Camera exposure modes explained

Exposure modes for digital cameras

In recent years there have been various different modes of exposure on modern digital cameras. These include options of manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and full program, along with some options like sports mode in program which changes the settings to favour faster shutter speeds to stop fast action sequences.

In manual mode the user has to choose both the aperture and the shutter speed. This is more advanced than other exposure modes but gives the greatest flexibility. It allows the user to maintain total control over the luminosity of the image. It is particularly popular by professional photographers who want to maintain total control and is also the main choice when working in the studio.

In aperture priority the user chooses the aperture he wants to use according to how much depth of field is needed in the photograph. Although the camera will change the shutter speed to maintain the correct exposure the photographer still has to ensure the combination is acceptable for sharp images. Landscape photographers often like aperture priority because control over depth of field is essential to achieve the best possible image.

Shutter priority functions in the opposite way to aperture priority i.e the user chooses the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture for the right exposure. Shutter priority is very popular with action 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 photographer leaves all the exposure choices to the camera and simply presses the shutter button. This allows the photographer to concentrate totally on the composition and subject without worrying about the exposure. This is very popular with amateurs who are not yet sure about the exposure options or even professional users who sometimes just need to concentrate on the subject and don’t have time to consider other problems.

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

In addition to the exposure modes, most advanced digital cameras also have exposure compensation, which allows the photographer to compensate for diverse lighting conditions that might trick a built in camera meter. In snow scenes for example light meters tend to underexpose, so the photographer can use exposure compensation to correct this potential 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 good idea to experiment with all the different options to learn how they function then later on it will be easier to make the right choices that will all help to produce the best possible images and turn the photographer into a real master.

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

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