You generally select the mode with one of the knobs located on the top of your camera.
This is the mode that I call “smartphone”, you have nothing to do, you press and it’s done. It is very limiting for safari photography and we will forget it immediately.
This program is generally informed by AUTO/AUTO+ or iA/iA+ mode (it may not even exist on more technical devices)
Warning mode A means Aperture and does not mean automatic at all.
Auto Program (P)
P or Program Auto mode (see your manual). In this mode the device automatically chooses the speed and the aperture (in particular it adapts the speed according to your focal length to avoid motion blur).
It is in this mode that as a beginner we are going to work. It allows you to manage more things.
RAW or JPG format
Before you even take your first photo, you need to choose in what format to save it.
Know one thing, your sensor sees the world in black and white. Each pixel returns a value, for example between 0 (black) and 100 (all white). With filters and a clever mathematical average system, we recreate the colors.
When we talk about RAW format, we are talking about what I just said, it is the file which contains for each pixel the value between 0 and 100 of this pixel, nothing else (I popularize a little, let’s say nothing other essential to recreate the image).
So if you record in RAW, you have the pure data of the sensor, all the information available.
JPG is … more complicated. Once the image has been reconstructed from the RAW file, color modifications and a lossy compression layer are applied, so that the contrast information is lost forever.
The advantages of JPG:
Photos take up less space, so we can do a lot more on the same SD card (about 3x times more)
You don’t have to ‘develop’ the photos using Lightroom or Capture One software. When you come back from a long trip, if you accumulate 2000, 3000 or 10 000 photos it is a huge time saver
The treatment applied by some well configured devices will be excellent
My advice, if you are a beginner, is to do some JPG and possibly if you see that you have enough space or that you are interested JPG+RAW (all devices offer it) for certain days like that you have the JPG but also the RAW which is only of interest if you rework the photo later (exposure management and colorimetry)
How to adjust the white balance
When you take a photo in JPG, you must choose the appropriate White Balance. Often by default it is in automatic mode.
Please note that this has no impact on a RAW file, however it is a setting that you will have to make when you develop your photo on software later.
What is it?
Imagine a white wall, you have a lamp with an old yellowish bulb, you turn on the light and you take the shot.
On your shot, the wall will not appear white, but yellowish due to the light. It is not aesthetic because even if the light illuminates it in a yellowish way, your perception of the color of the wall is white, your brain knows that it is white, if you see it yellow it is wrong. Likewise if you take someone’s picture you don’t want the light spectrum of your light source to distort ‘too much’ the true colors of your subject.
Another example, take a light grey wall and illuminate it with a modern LED at 7000 Kelvin, you take the shot. Your wall will appear white when you know it is grey.
White balance is this, you want what is white in real life to be white in the photo, regardless of the lighting.
The device / software will apply an algorithm to compensate for the color of the light source. Besides, the white balance setting is expressed in … Kelvins, the same unit as when you go to buy your LEDs at the supermarket.
The problem with automatic mode is that it does not know what is the light source, so it will try to identify it by a more or less efficient algorithm.
Now suppose you take a picture of a surfer, in blue overalls with the ocean in the background and a nice blue sky. The dominant color is blue. The algorithm will therefore identify that the light source is most certainly shifted to blue and will try to compensate, making your pretty sky more white / grey than blue.
In safari, you know the light source, there is only one, it is the sun, either directly if the sky is clear or indirectly if it is covered.
You can therefore enter the light “temperature” or choose one of the modes of your device. Of course, you can also decide to give a warmer or cooler atmosphere to your photos.
Other parameters exist to manage noise reduction, contrasts, color tones … I recommend that you set them all to 0 or leave the default values. Consider testing with a few shots to make sure you haven’t done anything wrong.