Shooting Modes

Which shooting mode do you use: Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or Manual?

Many people get a new camera and are a little overwhelmed by all the different settings and options. They want to get out there and start taking photographs instead of reading through a boring owners manual. So they set their camera on Auto and go out and capture some nice shots. The only problem is they never get around to learning about the other modes and forever shoot in the Auto mode.

Auto mode will certainly let you capture some nice photos, but I do not prefer to have my camera making all the choices for me. Call me a control freak if you want, but I want to make the critical decisions on exposure, shutter, iso, and so on. After all, this is where the creative side of photography really comes out. You can be much more creative in shutter priority, aperture priority, and manual modes than in auto mode.

Give it a try. For one week or at least one day, set your camera in shutter priority mode and make the commitment to keep it there. Don’t change it! This is not always easy, but the effort is worth it. Shutter priority allows you to predetermine the shutter speed. Let’s say you’re shooting a sporting event. A fast shutter speed is necessary to freeze the action or stop the ball in the frame. So set a fast shutter speed that still allows you to get enough light to take the photo. Or, let’s suppose you are taking photos of waterfalls and you want to create photos that feature a silky waterfall that exhibits the flow of water. Now you will need a much slower shutter speed and a tripod. Set your shutter speed on 1/30 of a second, compose the shot, and take the photo. A cable or remote release can be invaluable for these shots, too.

Aperture priority mode is the one I most often use. This shooting mode allows me to shoot with a wide open aperture and thereby use a shallow depth of field. I like using this mode particularly for wildlife and sports photography. Focusing can be tricky at times, but when it works the subject stands out from both the background and the foreground. Alternatively, let’s say you want to shoot landscapes all day. Now a small aperture is necessary. Set your camera on the appropriate setting, say f/16 or f/22. Now the depth of field will be much larger and keep much more of the scene in focus. Are you beginning to see why these modes might serve you better than the auto mode?

Manual mode is the one I learned on back in my film days. I had a Minolta x370 and used manual mode just about all the time. It might take some getting used to if you haven’t done it before, but the control you gain is definitely worth the effort. Let’s say you are photographing an animal toward the end of the day. Shadows are getting longer and the sunlight is beginning to fade. You can capture the available light more easily in manual mode because you can adjust either the shutter speed or the aperture setting as  you wish. If you are getting close to having too slow of a shutter speed, then you can instantly switch to adjust the aperture. Once you learn the controls of your camera and learn to watch the light meter in your viewfinder, it will become almost automatic for you to make the necessary adjustments.

Give it time and don’t give up. Learning a new way of doing things might take some time and effort, but once you do I seriously doubt you will use auto mode much anymore. And your creativity will be free to take you to new places!

Manual mode


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