The goal of this blog is for it to serve as an introduction to camera shooting modes and hopefully remove the fear that comes along with using them.you are new to photography and just or fist camera or had one for a while but never figured out all of its features it is beneficial to learn about the different shooting modes a camera has. Most people when they get a new camera will keep it locked in Auto mode the entire time they use it for no reason other than that they don’t know what the other shooting modes are for. Before I can get into the different shooting modes a camera has I have to first briefly explain the three factors a camera uses to create a photograph. It is important to understand these so that the other shooting modes makes sense. A camera uses three measurements to take a photo, these are the ISO speed, shutter speed, and aperture opening. ISO Speed – ISO speed controls how sensitive the digital sensor (or film) in the camera is going to be to light, and this will determine how sharp and crisp your photos are. If you ever bought film you should remember that it had a number on it, 100, 200, 400 exc… That number was the ISO speed and we use the same numbering system today in digital cameras. Whats important to understand when it comes to ISO is that lower ISO numbers will produce sharper, more detailed photographs but they will require more light in order to take the photos. Higher ISO numbers require less light but the photos may not be as clear as there is a higher chance of “noise” being in your photo. Shutter Speed – The shutter speed refers to how long the lens will be open to let light into your camera. Fast shutter speeds let in little light but prevent blur in your images. Slow shutter speeds let in more light but make your photos more susceptible to blurring. Aperture Size – The aperture size (or F-stop) refers to the size of the opening the lens will make in order to let in the light. The size of the aperture determines the photo’s depth of field, or area the are of the photograph that is in the sharpest focus.
So now that we know what factors contribute to the making of a photograph, lets take a look at the different shooting modes: Auto Mode: Auto mode is designed to make taking a photo as easy as possible and so that you, the user, don’t have to do any thinking when it comes to getting a correct exposure. All you need to do is compose you photo and the camera will do everything else. It will select the best possible combination of ISO, shutter speed and aperture opening in order to capture the photo. If there is not enough light to take a properly exposed photo, the camera will tell you, it will even automatically use the flash if you camera has one built in. This sounds great and it can be but there are some drawbacks. Using this mode does not allow you to use make any changes, you have to use the settings the camera gives you. These means you do not get any say in the depth of field, ISO, or shutter speed. In other words, the camera is kind of guessing at what you want instead of you telling it what you want. Personally, I only use auto mode when I see a shot I want but only have a vary limited time to take the photo. If I don’t have time to adjust the settings myself I will flip to auto mode to take the photo and then just work with what I got later in post production. There are also different auto formats that include Landscape mode, Portrait mode, and others but I will not be covering those here as they differ from camera to camera.
Aperture Mode (A or Av) – Aperture priority mode allows you to select the aperture while the camera selects everything else (shutter speed and ISO). This is great for when you want to have control over the depth of field in your photo. This mode is best used when you are taking photos of stationary subjects like portraits, landscapes, still lives, etc. Large aperture openings produce shallow depth of field meaning the subjects in the foreground will be in focus while those farther away will be blurred. Small aperture openings produces a deep depth of field, meaning shaper focus throughout your foreground, middle ground and background. These are measured in fractions but your camera will only display the denominator, so if you choose a aperture of 3.5 you are really selecting a 1/3.5. Therefore it is important to remember that the smaller the number you choose the larger the aperture opening will be and vise versa. Shutter Priority Mode (S or Tv) – Shutter priority mode allows you to select the shutter speed while the camera automatically selects the rest. You would use this mode when you want to have control over the amount of blur from moving subjects. For example, if you were photographing a sporting event you would want to chose a fast shutter speed to reduce blur. If you wanted to purposely cause blur in your photo, say to emphasize speed or create light drawings, you would want to select a slower shutter speed. It is important to note that most shutter speeds are measured in fractions of a second but your camera will only display the denominator when you are selecting a shutter speed. For example if you select a shutter speed of 500, you are real selecting a speed of 1/500 of a second. Program Mode (P) – Program mode is similar to auto mode. The camera selects everything for you but here you have the ability to make changes to what the camera selected. You can change the shutter speed or aperture to what you desired. Manual Mode (M) – Manual mode means you select everything yourself, you select the aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO. This mode is great when you want total control over your photo. Manual shooting definitely has a steeper learning curve as you really need to have some understanding go what you are doing to get the photos to come out the way you want them. Shooting in this mode will force you to slow down a little while taking your shots, which isn’t always a bad thing : ) You also need an understanding of how to meter your shots, which I will discuss in a later blog.
Please let me know if this short introduction to camera shooting modes was helpful. Go out and start shooting some of these modes that you never tried before. Let me know how it went or if you have any other questions.