Camera exposure modes explained

Exposure modes for digital cameras

For the last few years there have been numerous different modes of exposure on new digital cameras. These include choices for manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and full program, along with some choices such as sports mode in program which alters the settings to favour faster shutter speeds to freeze fast action sequences.

In manual mode the photographer has to select both the aperture and the shutter speed. This is more complicated than other modes but gives the most flexibility. It allows the photographer to maintain complete control over the luminosity of the picture. It is particularly popular by professional photographers who want to maintain complete control and is also the common choice when working in the studio.

In aperture priority the photographer decides on the aperture he wants to use depending on how much depth of field is needed in the picture. Although the camera will change the shutter speed to maintain the correct exposure the photographer still has to make sure the combination is OK for technically correct images. Landscape photographers often use aperture priority because control over depth of field is important to obtain the best possible image.

Shutter priority works in the opposite way to aperture priority so the photographer selects the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture for the correct exposure. This mode is very popular with sports photographers, who often decide that the shutter speed is the most important factor they have to consider.

Program mode is essentially full automatic. That means the user leaves all the exposure choices to the camera and just presses the shutter button. This allows the user to concentrate totally on the composition and subject without worrying about the exposure. This is particularly popular with amateurs who are not yet sure about the exposure choices or even professional users who sometimes just need to concentrate on the subject and don’t have time to think about other problems.

Many years ago most shooters thought that serious photographers only worked in manual mode but this is not really true nowadays. The best choice is the one that helps you to get the picture.

As well as the exposure modes, most advanced digital cameras also have exposure compensation, which allows the user to compensate for diverse lighting conditions that might trick a built in camera meter. In snowy conditions for example exposure meters tend to underexpose, so the user can use exposure compensation to fix this problem and still continue to work in automatic or program mode without being forced to use manual.

When a photographer is first starting photography it is a wise idea to test with all the various choices to understand how they function then later on it will be easier to make the correct decisions that will all help to produce the best possible photographs and turn the photographer into a real professional.

Above all it is most important to take lots of pictures so that you move forward as a photographer and learn something every day. If you are one of those photographers who invariably photographs everything in program mode try some of the other modes to gain greater control over your photography.

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