Time to take control.
In the previous post we looked at the exposure triangle, and how the different elements (ISO, shutter speed, aperture) interact. If you haven’t read that one, click here.
The exposure triangle sets the base for the camera modes. Depending on what brand of camera you use, you might have modes similar to the Sony system I use.
My camera has the following exposure modes: (P) Program mode, (A) Aperture priority, (S) Shutter priority, and (M) Manual mode.
Note that “A” might be “Av”, “S” might be “Tv” if you’re shooting with a Canon.
So if you know from last post, that light (or the exposure) of the picture is influenced by the ISO, the aperture, and the shutter speed, the we can look at what mode to use to get the desired effect for your picture.
So which mode is right for you? Let’s first explain what each mode does relating to the exposure triangle.
Program mode (P)
This mode gives you a bit more control over your camera’s settings. When you turn the dial, you will see that the camera automatically balances the aperture and shutter speed for the exposure you have chosen. It will set the optimum shutter speed and aperture for the exposure.
When to use it?
When you quickly want your camera to decide what aperture and shutter speed to use, while having some sort of control. The P mode lets you fiddle with the aperture and shutter speed combo. The camera will always keep your exposure good and thus reduces risk of under- or overexposure significantly.
Quick adaptations — Auto exposure — Quick scene detection by camera — For those starting with manual modes — When traveling — Many different scenes
Aperture mode (A)
This mode will let you set the aperture you want. The camera sets the shutter speed and ISO automatically to make sure the exposure is correct for the chosen aperture settings. The mode only locks in the aperture and then automatically regulates other settings. Many cameras still give control over the ISO, but setting it too high or too low might result in under- or overexposure.
When to use it?
With the aperture mode you can change the range in focus and the amount of background blur. So if you want a picture with a blurry background, this is the mode to go for. Just set the camera into aperture mode, turn the dial to the widest (lowest f-value) aperture and take your pictures. Note that the camera sets the ISO and shutter speed by itself, so beware for noise or a too long shutter speed that makes your picture blurry because of movement when the shutter was open. In the picture below you see that the subject is in focus, while the background is nice and blurry (taken at f3.5). For getting the sharpest images with reasonable depth of field, set your f-value to around f8, this is the “sweet spot” for most lenses. The highest f-value (narrowest aperture) does not always result in sharper images! Get to know your lens.
Create a shallow depth of field — Create very sharp images — Portrait pictures — Focus on a subject — Blurry environment — Dreamy pictures — People — Landscapes
Shutter mode (S)
This mode allows you to set a certain shutter speed, the time the camera will record an image or capture light. The camera will set the aperture and ISO settings automatically to get a properly exposed photo. Also here, many cameras still give control over the ISO, but setting it too high or too low might result in under- or overexposure.
When to use it?
When you want control over how much motion blur your image contains, you either set a shorter or longer shutter speed. A short shutter speed results in very sharp pictures, for example when you are photographing sports or moving animals. A long shutter speed can be used in situations where you want to capture movement (see picture below) like traffic or want to capture dark scenes and stars. For longer shutter speeds (>1/30sec), the use of a tripod is recommended as any movement while the shutter is open might ruin the picture. Beware of that when you in S mode, the camera sets the aperture automatically which might results in a shallow depth of field while you don’t want that or vice versa.
Capture movement — Capture light trails — Capture stars — Sports photography — Freeze movement — Blend movement (water) — Animals — Parties — Crowds (depending on what effect your want)
Manual mode (M)
This mode lets you set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO manually. In this mode, you are in full control.
When to use it?
In some situations you want to control the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed manually to get the result you want. During new year’s eve I wanted to take a picture of the fireworks. It was quite dark, so I needed to open the aperture as wide as possible (low f-value) to let as much light in as possible. At the same time, I wanted a bit longer shutter speed, so I could capture the trails of the fireworks. However, a too long shutter speed would make the picture blurry since I did not have a tripod. Lastly, I did not want any noice to ruin the shot, so I manually set the ISO to a reasonable level (ISO 100-3200 or so). The result is shown below, a picture that has acceptable movement blur, quite nice fireworks trails, and almost no noise.
Full control over picture — Advanced users — For specific results — For those who know their camera
No more auto
I hope this helps for the ones getting started with photography or who wanted to know a bit more about what mode to use for which type of photography. It really makes the difference between a good and a great picture.
Latest from my Instagram