When you buy your first DSLR or mirrorless camera, you need to invest some time to familiarize yourself with all the small buttons, dials, and settings.
Unlike simple point-and-shoots, DSLR and mirrorless cameras are a bit more complicated – and offer a lot more options. One of the first things you need to become familiar with is the different priority modes.
Here is a breakdown of the four most commonly used priority modes on most cameras.
Auto mode is pretty much what it promises. If you choose this mode, your camera will apply all settings. It controls exposure, shutter speed, ISO and aperture. This is a popular option for those who are more interested in capturing the moment than a “technically correct“Image. However, images taken in automatic mode are technically correct.
Shooting in fully automatic mode is ideal for typical family vacation or birthday party pictures. This is also a good start for beginners as this mode allows you to take pictures and study the settings that the camera selects based on the scene.
From there, you can explore the various settings and learn how to change them to affect the overall technical quality of the images.
The aperture is one of the first settings that beginners become familiar with when learning the exposure triangle. The aperture determines two things; the amount of light that is allowed to enter through the opening of the lens and the depth of field.
With larger apertures (smaller f-numbers) more light can enter through the lens. This means that faster shutter speeds can be used, making it easier for you to freeze motion without worrying about the lack of light that hits your shutter due to the faster shutter speeds.
Large apertures also result in a much shallower depth of field, which results in a smaller focus plane. Shooting with large apertures is a great way to get a naturally blurred background (Bokeh), which allows the motif to stand out and be the center of attention.
If you shoot at narrower apertures like 1:11 or 1:16, your picture will be much sharper and sharper. In some cases, this may be the better option, especially when shooting large groups or landscapes.
If you have a specific aperture setting that you want your camera to be set to, but you want the camera to control the other settings, aperture priority is the best option. It captures every picture you take at the aperture setting you choose, while adjusting the other settings as needed.
The shutter speed also controls two things. When you determine the shutter speed, you determine how long the shutter stays open when you take a picture. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light you can get into your camera’s sensor.
However, there is also a risk of camera shake and blurring due to the subtle movement you allow when the shutter is open and the sensor records information.
In many cases, slow shutter speeds are not an option, especially not without a tripod. If you speed up the shutter, you have a better chance of freezing motion and reducing blur that will ruin your pictures. This results in less light falling on your sensor, so this has to be compensated for by other settings such as aperture or ISO.
If the shutter speed setting is your top priority, the shutter priority mode is the best choice. Simply set the appropriate speed and let the camera adjust the other settings accordingly to ensure proper exposure.
Manual mode is the most complex and intimidating setting for beginners. When you put your camera in this mode, you are in control of every single setting. It is up to you to choose the appropriate aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.
Many professional photographers prefer this option because they can fully control the result of their pictures. Of course, post-processing images can always be optimized, but if you’re a professional photographer, time is money. If you get it as close as possible to the right camera, you can save a lot of time by opening these images in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Recording in manual mode requires patience and practice. If you start in one of the other priority modes and get to know them first, the transition can be made considerably easier if you can adjust all the settings yourself. Have fun shooting!