This summer, my family and I took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. We were there for several days and did lots of hiking and sight-seeing.
I almost always shoot with my camera on “Manual Mode”—the mode where you choose all the settings yourself. BUT, on this trip, I found that I slipped the camera into aperture priority—one of the semi-automatic modes on my DSLR camera.
“What is aperture priority?” you ask!
Today I thought I would explain WHAT some of these semi-automatic modes are and WHEN you might want to use them.
All of your camera’s exposure modes are found on the dial on top of your camera. It looks like this:
Does this look familiar? I am sure that it does.
When I talk about the “semi-automatic” modes, I am talking only about 3 of the settings you’ll find up there. These three to be exact.
P stands for programmed auto.
This means that the camera automatically adjusts the shutter and aperture. It is almost the same as auto, but you have control of all the other settings (ISO, flash, etc.). I don’t use this setting much because it isn’t much different from auto. This would be great for snapshots.
A or Av stands for Aperture Priority.
This means that you set the aperture using your command dial and the camera adjusts the shutter setting. I use this mode the most of the three. It works nice for anytime you might want to control the aperture. For example, when taking a landscape shot you’d want to choose a high number aperture to get lots of depth of field. Or, when you’d like to choose a low number aperture to blur the background of a portrait. The camera will choose the other settings for me.
S or Tv stands for Shutter Priority.
This means that you set the shutter speed using the same command dial and your camera adjusts the aperture. This mode is great when you want to freeze motion or show motion—both are times when you will need to control your shutter. If I want to capture kids running, then I’ll likely want a fast shutter speed like 1/500 or 1/1000. If I want to create a little blur to show that something is moving, I’ll choose a slow shutter like 1/60 or 1/100. The camera will choose the other settings for me.
When to Use These Modes
I use these modes when I am in a hurry or whenever I don’t want to think about setting all the settings myself. I find myself on these settings when I am on vacation or in a hurry. These settings seem to work good in most lighting situations except for back light—when the sun is behind your subject. When I have this type of lighting, I will switch back to manual mode because this type of lighting trick the camera’s light meter!
If you want to use an automatic mode but get results similar to that of using manual mode, try this shortcut. Set your camera to one of the above modes and take a shot. If you find that the result is to dark or too light, use your exposure compensation button to adjust it. Roll the exposure compensation to the “+” to make your shot brighter or to the “-” to make your shot darker.