The Beginners Photography Guide to Digital Camera Modes
Having covered the different Automatic
Modes and Automatic Scene
Modes we continue our
explanation of digital camera modes by looking at the Semi Automatic and Manual Modes
found on today's digital cameras.
While the majority of beginning photographers are likely to leave their camera in automatic mode it still helps to understand the many different digital camera modes available to you and the limitations and advantages of them.
Aperture Priority ModeAperture Priority Mode is one of the most popular modes for advanced and professional photographers because of the extra control it gives you not only over the exposure but also the depth of field. In this mode you manually set what F-Stop (aperture) using the control dial and the camera will select the correct shutter speed to properly exposure the image. As with other semi-automatic modes the setting changes you make, such as ISO speed, etc. are retained by the camera when you shut it off so it is easy to go right back to your preset settings.
This mode is great to use when you want to make sure you have the largest aperture (smallest depth of field) for blurring the background. It is also useful when you want to make sure you are using the fastest possible shutter speed, because by selecting the lowest F-Stop (largest aperture opening) the camera will automatically choose the fastest shutter speed possible for those lighting conditions.
Shutter Speed Priority ModeShutter Speed Priority Mode is another important semi-automatic digital camera modes. In this mode you select the shutter speed you want and the camera will automatically choose the aperture (lens opening) needed to properly expose the picture. This mode can be used when you want to be sure and keep a slow shutter speed in order to blur motion. An example would be when you take a picture of a river or waterfall and you want a slow shutter speed to smooth out the water giving it that soft, flowing look. Or it might be used when you need to keep your shutter speed at a higher speed to be able to stop motion. When you use this mode you control the shutter speed by using the control dial and the camera will select the F-stop.
One of the disadvantages of this mode is that if you set your shutter speed high or low enough you risk having an overexposed or underexposed image because the lens only has a certain range of F-stops available. This can result in over or under exposed images under certain lighting conditions. This reason as well as the fact you have little control over your depth of field using this mode are why I prefer aperture priority mode the majority of the time.
Manual Exposure ModeManual Exposure mode is just as the name suggests...totally manual. You set both the shutter speed and F-stop regardless of what the camera's exposure meter says. This mode offers the greatest flexibility of all as far as letting the photographer control the exposure and is useful in tricky lighting situations or when the camera has a hard time determining the correct exposure. Today manual exposure mode is often overlooked and seldom used by many if not most photographers. While one of the other semi-automatic modes will generally allow enough flexibility for even the most difficult lighting conditions, learning to use the manual mode can come in very handy especially when taking long exposure photographs of fireworks or other nighttime scenes.
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