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A Guide to Camera Shooting Modes

By on in Tutorials

571 words, estimated reading time 3 minutes.

Introduction to Photography Series
  1. What is Photography?
  2. Focal Length and Lenses
  3. A Guide to Camera Shooting Modes
  4. Understanding Shutter Speeds
  5. What is Depth of Field
  6. Exposure Triangle: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO
  7. Composition in Photography
  8. White Balance Explained
  9. Flash Photography
  10. How To Use a Tripod

Cameras have a multitude of camera shooting modes and settings which can be confusing at first. Once you know what they mean they are very easy to use and this guide shows you how.

The camera shooting modes pretty much the same across all camera types and makes and are generally accessed using the mode wheel. Some of the common modes are explained below.

Choosing an exposure mode gives you the freedom to start concentrating on taking great shots. Your camera will offer a number of automatic settings, including modes that help you shoot action, closeup and portraits, but these modes can be restricting and should generally be ignored. Get to grips with your cameras semi-automatic and manual settings and you'll soon see an improvement in the results.

Camera Settings Dial
Camera Settings Dial


Canons A-DEP mode is an automatic depth of field calculation. To use the function simply pick a point in the foreground, then pick a point in the background, then refocus one more time and take the picture. The camera will work out exactly what aperture setting you need to use to get everything in between those two points in focus.


(Manual) - In this mode you have complete control over all settings. You must work out the balance between shutter speed, aperture and ISO.


(Aperture Priority) - In this setting you control the aperture and the camera will work out the shutter speed and ISO to get the correct exposure. This is useful for controlling depth of field and not worry about shutter speed.


(Shutter Priority) - In this mode you control the shutter speed and the camera will calculate the aperture and ISO to get the correct exposure. This mode is useful for controlling the shutter speed for example capturing motion or freezing motion.


(Auto) - In Automatic mode the camera will make a best guess at what you are photographing and adjusts the settings accordingly. You have no control over the settings. Your DSLR is effectivly a point and shoot camera, with all the settings taken care of.


(Program Shift) - Similar to automatic mode, but allows you to change some of the parameters. As you adjust shutter speed the camera adjusts the others, and vice versa. Automatic mode does not allow this.


(Portrait) - The camera increases aperture to blur out the background and balances ISO and shutter speed to give a effective portrait image.


(Landscape) - In landscape mode the camera will select a narrow aperture to maximise depth of field increasing sharpness of the landscape around.


(Macro) - Similar to portrait mode, macro mode opens up the aperture and allows close focusing. By controlling the shutter speed and ISO, the camera will try and calculate the best exposure.


(Action) - In action mode the camera will try and work out what settings give the fastest possible shutter speed to capture action shots.


(Night) - Night shot mode the camera will increase the ISO and open the aperture as wide as possible and decrease the shutter speed to try and capture night or low light portraits without the use of flash.


(No Flash) - No flash mode functions like automatic mode, except that at no point will it attempt to use flash. This is particularly useful in situations where flash is not permitted such as museums or galleries.

So there is a quick round up of the common camera shooting modes found on most digital cameras and digital SLR cameras. In the next few tutorials we will have a look at some of these modes in more detail.

Last updated on: Sunday 23rd July 2017



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