Which auto mode should I choose?

Your subject is framed and ready. THIS is the shot you want. You press the shutter button and look at the screen on your camera…. and what you see is not quite what you wanted.

Maybe it’s time to get out of full AUTO mode and start making the photos that you see in your mind’s eye. If you’re taking your first steps as a photographer, experimenting with the various available AUTO modes will start you on the way to acquiring better control over your images.

P, S, A, M, Tv, or Av?

If you recognize some of these choices from your camera’s mode selector dial, you can choose which way your camera will adjust its automatic settings. Let’s have a quick look at how these choices affect your photos.

P for Program

Just a notch away from full AUTO, Program is still a fully automatic mode. You camera will select the appropriate shutter speed and aperture to achieve correct exposure. In Program mode, you can override the camera’s choice and go ahead and change shutter speed or aperture. Your camera will compensate by changing the alternative setting.

When do I use this?

Anytime things happen too fast, or if the lighting changes constantly, program mode will safely obtain the best picture possible.

What will I get?

Correct photos. In normal conditions, better than 9 times out of 10.

S or Tv for shutter speed priority

This time, you choose the shutter speed you want, and the camera will choose the right aperture.

When do I use this?

You’ll choose high shutter speeds to freeze motion or to increase stability for handheld shots. You also might want to use a slow shutter speed to blur objects in motion.

What willl I get?

Sharp, crisp stop-motion effects, images showing an instant slice of life, sharper handheld photos. Using slow speeds will deliver color blurs or motion blur to show movement.

A or Av for aperture priority

You choose the aperture and the camera will select the appropriate shutter speed.

When do I use this?

For landscapes and portraits, depth of field is critical. Landscapes need lots of depth of field in order for all the elements in the image to be in proper focus, and portraits will usually look better if everything except the subject’s face is out of focus.

What will I get?

You get accurate control over the depth of focus in your shots. You can preview this with most cameras by pressing the DOF preview button, usually located on the front side of the camera, next to the lens.

M for manual

You need to set the speed and aperture of your camera yourself. Still, your metering system will tell you when you’ve selected a proper combination, so basically you’re just going along withwhatever your exposure meter has determined. You could say that it’s important to discover manual mode in order to understand what your camera is doing, but, by the same token, once you DO understand what the camera is doing, whichever auto mode you choose is basically a great tool to allow you to go faster.

When do I use manual?

Most pros will use it in the studio. Or when testing over and under- exposures.

What will I get?

You get full control, and the satisfaction that comes from creating great photos. You’ll also get the learning that comes from the shots you miss...