The choice of what mode to put the camera in is one of many debates among pros. I have discovered that each mode has it’s purpose when you consider the pluses and minuses. The only hard and fast rule I have found is that if you’re not getting the results you want, trying another mode could solve your problems.
First to consider is your knowledge of photographic principles. They’re not that hard to learn, but hard to put into actual practice. To get out of auto, you need to understand –
- Shutter Speed
Learn how these work together to get an exposure.
Here is how I use the different settings with my basic knowledge of exposure.
Automatic or “P”
Pros will tell you that a real photographer is never in this mode. They’re wrong. Some photographers actually pride themselves on never using anything other that auto-mode on their cameras. They know the limitations and they don’t care. Journalistic and street photographers are keen to it because they can free their minds from worrying about their equipment and focus their efforts on the photos that they’re trying to take.
Myself, this is where I try to leave the camera set when I turn it off. If I want the camera working fast for that split second shot, auto-mode is my best chance. I enjoy stream-of-consciousness photography where I just shoot things as they come to me and auto-mode allows me to be ready for that.
They downside to auto is that it’s just a computer following an algorithm in an attempt to create a good photo. There are some situations that are just impossible for the camera’s computer to figure out. They can’t tell when you want a silhouette. Another example would be that they cannot focus where there is not a good contrasting line to focus on. There most certainly are limitations and you will find them in your work.
If auto works for you, use it. Camera manufacturers keep improving auto-mode and scene modes and certainly do free the photographers mind.
Aperture Priority And Shutter Priority Mode
I learned on an aperture priority mode Minolta 35mm camera many years ago. In those days, that was all that this particular Minolta camera had. I tend to favor this mode of shooting. Aperture priority allows the photographer to control how much of the photo is in focus. It’s an easy artistic effect where focus can be on or off of a subject.Aperture mode will attempt to put the shutter speed at an appropriate match to the shutter speed. I know that I need a fast shutter speed to freeze motion and reduce blur, so in aperture mode, I increase the size of the aperture to let in more light. This allows for faster shutter speeds which accomplishes the task. Conversely, if I want more of the photo in focus, I know that in care reduce the aperture size which will lower the shutter speed. If I slow the shutter to much, I know it will blur movement.
Learning the limits of your camera and lens are a must for aperture and shutter priority modes. Knowing the effect of the settings help you choose the correct settings for these modes. The more you practice with these modes, the easier and faster you can make the correct settings for your desired outcome.I frequently use these modes when I have enough time to contemplate what I want the outcome of the photo to be. I am skilled enough to use them in a hurry when the light conditions are not complicated. Landscape, stage events, family gatherings, etc. are examples when I have the extra time to consider these settings.
In the other modes, the photographer relies on the metering and computer sensor of the camera to choose the setting. For perfect photos, many times the camera just isn’t good enough and I can manually choose each of the settings for exactly what I want. It takes practice and I still have to “chimp” and look at the live view screen to judge my output. Pros generally claim better results and site their extensive experience.
I shy away from anyone telling me that all manual, all of the time is the only way to take great photos. Using it all of the time can certainly reduce the number of chances you have to capture the moments and that takes way from enjoying the craft of photography. On the other side of that coin, producing perfect images because you knew exactly what the settings should be for the desired effect produces results and gives a sense of pride. If you never reach the point of all manual, all-of the-time, don’t let it bother you.
Weigh The Benefits Of The Modes
Consider the benefits(and downfalls) of the modes you’re using. Auto is going to give you more photos of lesser quality than learning to choose a setting and get precision in the other modes. Aperture and shutter priority have their uses and the photographer will have an increased number of correct exposures when they learn to use these modes with skill and purposeful intent. Manual will produce the exact exposure that the photographer wants, but it’s time consuming to use and it takes knowledged and a bit of intuition to get the best setting.
Above all practice with the different modes frequently until you know what is possible with camera. The more you practice, the more you’ll understand the results, and the less you’ll care what the “pros” think.