Subject Modes

Usually the auto function on cameras nowadays is pretty reliable, but there are still some situations where cameras reach their limits. It is especially difficult for beginners to get the camera settings right in order to achieve optimal image results. Many cameras have an array of different subject modes to suit different situations.

Subject modes make it possible for less photo-technically skilled photographers, without any knowledge about diaphragms, exposure or ISO rate, to adapt their camera to specific situations in order to capture a certain image. When the camera is in one of these modes, the camera processes important information about the subject and can respond with right settings in the same way a photographer would.

This sounds good in theory but there are, as there are in so many areas of photography, drawbacks involved. The main problem is that the settings can barely be adjusted. However, this is the intent as it is the only way to ensure that the settings will function properly.

It is harder to check on what diaphragm, ISO rate and exposure have been changed to. Some manufacturers for e.g. assume that a landscape image with a higher colour saturation and higher level of contrast will appeal more to the beholder. Therefore they change the settings on e.g. colour saturation and contrast in the subject modes. This can lead to unwanted results as a manual correction is often not possible in these modes.

The subject modes are very different from camera to camera and from manufacturer to manufacturer. For less photo-technically skilled photographer, the following subject modes are particularly suited.



  • Small amount of f-stops – shallow depth of field
  • Usually skin tone is adjusted


  • Large amount of f-stops – greater depth of field
  • Often an increase in colour saturation


  • Short exposure time (aditionally the Al servo and  boost shooting mode are usually activated)
  • Not just good for sport but also for taking pictures of children.

Night Portrait

  • This mode is suited for capturing images in a relatively dark environment and allows the lighting mood to influence the image result.
  • Attention – camera uses a slower shutter speed to capture the lighting which can result in blurring (a tripod would be useful).
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