Camera's shooting modes :: Photo basics tutorial and tips

Photo basics #3: Camera's shooting modes

Did you ever wonder how to use this all icons and letters on your camera? In the last part of our photo basics course, we learned about ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Now it's time to apply these settings on your camera.

Camera icon modes
Camera icon modes

Icon modes

This are automatic camera settings for specific situations. Let's start by describing them:

  • Sports mode - this is used for sports photography.
  • Portrait mode - this is used for a portrait photography.
  • Night mode - you can use it to photograph at night.
  • Landscape photography mode - to photography landscapes.
  • Marco mode - this can be used for a macro photography (close-ups).

If you just started to using your camera, you will probably think that these modes should be enough and there is no need to learn how more advanced modes work. That's unfortunately wrong thinking.

Imagine a situation when you have to photo the group of people, for example on the wedding or another party. You shoot people, so you set the portrait mode. But this mode will set the aperture to very low because it thinks you want shallow depth-of-field, but you don't.

This can be set by using other modes and we call them the creative modes. That are Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual Mode and they all in mostly cameras signed by P, A, S and M letters. Let's learn them now.

Cameras Creative Modes
Cameras Creative Modes

Aperture Priority Mode (A or AV)

This is the mode that is probably the best to start if you learn photography because it's simple to use and you are still able to make a lot of creative choices.

When you shoot photos on the aperture priority mode, you are able to set your ISO and aperture. The camera is setting the shutter speed for you to make your picture properly exposed.

The main thing you need to learn shooting in aperture priority mode is to control the depth-of-field. If you will set high aperture (f-stop), you will get a full depth-of-field. By setting aperture low, you will make it shallow. If you will learn how to use the aperture control, you photos will dramatically improve.

Depth of field in Photography
Depth of field in photography is very important because it decide how your photo will look.

Shutter priority mode (S or TV)

In this mode, you can set your ISO and shutter speed and the camera will set the aperture automatically.

The shutter priority mode may seem to be a useful mode, but in fact (and my opinion) it's not. People say that it is a good mode for a sports photography, but the problem is that you cannot set the depth-of-field so you won't have a control how the picture will look.

And when you cannot control how your photography will look, for me the shutter priority mode is useless. Of course, try shooting in this mode on your own and decide for yourself.

Manual mode (M)

When people launch manual mode for the first time I often see they are terrified. When you start using it, it seems to be hard, but after you will get some experience you will see that it's much easier than it seems.

Manual mode, of course, lets you set all three camera settings: shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. I use this mode in almost every situation I don't need to hurry, like with architecture or landscape photography.

Program mode (P)

The program mode sets the aperture and the shutter speed for you and leaves you only ISO.

I never use this mode because when you don't control shutter speed your photo can be blurry, and when you cannot control aperture (f-stop) you have no idea how your photo will look like because it sets the depth-of-field.


You finished third part of my photography tutorial and this time you learned about the camera's shooting modes.

I know at the start it may seem hard to use non-automatic modes but after some time and when you gain some experience you will see it's getting easier and easier. Try to shoot as much as you can with your own ISO, shutter speed, and aperture and you will learn how to use it faster.

Wojciech Kuźma

My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my photography blog. I started my adventure with photography a few years ago and all I know, I learned myself, mainly from the Internet (which proves that for those who want nothing is difficult).

If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!

4.29 | 7 votes
Comments: 10
  •   8th May 2017, 17:31

    I'm learning photography basics from your course, and now its time to try this all modes you described. Wish me luck!

  •   18th September 2017, 19:58

    Whats Taking place im new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively helpful and it has aided me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid different users like its aided me. Good job.

  •   21th September 2017, 21:02

    Hi there to every body, its my first go to see of this blog; this blog consists of remarkable and truly excellent stuff for visitors.

  •   13th November 2017, 15:40

    Good tutorial, hope you will write another article soon! Ive learned here a lot about camera shooting modes and other photography basics tips.

  •   9th March 2018, 22:19

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  •   8th May 2018, 18:29

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  •   17th July 2018, 22:51

    Great tips, it helped me a lot to learn the basics :)

  •   4th June 2019, 23:09

    This text was translated automatically. Original text is below: Propsy za dzielenie się więdzę ;)

  •   26th February 2020, 08:36

    They will probably start you on developing black and white photographs. Mainly because of costs because it takes less chemicals and less time to develop.

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