So you got yourself a new camera. Maybe it’s your Christmas present, a birthday gift, or you bought it to spoil yourself and want to get into photography. If you play around with your camera, you will see that the dialer with several different icons and letters. You may not be aware of all the different modes so thats where we come in to help, we’ve wrote an introduction to camera modes to help you fully understand everything your camera has to offer.

What are Digital Camera Modes?

Digital Camera Modes allow the photographer to control the parameters of an images exposure, specifically, Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. While certain modes can fully automate the images exposure, there are other modes that allow the photographer to manually control some or all aspects of the images exposure.

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, more advanced cameras such as semi Pros and DSLRs feature modes that allow both automatic and manual exposure control.

There are mainly 4 types of camera modes:

1. Aperture priority (A)(Av)

2. Shutter priority (Tv)(S)

3. Program (P)

4. Manual (M)


Aperture has two uses in photography. It controls the amount of light that is let in to the lens and controls the depth of field — the wide or narrow focus of your subject. How much light is let into the aperture is determined by how much wide or narrow the aperture is.

If you are looking for a clear and sharp image, use aperture f/14 – f/22. This represents an aperture that is very narrow which lets in a small amount of light. Your image will be very sharp and everything is in focus. If you want a wider aperture and you want everything in the background to be out of focus, you’ll need to open up that aperture up to f/1.9 or f/1.4 which lets in a lot more light.  Mostly everything in the background other then the subject your shooting will be blurry which gives you a nice shallow depth of field.

You can get a clear idea by observing the figure below.


Shutter priority controls the speed of your shutter. If you want to photograph someone in motion, a fast shutter speed will capture the action,  keeping the image nice and sharp. In shutter priority, while controlling the shutter speed, you cannot control the aperture. The aperture automatically adjusts itself according to what’s in your image. To clearly capture a subject in full motion without motion blur you must use a fast shutter speed (1/2000). If you would like to show off the speed of a subject with slight motion blur use a slow shutter speed (1/125). The camera will automatically choose a smaller aperture as a result.


Photographers use program mode to control action. Photographers use program mode to Control action and depth of field. The “program” in program

mode refers to the shutter speed and aperture combo. Whether you choose auto or program, the camera chooses an aperture and shutter speed combination that will give you a good exposure.

This mode is mostly used for a quick “point and shoot”. If want a quick shot of something happening at the moment and you want an instant Capture but also a “relatively” good looking image, this is the one you go for.


Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO all work together. Each one compliments the other.

We talked about shutter speed and aperture before. Lets talk about ISO. ISO controls the sensitivity of the sensor. ISO comes into play in low light situations. In these situations, what you want to do is crank up the ISO to raise the sensitivity of light on the sensor. You can do the same in over exposed scenarios as well. The easiest way to understand ISO is that it’s a fake light. The higher the ISO the more light the sensor receives and more grainy the image may become, this is called a noisy image. This is where shutter speed and aperture come into play. You have to take into account all three of them to balance an image. This is what manual mode is for. It gives you full control over your cameras image.

It is important to have clear knowledge about shutter speed, aperture and ISO as these are the fundamental aspects of photography. You can also remember these as the “Exposure Triangle”

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Written by guest blogger Abid Fahad


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