First disclaimer: if camera talk makes you want to poke your eyeballs out with a portable tripod, then just skip this and pretend it never happend. Disclaimer 2: I am in no way a professional photographer, I just know my way around google. I've researched tips for camera settings and then with trial and error I've come up with a little cheat sheet that I keep in my camera bag so that I can remember what settings work best in certain situations and I thought I'd pass it along.
I have the Canon Rebel T1i, but I'm pretty sure most DSLR cameras have the same settings. I never shoot in full manual, just too much to think about, but I've noticed that the ISO (how much light is let in) and the shutter speed make the biggest difference and then I let my camera auto adjust for aperature, exposure, etc. Don't be scared, I promise not to use words like "aperature" ever again. I also try to set it on a flat surface if possible (since who really wants to carry a tripod around in their back pocket?), to minimize camera shake.
For the maximum glow affect: High ISO, slow shutter speed and set the camera on a solid surface.
-camera mode: "TV" (stands for Time Value, or shutter speed priority for all those who actually really care. I don't. It's just the setting that allows you to adjust the ISO and shutter speed and auto adjusts for everything else)
-ISO: 3200 (the highest it will go)-shutter speed:1/30
(picture via, cause how can I take a picture of my camera with my camera? duh.)
To still get the glow affect even during the day, just turn the ISO down since you don't need to let in alot of light.
Dance recitals and plays:
I thought I would be screwed for pictures since I procrastinated buying tickets and we got stuck in the very back of a dark theater. I spent alot of time on google and found the best setting and thanks to that and my zoom lens they turned out better than I thought. For these you want to keep the ISO high and the shutter speed high to let in as much light and avoid blurred movement.
ss: 1/320 (some shots I could bump the ss up to 1/550, it just depends on how much stage lighting there was)
The disadvantage of having a high ISO is that it can turn out a little grainy, but I found that converting it to black and white usually helps with that.
Night time shots
I rarely ventured outside of the pre-programmed settings but I'm glad I finally got brave enough to experiment with the "TV" setting, it has totally changed the way I take pictures in low and almost unexisting light. I just mess around with the shutter speed until I get it right (too fast and it will be too dark, too slow and it will be blurry) and always keep the ISO at the max.
during the day:
ss: 1/8 (make sure you have the camera on a solid surface or tripod if you have the shutter speed this slow. You can bump it up if you need to, I just wanted a slower speed to absorb more natural light)
Fireworks:If you want them to freeze in time then do a faster shutter speed but not too fast then it's too dark.
To show more movement slow the ss down a little bit
For sparklers you need to slow the shutter speed down ALOT to capture all the movement:
Blue skys:I find myself using the "lanscape" setting a lot when I take outside pictures, and not just for landscape shots. I love the way it makes the sky and any bright colors they're wearing just pop.
mode: landscape (the one with a picture of a mountain and cloud)
Water pictures:The "action" setting is my default setting alot with kids because they're always on the go and with such a fast shutter speed it freezes time and avoids blurry shots. I also love using this setting with water. Water suspended in air is just plain cool. I like using it too because I don't have to use my brain and think too much about numbers, but if you must know, have the shutter speed around 1/800.
mode: Action (the one with the guy running, if you haven't figured that one out then maybe you shouldn't qualify to own a camera :)
School:The flourescent lights can be tricky
And there you have it.
Oh, and I wrote instructions on my cheat sheet for taking pictures on the spinning teacup ride, if I ever get brave enough to go on the spinning teacup ride, but here is the link if you feel the need to throw up your entire complimentary continental breakfast the next time you visit Disneyland.