Chapter 8: Different Camera Modes – Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide

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Welcome to the eighth chapter of Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide.

In the last Chapter 7: Metering And Metering Modes, we took an in depth look at different types of metering modes and what it does to your image. In this Chapter 8 of Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide we will take an in depth look at Different Types Of Camera Modes In Photography. So, let’s get started.

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Introduction To Camera Modes

Digital Camera Modes are pre-programmed settings that allows you to take control over the parameters of exposure, namely shutter speed, aperture and ISO. When you buy a digital camera, it will come with a selection of camera modes. They are useful when you are starting out, but also for the experienced photographer who needs to capture a shot fast.

Camera Mode Dial

Some Camera Modes are fully automated which lets your camera decide the settings for your photograph while some are semi-automated which lets you control few settings and lets camera decides the other settings and some camera modes allows you to take full control over the settings.

Today, most digital cameras have various types of camera modes that can be used in different situations. While most point and shoot cameras concentrate on automatic modes for simplicity’s sake, more advanced cameras feature modes that allow both automatic and manual exposure control.

In order to become a good photographer you need to familiarize yourself with these settings and get comfortable with them.

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Different Types Of Camera Modes

There are many different types of camera modes, they are divded into three categories which are as follows:

  1. Fully Automated Camera Modes: Each and every camera modes in this category lets your camera to decide the best settings for your photograph. Fully automated modes are especially useful for a beginner photographer.
  2. Semi-Automated Camera Modes: Each and every camera modes in this category lets you (photographer) decides certain settings while camera will automatically decides the rest of the settings. In simple words, you have control over certain settings while your camera decides the rest of the settings. Although Semi-Automated Modes can be considered as intermediate level, there are also many professional photographers who use this modes.
  3. Manual Camera Mode: There is only one camera mode in this category which is manual mode (we will talk about it further). This category is used by professional photographers.

Now, let’s take a look at the different camera modes in each category:

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1. Fully Automated Camera Modes

As mentioned earlier, each and every camera modes in this category lets your camera decides the settings for the photograph you want to take. Here are different fully automated camera modes as follows with in depth information on what it does to your image:

1. Auto Mode

In Auto Mode, camera chooses the optimum shutter speed, aperture, ISO and flash settings for your photograph. All you need to do is point and shoot. This can be good if you have no idea of what settings to choose and also when you need to shoot quickly.

Shutter Speed: 1/640, Aperture: f/11.0, ISO 400.

The image here is correctly exposed as the day is well lit, though auto mode may struggle in situations where the light is uneven, and it tends to trigger the flash even when it’s not necessary.

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2. Portrait Mode

Portrait Photography

Portrait mode widens the aperture to throw the background out of focus. The camera may recognize and focus on a human face. Portrait mode will “think” that there is a subject in the foreground of the frame and choose a shallow depth of field to keep the human subject in focus but the background blurred.

If the camera reads the scene as dark, it will add fill-in flash. Fill-in flash is useful in sunny conditions too, when the sun casts a harsh shadow. Portrait mode generally works best in well-lit conditions.

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3. Macro Mode

The Macro mode is a setting on your camera that you can use to take close-up pictures of small objects such as insects or flowers.

Macro Photography (90 mm lens)

Remember that macro mode will not give you super close up images; for this, you will need a macro lens. Macro mode will work best in bright conditions and will choose a shallow depth of field to focus on the subject. Therefore, if light is low, use a tripod.

Your focusing also has to be more precise when taking a macro image. This is because when you use a shallow depth of field, you give yourself a smaller margin for error.

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4. Landscape Mode

When you select Landscape Mode, you are telling the camera you’re shooting scenery. The camera will record vivid colors, and set a small aperture for maximum depth of field. You may also need a tripod, as the shutter speed may be too slow to handhold the camera without blurring the image.

Landscape Photography. (24mm lens)

Landscape mode tends to suit a wide lens and works well if the scene is well lit. It will use flash if it reads the foreground as too dark, but you can manually turn this off.

5. Sports Mode

Sports Mode is an easy way to instantly change your camera into an action capturing machine.  The sports mode will usually automatically set the camera to increase the shutter speed in order to freeze the action in the frame. Sports mode may also be called action mode on some digital cameras.

Surfing Sports Photography

With a high shutter speed to freeze movement, means that the flash is usually not necessary – though once again this works best on a bright day. Sports mode can work well alongside continuous shooting mode, where images are taken consecutively resulting in many shots that capture the action.

Remember, in sports mode sometimes your photo may come blurry while shooting handheld. So, I recommend using tripod or some kind of stabilizer if you are moving while shooting in sports mode.

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6. Night Portrait Mode

In the night portrait mode, the camera will try to balance the darkness of the background with the need to light the subject in the foreground.

Night Portrait

The aperture will have to be fairly wide to allow enough light in to capture the background and keep the subject in focus, but at the same time flash is necessary to illuminate the person and avoid blur. Sometimes the night portrait mode will double flash, creating an unusual double exposure look.

This completes the list of fully automated camera modes. Although I may have mentioned earlier that it is good for beginners but there are times when you are in a hurry you may end up using one of this camera modes.

Bottom line is that even professional photographers use it some times whether they might be in a hurry or just want to take few test shots and decide the settings by analyzing shots taken in automated camera modes.

Now that you know what each fully automated camera modes does, let’s take a look at next category:

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2. Semi-Automated Camera Modes

As mentioned earlier, Each and every camera modes in this category lets you (photographer) decides certain settings while camera will automatically decides the rest of the settings. Semi-automated camera modes are usually used by intermediate as well as professional photographers.

Here are different semi-automated camera modes with in depth information on what it does to your photograph:

1. Program Mode

In Program mode, the camera automatically chooses the aperture and the shutter speed for you, based on the amount of light that passes through the lens. This is the mode you want to use for point and shoot moments, when you just need to quickly snap a picture. Program mode frees you to override the settings if you want to.

 If you point the camera to a bright area, the aperture will automatically increase to a bigger number, while keeping the shutter speed reasonably fast. Pointing the camera to a darker area will decrease the aperture to a lower number, in order to maintain a reasonably fast shutter speed. If there is not enough light, the lens aperture will stay at the lowest number (maximum aperture), while the shutter speed will keep on decreasing until it reaches proper exposure.

2. Aperture Priority Mode

In Aperture Priority mode, you manually set the lens aperture, while the camera automatically picks the right shutter speed to properly expose the image. You have full control over subject isolation and you can play with the depth of field, because you can increase or decrease the lens aperture and let the camera do the math on measuring the right shutter speed.

If there is too much light, the camera will automatically increase the shutter speed, while if you are in a low-light environment, the camera will decrease the shutter speed. I recommend using Aperture Priority Mode if you are a beginner photographer and want to learn or start shooting while you set camera settings manually.

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3. Shutter Priority Mode

In Shutter Priority mode, you manually set the camera’s shutter speed and the camera automatically picks the right aperture for you, based on the amount of light that passes through the lens. I recommend beginner photographers to use this mode if you want to intentionally blur or freeze motion.

If there is too much light, the camera will increase the lens aperture to a higher number, which decreases the amount of light that passes through the lens. If there is not enough light, the camera will decrease the aperture to the lowest number, so that more light passes through the lens.

Now that you know what the program mode, aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode does to your image, lets get to our next and last category:

3. Manual Camera Mode

As mentioned earlier, that there is only one camera mode in this category which is called manual mode itself. Now lets take an in depth look on what it does:

1. Manual Mode

As the name suggests, Manual mode stands for a full manual control of aperture, shutter speed and each and every camera settings such as ISO. In Manual Mode/ you have full control over the settings, you can decide the camera settings for the photograph you want to take.

Manual mode on a camera allows the photographer to determine the exposure of an image by letting them select an aperture value and a shutter speed value. This give you ultimate control over the look of the photo, but you must have a deep understanding of exposure, and how shutter speed and aperture affect it.

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Remember shooting in Manual Mode does not make you a ‘Pro’ it is just a myth. In fact most of the professional photographer prefer shooting in semi-automatic camera modes such as aperture priority mode. I would recommend using Manual Mode only when your camera is not able to decide perfect settings for the photograph you desire or you want to intentionally create effects such as freeze motion or shallow depth of field.

How To Set Or Change Different Camera Modes

The camera mode dial is typically clearly visible on all entry-level and semi-professional cameras, it is a large rotatable circle that has the modes listed as “P”, “S”, “A” and “M” while some camera might have “P”, “Tv”, “Av” and “M” which is “P” for program mode, “S” or “Tv” for shutter priority mode, “A” or “Av” for aperture priority mode and “M” for manual mode. There will be different types of symbols for fully automated camera modes it may differ in different camera and some professional cameras may not have them.

Camera Mode Dial

Summary Of Chapter 8

Some people consider it amateurish to use predetermined settings, when in fact there may be times when we are in a rush and cannot adjust everything manually. Remember that using these modes will teach you about photography and ideal settings for different conditions. If in doubt, you can use Auto camera mode, then adjust the settings manually. Auto settings are there to be used, so try them all and become familiar with what each one does. As you grow in experience I recommend you to switch to semi-automatic mode.

This is the end of Chapter 8: Different Camera Modes of the Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide. You can subscribe to The Black Light Studios website to stay tuned and get notifications on the upcoming chapters. In the mean time you can check my other posts on this website.

This is it for this post. Thank You! for visiting The Black Light Studios, I hope you find this article helpful to you and got the information you were looking for. Stay tuned for more posts like these by subscribing to The Black Light Studios website. If you have any suggestion or feedback comment down below or contact us through the contact form via contact menu.

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