Dear Dr. Boli: I just got one of those easy-to-use pocket digital cameras, but I’m a little confused right now. I want to take some pictures of the tomatoes growing in my garden, but how do I set my camera? It has a “Cuisine” mode, which the manual helpfully tells me is for taking pictures of food. But are my tomatoes food? I mean, I know they will be food, but are they food now (i.e., for photographic purposes)? Or are they not food until they are off the vine? This is a deep philosophical question. And if they aren’t food, what are they? Should I use Portrait mode to take a portrait of my tomatoes? Or Still Life mode? Or Macro? Or Super Macro? Or Soft Skin mode? Tomatoes do have soft skin after all. I don’t think I want Baby Mode, since they’re mature ripe tomatoes, but maybe Party Mode, since there’s a whole cluster of tomatoes? Or High Sensitivity mode? I’m not sure what that is, but I imagine it means that if you tell the camera you don’t like the picture it will be crushed and retract its lens in shame. Or what about Night Portrait mode, since it’s likely to be dark by the time I figure out this camera? Or Smile Shot mode, so the shutter will trip only when my tomatoes look happy? I’m very confused. —Sincerely, A Professional Photographer Having an Identity Crisis.

Dear Sir or Madam: Dr. Boli may not be able to help you with that new camera. His own cameras have only three settings: aperture, shutter speed, and focus. Somehow they manage to take pictures. He is sure they would take better pictures if they had a Fireworks Mode, a Sunset Mode, a Candle Mode, and so on, but they do not. If he were in the habit of taking pictures of people, he might wish they had an intelligent Formal Portrait Mode, so that the shutter would not fire until the subject had wiped that artificial grin off his face and looked suitably grave. Otherwise, he will make do with his three settings. But since you are stuck with an easy-to-use camera that you can’t figure out, perhaps you should just try pointing it at the tomatoes and pushing the button.


  1. Clay Potts says:

    Dear Sir or Madame,

    Portrait mode is probably your best bet, if you wish to avoid red-eye; However, tomatoes are not easily photographed, as they can be quite bashful and easily blush, especially when they are green. However, they will generally relax after a drink or two, but avoid getting them too sauced, or your photo shoot will be marred by delays and you will only end up playing ketchup….

  2. C. Simon says:

    Dr. Boli’s own camera, if it is the camera that took the deer photo, does appear to have one feature more: flash.

  3. Dr. Boli says:

    The thing to the right of the lens (or left from the photographer’s point of view) is a prism viewfinder. One looks down on it to compose the picture in an area about the size of one’s thumbnail.

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