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Digital Camera Modes

Every type of modern camera with the exception of a few extremely expensive DSLR cameras have a set of automatic modes to choose from. Point and shoot cameras all rely on these automated shooting modes as they do not have a lot of customizable options. In this article we are going to look at what these auto modes do and how you can use them to take better pictures.

some text Mode dial for a Nikon D3000

Above is a standard DSLR Mode select wheel. It is similar to what you might find on a point and shoot camera but with a few more options. Typically a point and shoot camera won't have the M A S or P options. These allow you to manually control the two most important parts of exposure, Aperture and Shutter speed in different ways.

M- Manual allows you to control both aperture and shutter speed

A- Aperture-priority auto allows you to to adjust aperture settings while keeping other settings automatic. This is mostly used for changing depth of field.

S-Shutter-Priority auto allows you to adjust how long your exposure is. This can change how your photos look in motion either to increase motion or compensate for it.

P- Programmed auto controls both shutter and aperture but allows you to change other settings.

Almost all cameras have some modes for different picture taking settings. While it may be easy to stay on auto, taking the extra second to understand and use the rest of the modes will help you take better pictures.

some text
Auto- Standard point and shoot mode for all cameras. You pick the shot and the camera does the rest.

some text
No Flash Auto- Same as auto but with flash disabled.

some text
Portrait mode- Increases aperture size for a smaller depth of field. This will allow you to bring your subject in focus while leaving the background blurry.

some text
Landscape- Decreased aperture for largest possible depth of field.

some text
Macro- For very small subjects or close ups. Extremely small depth of field of only a few milometers.

some text
Motion- Very fast shutter speed for quickly moving subjects.

some text
Night- For shooting portraits in low light.

When you are using auto mode the camera will attempt to select these for you or more often just put everything in the picture in focus. Even with point and shoot cameras you can create a lot of the same effects of a more expensive models by using the appropriate camera mode. These will prevent a lot of unfortunate pictures and can allow you to photograph things you didn't know you could.

For questions on this or any other article feel free to email me at


Lawrence    8.24.11

You said, "Aperture auto allows you to to adjust aperture settings" but you never explained what aperture was. How can you use the word as part of its own definition?

Tyler     9.01.11

A discussion on what an aperture is and how it functions was too lengthy to fit in this article. There will be and article explaining aperture soon!

Sailor     10.12.11

I found just what I was needed, and it was entertaiinng!

Holland     11.21.11

Hey, sutlbe must be your middle name. Great post!

Keithe    8.24.11

This sentence doesn't make sence?

Even with point and shoot cameras you can create a lot of the same effects of a more expensive models by using the appropriate camera modes."

Karl    9.09.11

Aperture is a measure of the open area of the lens expressed in a way that it means the same thing to the exposure of the picture regardless of the focal length of the specific lens. The words "adjust the aperture settings" could be replaced with "adjust the lens opening." However, a circular definition is not as great a flaw in an article during the age of the Google dictionary.

I suggest you retain the article as the survey deion and make the modes active links as you write about them individually. It is mystifying to take a fuzzy picture using zoom when you are set to macro and do not realize it.

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