Know Your Camera Modes

DSLR camera modes explained- learn all about the different modes and what they do. Also awesome tips for Point and Shoot Camera Modes!  #photography #loveyourcameraDid you see Monday’s post that was devoted to getting to know different lenses for your DSLR? Today I am talking camera- specifically all of the different modes you can chose on your camera to get the best photographs, according to your situation and skill level.

This guide is just a basic toolkit to know which mode does what- but for more information, please check out my posts on light, aperture 1, aperture 2, shutter speed, aperture priority mode,  and manual mode (cheat sheet 1 and 2). You might also want to check out my post on ISO as well.

The first modes are DSLR specific, but the second set of settings can be found on many point and shoot cameras- and can be really, really helpful!

For DSLR’s: 

A-Dep- or automatic depth of field, allows you to chose the depth of field (amount of the photograph you’d like in focus) and the camera will choose the correct shutter speed and aperture to get you the photo you want. While this is a nice feature, I prefer total control and usually would rather just go full manual. If manual (and AV/ or A mode) confuse you, A-Dep isnt a terrible place to start.

M- or Manual mode, means you are totally in control. You pick the aperture, the shutter speed and the ISO. While this might seem scary, it really can be easy. Check out some of my cheat sheets- here or here to help understand it more.

AV or A- Aperture Priority mode, means you pick the aperture, and the camera will find the correct shutter speed for the amount of light that you have. This is the first semi-maunal mode I suggest people try out because it will help you learn about aperture and ISO quickly, without having to fiddle around with shutter speed. If your photos turn out too light or too dark, simply adjust your aperture.

I personally use AV mode when I am shooting something that moves quickly (ie:kids, family outings) and the lighting isnt consistent. I don’t always want to be chained to my camera, fiddling through aperture and shutter speed settings- so I’ll just set the aperture in AV mode and be able to shoot quickly.

TV- or shutter priority mode- means you pick the speed you want, and the camera will set a proper aperture. While I can see uses for this if you just aren’t getting results you like in manual and you’d like to find a “trick shot”, I don’t recommend this mode often.

P- or Program Mode, is like Automatic mode’s juiced up big brother. Program mode is like full auto in that it will find the correct settings for you- but you can do a little aperture and ISO setting, as well as remain in control of your flash. While this mode can bring you far better results than full auto, you also remain pretty limited to what the camera thinks is best instead of allowing yourself the control over the shot. If you are new to DSLR’s and want to start somewhere easy, I’d start here, then move up to AV mode before transitioning to full manual.

CA- or Creative Auto Mode lets you adjust brightness and sharpness in an Auto setting to also give you a little more control over auto. If you’re going through the extra steps of fiddling around with the right brightness and sharpness, however, I’d just check out a manual or semi-manual mode instead.

Green Box– Full auto. The camera will determine all settings, will require you to use flash or not, and basically be used like a “point and shoot” camera.

Box with a lightning bolt and a line through it– full auto, no flash.


DSLR Full Auto and Point and Shoot Modes

portrait-mode-1Portrait- Portrait mode allows your camera to select a large aperture (small number) which helps to keep your background out of focus. Portrait mode works best when you’re photographing a single subject so get in close enough to your subject.


landscape-icon-1Landscape Mode- This mode allows you to capture bright landscapes by setting up a higher f-stop (lower aperture). You can be far away and capture large, beautiful scenes.



 Macro Mode- This mode allows you to get up close to your subject to photograph intricate details by setting a lower number/ higher aperture. Great for craft/food photography and product shots. Basically the exact opposite from the landscape mode.


night-1 Night mode- This setting allows you to hold your shutter open so you can get a long exposure in low light. To make this look good, you’ll really want to invest in a tripod and a remote… but you can also play with this to make fun blurry shots!


sports-icon-1Sports Mode- This setting allows you to take quick pictures by increasing your shutter speed so you can capture all the action in quick bursts.


 Mmovie-2ovie Mode- pretty self explanatory. If your camera allows for video filming, this mode will get you great movies.

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3 thoughts on “Know Your Camera Modes”

  1. Courtney~ I have been reading through your blog and I have to say you have become my favorite blog. Thank you for all your hard work and sharing.

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