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Photography Basics: Camera Modes

When you’re starting out in photography, it is important to learn and understand the basics. This is how you improve as a photographer! In this post we’ll be talking about the various ‘camera modes’.

photography basics camera modes

Understanding Your Camera Modes

It’s important to understand your camera modes, so that you can use them appropriately to create the photos you see in your head! So, let’s start to break down the various modes on your camera:

Manual Mode

Manual mode on your camera is exactly what you think it is. This is the mode where you control all of the settings: aperture, shutter, ISO, etc.

While it may seem daunting to beginning photographers to use manual mode, I think using it and getting a sense of what the setting do, and how you change things to create different looks is a helpful learning process.

Don’t fear manual mode, manual mode can be your friend. It just takes time.

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Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture priority is a mode where you choose what aperture you want your camera set at and your camera locks it at that setting. The camera will meter the scene in the frame and determine what shutter speed would be best to use at that particular aperture and ISO setting.

I find this mode especially helpful when photographing people (at wedding ceremonies where I’m not using a flash, portraits, sporting events, etc.) where I want to choose my depth of field and since lighting conditions can change rapidly and I want the camera to adjust the shutter for me.

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Shutter Priority

The opposite of aperture priority is shutter priority. Why would you choose shutter priority? For a variety of reasons.

Perhaps you want to freeze fast action, so no matter what you want your camera shooting at 1/4000 of a second or faster. Or maybe you’re shooting a landscape and you want a very long shutter speed.

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This can be especially confusing for beginning photographers because these are settings a photographer programs into the camera themselves. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer and at every reception you shoot at f/4.0 1/200 ISO 800 the whole time, you don’t want to have to punch those settings in every time. So you program the settings in advance and store them in the camera.

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The camera does all the work. It’s not very creative and cameras often make mistakes. They can only do what we tell them to do. However, it can be helpful to learn what the camera chose to set everything at when you’re looking at the photos on your computer later on and see what works and what doesn’t!

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Learning the basics of photography…

It doesn’t have to be hard, but understanding the basics of your camera can help you improve your photography rapidly!

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The Nerdy Photographer

With more than a quarter century as a professional photographer, The Nerdy Photographer's goal is to spread knowledge and laughter throughout the photo industry. Please follow along on social media and subscribe to the podcast.

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