Beginning Wildife Photography: Main Control Dial

Typical Control Dial

The Control Dial

The control dial for most cameras is found on the top of the camera.  Almost all the cameras have a number of functions on the dial but we are really not concerned about all the functions that are X'ed out.   Along with the ones that are X'ed out the one marked P should only be used for very fast grab shots when you don't have time to change anything.   For most beginning wildlife photographers, the best mode to use is the S mode (or shutter mode)  Note: for some brands of cameras the S mode is replaced by TV or time value mode.  They are the same.  

This is where you set the shutter speed and the camera sets the aperture so you are able to select the proper shutter speed.  If you put the camera in P mode or some of the other modes, the camera will select the shutter speed for you and this could be disastrous.  Say you have a bird flapping its wings on a perch.  If you choose the wrong shutter speed, all you will see is a blur where the wings are.  So you need to be careful when selecting.  In most cases for birds that are moving, you need at least 1/1000 of a second to freeze the action.   

If you are taking portrait photos of an animal that is close and you want eyes, nose and ears all in focus, that is when you adust the aperture using the A mode.  This mode will give you control over the depth of field to choose what is and what is not in focus.  

The third mode is the M mode  is where you control both the shutter speed and the aperture.  This is the mode you will want to try to achieve but it will take some time getting used to adjusting both these settings at the same time.   For a short video of camera modes go to Explaining Camera Modes