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Camera exposure modes

Here's why exposure modes can be useful for your photography.

|  General Photography
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Camera mode dialExposure is the term given to how much light falls on the sensor and the modes are what control this. Depending on your camera, these modes can be found on a Mode dial or there will be a button you hold down and then you have to rotate the menu/mode wheel to access the modes from a menu on the LCD screen.

Four primary shooting modes, apart from auto, which are found on most digital cameras are: program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual (PASM).

Program will let the camera decide what exposure is best and will allow you to use the camera like a point and shoot. It's good for someone who wants to focus their attention on things such as framing and composition as they wont have exposure to worry about. It's also good for those who want to click and shoot such as teenagers taking pictures of their friends.

Aperture-priority lets you pick what f/stop (see aperture piece) to use but the camera controls the speed of the shutter. It's a good mode for when you're shooting landscapes as it will help you have the foreground as well as the background of the image in focus. It's also good for portraits where you want to throw the background out of focus.

Shutter-priority gives you control of the shutter speed but control over the aperture goes to the camera. This mode is good for sport and action or for subjects that you want to introduce creative blur, such as seascapes and flowing water.

Manual priority gives you control of both shutter speed and aperture. It's good for creating work where you need more control such as more arty/creative pieces.

There are also a variety of scene modes that can change from camera to camera. These are pre-programmed modes which can be used to shoot a particular subject or scene. These are useful if you're new to photography or if you're in a situation which could confuse the camera such as snow – snow makes the ground bright which a camera does not expect and if on manual, for example, it could find it hard to expose correctly.

Here are a few examples of scene modes present on most cameras:
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Sport
  • Macro
  • Beach/Snow
  • Low light
Auto shot of flower Macro mode used to shoot flower
Taken on Auto. Taken on Macro.
Landscape shot Taken in Landscape mode
 Taken on Auto. Landscape modes can boost greens.
Portrait shot Portrait mode
 Taken on Auto. Portrait mode can help smooth skin a produce an overall better portait shot.

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