Shooting Modes Explained – Photography for Beginners Series
You have lots of different shooting modes to choose from when you use your camera but you are probably stuck on auto most of the time. I don’t blame you. It is easy to get overwhelmed with too much choice, especially when you don’t fully understand what those choices are. In this episode I am going to explain what they all actually mean, how they work and when you should use them. I am pretty sure after you listen to ‘Shooting Modes Explained’ you will never switch your camera to auto again!
Because there are far better shooting modes available to you and they will help you learn much faster. Below is a summary of what is in episode 6 but, as usual, listening to it on the podcast is a far superior experience 😉
There are a few different shooting modes which are fully automatic – meaning your camera will choose all of your exposure settings for you. They are;
AUTO – AUTOMATIC MODE
In standard Automatic Mode your camera will assess the reflected light in the scene and will set your aperture, shutter speed and ISO accordingly. If there is not enough light then your camera will trigger your built-in flash.
In Portrait Mode your camera will automatically select a wide aperture to emphasise your subject and throw your background out of focus. It will then select the best shutter speed and ISO to go with this.
Macro is close-up photography of small things like insects and flowers. In macro mode your camera will allow you to move a little closer to your subjects. Be careful as there will be a point at which you get so close that your camera will no longer focus. Test your camera to find out what this limit is for you. Your camera will select your exposure settings for you.
In Landscape/Scenic Mode a narrower aperture will be selected for you because in landscape photography you generally want a much greater depth of field (sharpness reaches far back into your scene). Be careful though because to let in enough light your camera might need to select a slow shutter speed if your aperture is very narrow. This means you might get camera-shake if you hand hold your camera. Best to use a tripod and trigger your shutter remotely. Your flash will not fire in landscape mode because your subject will typically be far too far away for such a tiny light to reach it!
Your camera will automatically select a fast shutter speed for you when you are in Sports/Action Mode. This is so that you can freeze action with moving subjects and achieve sharpness. A suitable aperture and ISO will be selected to complement the shutter speed. You could end up with an underexposed (too dark) image in this mode because your aperture may not be able to open wide enough to let enough light in and in this mode – your flash will not be triggered.
You can use Night Portrait Mode to take a photograph of someone in darker conditions. What your camera does in this shooting mode is to use a slow shutter speed so that you can capture the background (e.g. city lights) but it triggers the flash to light your subject so that they are not blurry from the slow shutter speed. This is because shutter speed does not affect flash.
Click on the image below to see some examples of night portrait mode shots via google images;
Your camera also has semi-automatic shooting modes which allow you more control over your exposure settings but your camera still helps you out a bit. These are;
A/Av APERTURE PRIORITY/APERTURE VALUE MODE
You select the aperture you want to shoot with and your camera will select the correct shutter speed. You will need to select your ISO. Every time you change your aperture, your shutter speed will automatically adjust to match. Your flash will not automatically trigger in this mode so you have to keep a close eye on your shutter speed in case it gets too slow to hold or too slow to capture moving subjects. If it does you will need to increase your ISO or widen your aperture to increase the light.
S/Tv SHUTTER PRIORITY/TIME VALUE MODE
You choose the shutter speed in Shutter Priority Mode and your camera will sort out your aperture for you. You will need to remember to choose your ISO. You might use this setting when you need a fast shutter to freeze moving subjects or perhaps you want to create motion blur like in the waterfall images we talked about in episode 4. In this case you would need to make sure your shutter speed was slow. Again, your flash will not trigger automatically in this mode so if you can’t let enough light in to expose your image by widening your aperture you will have to increase your ISO or perhaps manually fire your flash.
P PROGRAM MODE
Some call Program Mode ‘the thinking person’s auto’. It is similar to Auto in that it sets both your aperture and shutter speed for you depending on the light. The difference is that you control your ISO and other settings. Also you will be able to go in and change your aperture or shutter speed. When you make a change to one of them – the other will adjust automatically to suit. This is a great setting for snapshots when you just want to work fast and capture moments
M MANUAL MODE
In my opinion Manual Mode blows the rest out of the water. Many beginners become frustrated in manual mode but if you are introduced to it in the right way you will never look back. But why would you go to the trouble of learning how to control your camera settings manually when you have all these automatic modes which do it for you? Well I will tell you… but not until next episode! Tune in next week to find out why manual rocks and how you can learn how to do it in no time at all!
TEA BREAK TASK
Take some photographs in every shooting mode mentioned above. Use them as they are meant to be used (i.e. shoot a landscape in landscape mode etc). Look at the settings your camera chooses for you. If any didn’t turn out then think carefully about why that might have happened. Let me know how you get on via twitter @TeaBreakTog or even better, join the facebook group and get involved in our ongoing beginners photography chat!