Tog-Talk with Kevin Ahronson
April 08, 2022
Photography Basics No.5 Camera Shooting Modes

Believe it or not, there are more ways to take a photo than by simply leaving the camera switched to AUTO. If you really want to take creative control of your photos, now's the time to take the plunge and experiment with some of the more popular AUTO alternatives.

Believe it or not, there are more ways to take a photo than by simply leaving the camera switched to AUTO.

AUTO mode is great for beginners and those who just want to shoot snaps, but if you want to take control of your camera and unleash your creative potential, you need to come out of AUTO and explore some of the other shooting modes.

Common Camera Shooting Modes

Depending on your camera (because not all cameras are the same), your will normally have a choice of:

  • AUTO
  • Program Mode (not all cameras have this)
  • Aperture Priority Mode
  • Shutter Priority Mode
  • Manual Mode

Program Mode
Program Mode is useful, although for some reason it's not that popular.  I've rarely met anyone who uses it.  It's just like shooting in AUTO but... it allows you to override some of the camera's settings.  This gives you some very useful creative control.

Aperture Priority Mode
The world's most popular shooting mode, used by more photographers than any other mode.  It's fast, easy... and you still have a lot of additional control to override the camera's settings if the image needs tweaking. 

In this mode, you chose the aperture (you give priority to the aperture) and the camera does the rest.  It's a kind of 'semi-automatic' mode, working out what shutter speed to shoot at... based on the aperture you've chosen.  Choosing the aperture is important if you want to control your Depth-of-Field (how much of your image is going to be in focus).

Shutter Priority Mode
This is the opposite of Aperture Priority.  You choose the shutter and the camera will pick an aperture.  Often used by sports and wildlife photographers, or anyone else shooting fast-moving subjects.

Manual Mode
Often thought of by many to be the shooting mode of choice for professionals.  But they would be wrong.  Granted, it is probably more popular amongst pros, most of them still shoot in Aperture Priority most of the time. 

Respective Pros & Cons
There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these modes, familiarity with them could help you pick the right one for the right situation.  No one, single-mode is best for everything, or for every camera type.  For instance, I shoot mostly in Aperture Priority when using my DSLR cameras, but mostly Manual when using my mirrorless cameras.  However, I am happy to switch between modes as the job requires.

Some of the photography courses and workshops run at our training centre in Fleet, Hampshire

Run four times a year, this one-day photography workshop will equip you with the knowledge you need to move from simply being a camera-owner… to becoming a real photographer!

Whether you're photographing your kids, snapping your holidays or you're hoping to progress your photography to a more creative level, you'll still need a solid grasp of the basics.

Students on the Photography Masterclass will immerse themselves in photography for a whole year, working as part of the larger group but also in smaller groups of 2 or 3, supporting and assisting each other.

This is a ten-module photography course with photo-assignments between sessions.  Each session lasts three hours and will include time to examine assignment images and take part in practicals (where appropriate).

Use this online tool to assess your photography knowledge and get a snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses.