What are digital camera modes

This dial helps choose the camera mode. Each mode is like a sushi set that includes specific aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings to create an image with the best exposure for this or that shooting environment. Depending on their goals, photographers can choose some predefined controls set without having to adjust each of the above-mentioned settings manually.

Various DSLR camera types can include different modes, however, most likely you will see several automatic, semi-automatic, and manual ones.

Digital camera modes wheel

The first images will most likely be made in the automatic mode as its name kinda suggests that the machine will make the best photos for your future family slideshows itself. Then comes the time when beginners get interested in other controls.

Let’s have the most common camera shooting modes explained in more detail.

Manual (M)

This mode is a fully manual one. It is best for experienced photographers, who understand how changing the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO independently affects the overall exposure. It is necessary to choose all the parameters for every photo in advance based on the shooting conditions and session goals.

Aperture-priority (A or Av)

This mode is a semi-automatic one. It allows controlling the aperture only. The camera will determine the rest of the settings. It is good when you want to decide whether you need the blurred background or everything should be sharp.

Aperture priority mode photo example

Shutter-priority (S or Tv)

This mode is also semi-automatic. This time, it allows controlling the shutter speed only. The device will then take care of the aperture and ISO. It is perfect for shooting fast-moving subjects if you want to freeze the motion. Then you would choose a fast shutter.

Fast shutter priority mode photo example

Conversely, a slow one can blur the motion.

Slow shutter priority mode photo example

Program (P)

We are closely moving to less manual settings and this one is a programmed automatic mode. The device handles optimal exposure and determines the best combination for the aperture and shutter speed. Photographers have relative control over them — they cannot set specific values, however, they can choose various combinations. It is also possible to change some other functions, like the flash, white balance, ISO, and so on.

Automatic (Auto, camera icon, or rectangle)

This mode is a fully automatic one. Usually, it is marked green on the camera wheel. The device handles all the exposure parameters including flash, white balance, focus, and so on. It is suitable for any conditions and subjects, but preferably still ones.

Other modes

As a rule, cameras have additional fully automatic modes that are geared up for some particular shooting situations or scenes. On the main dial, they go after “Auto” in a clockwise direction. Usually, they are represented with icons that speak for themselves and explain when it is best to choose any of them.

  • Portrait (face symbol)

    This mode is used for portrait photography. It widens the aperture, makes the camera look for and focuses on the face, and blurs the background at the same time.

  • Macro (flower symbol)

    This mode helps make close-up photos, for example, small details, flowers, insects, or other objects that will be close to the lens.

  • Landscape (mountain symbol)

    This mode is great for shooting landscapes. It narrows the aperture to have a larger depth of field with all the details in focus.

  • Sports (running man symbol)

    This mode is perfect for situations when the object is moving fast — sports, wildlife, action. The ISO is increased and shutter speed is set fast to capture the motion.

  • Night (night symbol)

    This mode is helpful in low-light situations. It sets the slow shutter and turns on the flash to capture the subject and nearby details. A tripod can be useful for camera stabilization.

Finally, depending on the manufacturer, there can be many other automatic modes, like Snow, Beach, Panoramic, Underwater, Fireworks, Movie, and so on. However, if you are no longer a novice, try avoiding fully automated settings and instead use the semi-manual or manual ones to get more predictable results. Moreover, with a professional camera, most likely, there won’t be any presets.