISO, which you don’t have any control over, to very high levels and I got better results or at least just as good using P mode. Not impressed.

Last mode is HDR or more specifically HDR backlit control – I have a separate video that talks about this so I will be very brief here – it take three shots, each exposed differently and combines those to create one file with a greater dynamic range.  It works but you need to be careful about movement from you or your subject which will cause some softness or ghosting if the camera cannot line up the three images – it is also frustrating in that you have very little control over your image, as in many of the modes the camera determines exposure and focus points.

Quick Recap – So where does this leave us – well a few of these modes are not worth space on the dial, macro mode I am looking at you, but they can be interesting to try and have their uses but really with maybe the exception of HDR everything can be done better knowing your camera, the basic rules of photography and using the modes on the other side of the dial, P AV TV and M.



Actual Video is coming soon.  Thoughts, comments, feedback on this draft script?






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  1. So I just published the draft script for my next video – Explains what all those little icons below the Letters on the Dial mean, the A+ to Backlit HDR. If after you read it you have a comment or question I’d love to hear them to incorporate into the actual video. Thanks!

  2. I just received this camera from my company for being there 25 years. I don’t know anything about DSLRs, having used a point-and-shoot for everything. Now, I’m excited to learn a new hobby, and your post helped a lot! Thanks so much!

    • Kathy,

      Awesome – congrats on the 25 years of employment and working for a company that gives nice presents!! Feel free to email me questions, I am working on a video version of this post, I hope to have it up by the end of the weekend. For general photography I love Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure – Just an excellent book that anyone with a camera should spend a little time reading.

  3. I’ve been taking photos for about 30 years now and just got my first DSLR – Canon 650D. Thanks for the refresh!

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