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The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Lesson 9 of 24

Shooting Scenes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Nighttime, & Sports

Khara Plicanic

The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

9. Shooting Scenes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Nighttime, & Sports


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:07:20
3 Exposure Triangle: Aperture Duration:13:22
4 Exposure Triangle: ISO Duration:07:15
5 Exposure Q&A Duration:24:07
6 Shooting Modes and Scenes Duration:04:05
7 Shooting Mode: Auto Duration:05:06
8 Shooting Mode: Program Duration:04:48
11 Shooting Mode: Manual Duration:23:41
12 Flash Duration:21:43
13 White Balance Duration:12:35
14 Exposure Compensation Duration:08:22
16 Focus Points Duration:08:27
17 What is a Pixel? Duration:04:41
18 Print Vs On-Screen Resolution Duration:17:26
19 Cropping Duration:11:14
20 Image Size & File Settings Duration:23:59

Lesson Info

Shooting Scenes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Nighttime, & Sports

But what if you're like, I can't be bothered with picking apertures (laughing) I just can't be bothered with that. Then you can set your camera to portrait mode and by doing so, you are telling the camera, I want some combination of settings that would work well for a portrait and I could go for that blurred background. Of course, who knows what the camera will give you, but that's the idea. Of course, what the camera is able to achieve, will depend on your lighting environment, the lens that you have on the front of that camera. So, you know, can it give you the world's most blurred background? Well, it can't give you what looks like it was shot at F 1. if your lens can't do F 1.2. So there are some limitations, but generally speaking, that's what's gonna happen. So the camera's gonna try to give you that wide aperture and it will nail down that part of the equation first and then it'll adjust the shutter speed and ISO to try to maintain that wide aperture. So here's an example of my ...

husband years ago, this was shot with a little point and shoot, with that same old one that did pretty well in New York. So here he's in focus and clearly the background and whatever ships or rock and stuff that's behind him is blurred. It's also far away, so that was to the camera's advantage, didn't have to work too hard. But that's the result of portrait mode. Another thing that portrait mode tries to do and does, it's going to also process the color maybe slightly differently, so it's gonna prioritize the color for good skin tone. Whatever generic sense that means, I mean, hm. But that's a thing that it does too, okay? So it's gonna try to give you good skin tones and a blurred background. Does it always achieve it? No, let's be honest, it doesn't, but it's an attempt. So if you're looking for a way to tell your camera, hey, I would like to shoot a picture with this blurred background, that's one way you can do it without having to actually, like, dial in an aperture, okay? All right, so that was portrait mode. Next up, these little mountains. You know what that means. Gabby, do you know what that means, the mountains? Landscape, landscape mode, or scene, is basically the exact opposite of portrait mode. So in portrait mode, we're trying to have that wider aperture, to have a nice, blurred background. In landscape mode, it's the complete opposite. So you're telling the camera, hey, I'm taking a picture of a landscape, I want squinty aperture so I can have deep focus, so that's what the camera's gonna try to give you. So here's an example of a scene, shot on a point and shoot. I always like to give examples of point and shoots, just because they're sort of the underdog and I'm like hey, they're great too (laughing) right? It's all about knowing how to use it. So this is landscape mode, and you can see that the area that's closer to the camera in the front here is in focus, as are the rock-bluff things, whatever you call that, in the distance. It's all in focus because this is in landscape mode, so the camera's trying for a squintier aperture. Another thing it does in landscape mode is it tries to give you nice blues and greens, which are general sort of landscape; of course there are environments where the landscape is not blue and green, but that's what it tries to do. So they're very generic concepts, these modes, but they can be great, they can be very helpful. So that is an example of landscape mode. I should point out you don't have to use landscape mode to shoot landscapes. One thing, let's say that you're taking a group portrait that's five rows deep, and you are like, oh my gosh, I'm so afraid that the back rows are gonna be blurry, because my depth of field is too shallow or something. Put your camera in landscape mode and then take the portrait, and you would be telling the camera, hey, I need a lot of depth of field. So that's another way to use it, so you're not limited in just using it the way that the little picture shows you. You could take a picture of a landscape scene in portrait mode if you want. Okay, down here, our little flower represents macro mode. Oh, we have a question, Gabby! When you use any of the modes, you can't mix with anything else, so you can't change the IOS or whatever, you have to-- The ISO? Yeah, that. Um, that's a good question, I think it's gonna depend on the camera and actually, I looked this up the other day when I was putting some of this together, I was curious and I looked and that is a serious question for your manual, and I was Googling around, 'cause I was looking at different manuals for different cameras to try to figure out an answer to something very similar like this, and what I found was, they all included some sort of chart that was like, in portrait mode, and it literally had little dots, it was like, in portrait mode, you can control this, this, and this. And in sports mode, you can control this, this, and this. So it's gonna vary by mode, so maybe like in sports mode, maybe you can control your ISO but maybe in landscape, not. So you'd have to check the camera but that's a really good question and I'm sorry I don't have a more-precise answer for you but that's kind of the joy of all the different ways that the cameras operate. But very good question. I would say if you're really concerned about what all your settings are, then of course, you might want to be reaching more for manual mode, so we'll see that when we get there. Okay, so the little flower icon represents what's called macro mode. Some cameras don't have macro mode because they would want you to just have a macro lens, but a lot of cameras do have macro mode, and what it enables you to do is focus more closely on something than you could normally. So for example, the little icon is a flower because macro photography is often used to photograph flowers or bugs and insects and dew drops and all kinds of fun things, so this is an example, also taken with a really old point and shoot, of a flower captured in macro mode and what's cool about macro mode is it really exaggerates that shallow depth of field. So in macro mode, even on a camera where you would maybe, like a point and shoot, where you might a harder time getting a blurred background, just because of the physics of the lens and how it all works, macro mode will often still give you that good blur, 'cause it's just how the optics work out. But the way that it works is you just put your camera in macro mode, which again, is either that dial on the top, or a lot of cameras have a button on the backside, which I find that a lot of people have never seen before, even though they may have had their camera for years, because sometimes it's just embossed on the camera, so it may not be painted, like a little picture, it may just be embossed on there. So anyway, you might have to do some looking. But you can just press that and then take a picture, and if you've ever tried to take a photo, a closeup like this of a flower or something when you're not in macro mode, you will notice the camera struggles to focus, right? So you're up there like, oh, I'm gonna take a picture of this flower and the camera's going (imitating grinding) and it's basically going cross-eyed while it's trying to focus, it just can't do it, 'cause it's too close. But by switching into macro mode, you're saying, hey camera, you don't need to worry about trying to focus out there, just focus up close, so it actually changes the way that the lens is gonna operate so that it can focus more closely. So that's macro mode. Then we have this little picture of a little person with a star, this is called night portrait mode. This little booger can be in a lot of different places on your camera. You might find it on your dial next to your shooting modes, you might find it mixed in with your scenes next to firework mode and beach scene and underwater snorkel scene (laughing) those exist, they're real things. You might find it there or on some cameras, you actually find night portrait mode mixed in with your flash settings, so if you're home going, I don't have night portrait mode, don't give up yet; it may be mixed in with your flash settings or it may be in with your scenes, you'd have to dig around a little bit. Sometimes it's also called, slow shutter sync, so we'll talk about that when we get into flash in the next segment. But for those of you that have it on your dial or in your scenes, we'll talk about it here. So it's a little picture of a person usually with a star or something. What that does is it helps you take better pictures of people, portraits, at night. So here's an example. And I love this example, this is a not-good example, in case you were wondering. So while I was at Grand Central Station, shooting the image we saw earlier, and with all my big, fancy equipment, right? This couple wandered by and they were visiting from Florida, and they were like, hey! They saw me with all my fancy camera gear and they're like, let's ask her (laughing) she looks like she knows what she's doing, look at all that gear. And little did they know, I was shooting in auto mode and taking really bad photos with it (laughing) but they came over and they handed me their camera and they said, would you take our photo here in Grand Central Station? And I said, oh sure! So I didn't want to, you know, mess with their camera and screw them all up so I just left it in auto mode and I was like sure, okay, give you that, click. And I took it and I was like, oh man, like that, we can just really do better, right? And so I was like, hold on a second, and they have a Nikon and I happen to have Canon so I don't know my way around Nikon quite as well, but I'm like, I can figure this out. So I dug around a little bit and I found their night portrait mode, and so I put it on and then I got this photo, right? And you know, it's not gonna grace the cover of some magazine or win me an award for technical genius, but it's better, it's a better photo, so what is the difference? Flash happened in both of them. And here in the auto flash situation, auto mode, the background appears very dark, and that's a funny phenomenon that happens with flash and we'll talk more about this in the next segment when we talk about flash, but the funny thing about flash is that it can, at times, actually make your scene look darker than if you didn't have flash and this is exactly why, because the camera does not give a hoot about all of Grand Central Station back there. And really, it can't, it can't light up Grand Central Station, don't fool yourselves. Your little on-camera flash is not gonna do that, okay? So it's not gonna light that up, it's only good for eight feet in front of you, if even. So it's just gonna light up the people. And then, it used the rest of the camera settings, you know, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and everything, to just take a picture of them. So the background actually has a different exposure requirement, because the flash is lighting them up and brightening them, but the flash is not getting the background. So in essence, we have sort of two things going on. We have them and we have the background and they're both having different exposures, different needs. So here the camera is just like, uh, here you go, I only care about them. In this situation, by changing the camera to night portrait mode, we have told the camera that we need to take a picture with a flash 'cause it's like a dark situation, so we're saying we need flash, but, don't blow off my background (laughing) so how do you suppose, this is maybe rhetorical, just think about it, but how would you suppose the camera's gonna pull that off? How is it increasing the brightness of Grand Central Station without, I'll just tell you, it is not amping the flash power and suddenly lighting up. And if it were, just to talk through this, if it were suddenly blasting them with flash, then they would be blown out, right? So how is the camera doing that, Jose? Well I think you're trying to bring in more ambient light, so you probably did the aperture a little bit more, and you maybe powered the flash a little less, so you have more ambient light coming in, instead of just the flash. Okay, you are on the right track. Okay. But that's almost like, a little reversed. But you're so close! And you're definitely on the right track, so here's what happens, and we haven't talked about flash in terms of exposure yet because it is a layer of complexity that I was going to spare us from, for the most part, but we will touch on it, but it is an added layer of complexity. So when it comes to flash, the aperture controls how much the flash is having an influence on the scene. But the shutter speed is what controls the ambient light, so if we were to look in the metadata, between this photo and this one, the difference is only the shutter speed, and barely. I forget the exact numbers but (laughing) I want to say that it was like, this was taken with a shutter speed of like, 1/60th, which is a slower speed but it's okay with the flash, it works out. This, I think, is like 1/15th or 1/30th, so we're talking about just fractions of a second, it's not like we're going from 1/8000th to like three seconds or something. The camera just slowed the blink down a smidge, but that smidge was enough to let Grand Central Station have a voice in the scene, if that makes sense. So the flash, nothing changed with the flash. The flash went and illuminated them just as before. But then, it's called dragging the shutter, so that's why if your camera is one of the cameras that puts this feature in with the flash settings, it's called a slow shutter sync, so you're telling the camera to drag the shutter, which is basically like, take the picture, but then let the shutter hang out open for just a minute, to wrap up that background. So that is how that is happening. It's actually sort of a sophisticated, advanced, fancy technique, right? You can be like, I dragged my shutter for this shot (laughing) but all you have to really do is put it in night portrait mode. I will tell you that it's not like, every time you bust out night portrait mode, you get clearly better results. Like anything, because it's a little recipe, right? All these little scenes are recipes so like every new recipe, it's not one size fits all. It's helpful but not perfect. But in this case, when I saw this image pop back up on their Nikon, I was like, oh! 'Cause I was shooting pictures for a book, and I was like, this is the best before and after example ever! And so I explained it to them, I'm like, can you please email this and can I put it in the book? And they said yes and now they're in all my stuff now (laughing) they're so sweet and now we're Facebook friends and we keep in touch, so it's very exciting. She's actually in Europe right now, very exciting. So that is night portrait mode, all right? Next up, in terms of these little scenes, and I think this is the last one that we're gonna talk about in terms of these little scenes, there are more, there's more scenes than we can talk about here, but once you get past here they start to really vary by camera and model and manufacturer, so you get the idea. But we're talk about this little guy here, this represents sports mode. So knowing what we know now about modes and exposure, if we're trying to take pictures of action, what would be important to us if we wanted to freeze the action? What would be important to us, would we want to concentrate on what part of the triangle? Shutter speed or-- The shutter speed, to make it slow, right? The shutter speed, exactly, and if we wanna freeze the action, we'd want it-- Oh, so you'd have fast, fast, yes. We'd have a faster shutter speed, yes. How fast is fast enough will totally depend, I can't even answer that for you. Depends what you're shooting, depends on all kinds of things, but when you are thinking, okay, I'm taking a picture of something that's moving fast and I wanna freeze it, I need a faster shutter speed. If you don't want to get into doing that, you're like, you don't wanna roll your sleeves up quite that far yet, you can try sports mode. So there's (laughing) my example. I was like, um, I don't really shoot a lot in sports mode 'cause I would just, you know, use one of the other modes or something but this was captured in sports mode, this was in Morocco, apparently it's a thing to go sandboarding down the dunes, isn't that cool? But I will warn you, it's not like skiing where there's a ski lift that takes you back to the top (laughing) you have to go down on the board and it's really hard to climb up a sand dune. That is a really good workout. So I think we went down like, once, and I was like, that's good (laughing) but anyway, when you're in sports mode, you're telling the camera, I'm shooting something that's moving fast, we need to catch it, but more than just giving you a faster shutter speed, it's gonna also go, depending on the light environment, to have a faster ISO because if you're using a fast shutter speed, you're really cutting out that light, so you might have to boost it, so you're giving the camera permission to go to some of the higher ISOs if necessary. But then also, you're telling the camera, in most cases, it will also change the way that the focus drive works, so it will actually track your subject instead of focusing on them here, and then taking the photo and now they're over here, it'll track them through the photo-taking process, so you have a better chance of getting them in focus, and the other thing that it often does, is it changes your camera drive operation, so it'll often let you take, you know, seven photos really quickly instead of just one, so if you've ever switched to sports mode and then you push the button, it's like (imitating shutter rapidly) and it takes a whole bunch and you're like, whoa, what just happened? Because it's trying to improve your chances of capturing that decisive moment in sports or getting a good shot versus like, sports; anytime someone's moving or talking, it's hard to get good pictures of them. So it helps when you can have a bunch in rapid succession and then pick the best one. So those are some things that sports mode does.

Class Description

A new camera is an adventure waiting to happen. It’s an invitation to explore and a tool that opens doors to awesome experiences. Learning your way around a DSLR for the first time doesn’t have to be daunting. With a little guidance, you’ll be confidently calling the shots in no time.

Pro photographer and educator Khara Plicanic will help you understand your camera like never before (whether a dSLR, compact point-and-shoot, or even a phone! ) and get you taking better photos fresh out of the box. Join Khara for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How exposure works and how each setting creates a different effect
  • The basics of different shooting modes (Auto, Program, Shutter/Aperture Priority, Manual, etc.)
  • How to make use of your camera’s functions - flash, white balance, exposure compensation, timer, and focus points.
  • How image size and resolution work, and why it matters (or doesn't)
  • How to choose and use different lenses.
  • The best resources to download, backup, and share your images. 


Kate Ambers

Khara is awesome! She really breaks down how the camera works, photography terminology, and technique. She does it all with a fun and entertaining personality and really makes it easy to understand what you are learning! I love this course!!! So worth it!

Holly Cooper

Loved this course and have recommended it to a friend who is looking to purchase his first DSLR. This course is perfect for beginners or someone who is self taught and who has picked a few bits up along the way; Khara then puts all these little bits of information together. I feel like the pieces have come together for me and I have taken my best/favourite photographs after watching these videos. Thank you CL and Thank you Khara x


I’ve taken a number of excellent courses from Creative Live, and this very thoughtfully organized, well taught class took me from “I love photography but I’ll never get how to do it” to “wow I get it!” It created a huge shift (finally!) for me. There is an intelligent simplicity that really does make for lightbulb moments. I’m extremely grateful for this class. Now I can go back and watch the others courses again and they will make much more sense and I can apply what I learned here.