Skip to content
Aperture, Shutter Speed, Manual: Understanding Different Camera Modes

Aperture, Shutter Speed, Manual: Understanding Different Camera Modes

Different Camera Modes

The first thing you’ll probably notice when you upgrade from your smartphone to an advanced point and shoot digital camera, DSLR camera or mirrorless camera, is the existence of the creative modes in the camera settings: Program Mode,  Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual Mode. Denoted as P, A, S, and M on your control dial, (P, Av, Tv, M for Canon). Nikon and other camera manufactures may have different shortcuts to these creative modes. The exposure triangle of aperture, shutter speed and ISO (stabilization) are used to regulate light based on the sensitivity of the surface of the subject matter in your image.

The camera sensor will also have a large amount to do with all of the camera settings and power needed to take photos in the right amount of time.

Understanding the difference between these modes, and when to use them can have a huge impact on your growth as a photographer. Here’s some photography tips for beginners and a brief overview of the various creative camera modes you can take advantage of on your camera!

Program Mode

We’ll get the least useful mode out of the way first, Program Mode. Most photographers would agree that anything you could accomplish with this mode is easily taken care of with one of the other modes, but in case you are curious, Program Mode chooses your aperture and shutter speed for you and allows you to set the white balance, ISO and flash. The inability to control shutter speed to avoid blur or adjust the depth-of-field with aperture, makes this mode difficult to shoot with in most situations.

Aperture Priority Mode

Different Camera Modes

A favorite among beginners, hobby photographers and pros alike, aperture priority mode allows you to control the depth of field of your images by adjusting the f-stop or aperture. It also allows you to set your ISO to handle different lighting conditions to obtain sharp photos. The camera will then choose a shutter speed for you to ensure your photos come up properly exposed. If you want to blur the background and place emphasis on your subject, using a wider aperture (lower f number) of f/3.5 will help you achieve the shallow depth of field required to create that image. Conversely, if you desire a greater depth of field for a landscape shot, a higher f number like f/22 will be required.

Shutter Priority Mode

Shutter speed which is measured in fractions of seconds, is the length of time it takes until the shutter opens, once the shutter closes no more light is allowed through the sensor. These may be found in the camera settings or on the ring. It's the speed at which the shutter of the camera closes. A fast shutter speed or the shortest shutter speed creates an shorter exposure time lowering the amount of light the camera takes in and a slower shutter speed gives the photographer long exposure which is perfect for long exposure photography. Slow shutter speeds or longer shutter speeds are better for less light or low light situations, like taking still photos at night for example. A second exposure with second shutter speeds can most likely be chosen in your camera settings to change the exposure time.

In addition a situation where long exposure photography would be necessary is photographing a star trail that shows the movement of stars in even in the low light of the night sky. As we discuss shutter speeds using slower shutter speeds, Panning photography settings is one area where this comes in handy. Combining a slower shutter speed with a sweeping motion, panning is used to track your subject and to capture sharp images with a sense of movement.

Finding the right shutter speed for your environment and surroundings, quick shutter speeds can help you get the exposure time that you were looking for. Once you have chosen your shutter speed to fit your surroundings, depress the shutter button. The shutter release button is usually the same button that usually makes the camera take the photos. The slowest or long shutter speeds slow down the movement and action while capturing sharp images.

A good shutter speed for portrait photography during the daytime is at least 1/200th of a second handheld or 1/15th of a second on a tripod. However, for most traditional portraits, it is best to use a fast shutter speed so that you can take the image without any blur.

Typically your shutter speed should be double of the focal length set on your camera which can always be adjusted in camera settings.

Manual Mode

Learning to shoot like manual mode is a little like taking the training wheels off your bicycle for the first time—it feels like everything is out of control, but once you get a feel for it, having total control over the aperture, shutter speed and ISO will become addicting.

Since it takes time to manually input each setting, you’ll still need the other modes where snapping a photo quickly is required, like at a sports game. However, with a little planning you can pre-program your camera to be ready to take the action shot when you need it. If your subject isn’t going anywhere, as in portraiture or landscape photography, it’s a great way to have fun and get creative with your photographs. If you really want to grow as a photographer from a beginner, shooting in manual mode can help you understand how each setting, aperture, ISO, shutter speed (the exposure triangle) and flash can have on your images.

Final Thoughts

So get out there and start practicing your photography. We believe these photography tips especially regarding shutter speed length of time can help even the most novice of beginners achieve what they are looking for, and produce awesome sharp images that will leave your family, friends or colleagues amazed.

Understanding the Different Modes on Your Camera - Beach Camera Blog
Previous article Secrets to Getting Great Photos at the Beach

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields