Mode dial: Which exposure mode should you use?
Your camera’s exposure mode dial is probably the most daunting of the controls on your camera — especially if you’re new to photography.
The mode dial is where you make exposure choices.
The word, exposure, or exposure value (Ev) is a photo term that describes the quantity of light, or brightness.
In photography, exposure in your photo is controlled by three things:
When you get your first adjustable camera there’s so much to learn, plus so many things to set up, you’re often unsure of which exposure mode to use.
Here are some beginner tips about how to choose the perfect mode to shoot in.
First let’s do a review of what all the letters on that mode dial mean.
Lumix Mode Dial
Canon Mode Dial
Nikon Mode Dial
Explanation of each exposure mode:
iA = Intellgent Auto mode (Lumix cameras) and “Green” square on Canon – The camera controls all the exposure settings like ISO, White balance and if you need your flash, and all you have to do is compose your photos. Basically this turns your camera into a point and shoot.
P = Program mode – In program mode you choose the ISO and White balance. The exposure (the f/stop and shutter speed) is set automatically. [show in video] You can rotate the exposure wheels and change the settings if you’re not happy with what the camera chooses, so there is some room for variation.
TV or S = Shutter Priority Tv stands for time value – In shutter priority mode, you choose the shutter speed you want, based on the look you want in your photo. The camera chooses the f/stop. Examples are freezing action or blurring action for creative effects. [show photo examples and show changing the shutter speed in the video]
Av or A = Aperture Priority Av stands for aperture value – In aperture priority mode, you choose the f/stop based on how much you want in focus. That’s also known as depth of field. In this mode the camera picks a shutter speed for you. (show photo examples)
M = Manual mode – In manual exposure mode, you pick both the f/stop and shutter speed based on the amount of light in your scene.
M Video = Manual video mode – This is similar to manual photo mode where you pick the f/stop and shutter speed. Video shooting has specific guidelines for shutter speeds, usually related to the frame rate you’re shooting at. In general you don’t want to go much higher than 2x your frame rate.
One of the main reasons people give up on their adjustable cameras, is that they dive into the deep end. I say, start simple.
Start with iA or P mode
After you’re super comfortable with your camera, start using other modes – Shutter and Aperture priority.
You’ll start to notice the limitations of the automatic modes when you try to do something like freeze action, or shoot with shallow depth of field. That’s your clue that you’re ready to move on.
Here’s a couple of examples:
Fast Shutter speed of 1/1000 second to freeze the motion
1/60 second is slower than the skate boarder and will show motion blur
Here’s a couple of examples:
F/5.6 gives shallow depth of field (less in focus front to back)
f/16 gives deep depth of field (more in focus front to back)
If you’d like more in-depth instruction on the shooting modes, and camera optics, you can check out my online course. In the course you will also have assignments and you’ll get critique and feedback on your submitted photos.
Couple more exposure settings to know
This is a HUGE topic, but since we’re talking about exposure modes here, there are a couple of other camera menus that you need to learn about in order to control exposure – when you’re ready!
They are ISO and Exposure Compensation: