Skip to main content
K12 LibreTexts

2.3: Auto, Semi-Manual, and Manual Shooting Modes

  • Page ID
    3144
  • This lesson will help you understand Auto, Semi-Manual, & Manual Shooting Modes. Start with the explanations in Get the Basics to build understanding. Then, deepen your learning with additional online resources in Explore. The additional online resources are essential to understanding shooting modes! When you respond to the questions and prompts in Record Your Findings, be sure to include information you learned from the additional online resources.


    Get the Basics

    Your digital camera has auto, semi-manual, and manual shooting modes that relate to shutter speed and aperture - and who/what is setting them. Auto mode is the simplest to use. In auto mode, all you do is point and shoot, or point, hold the shutter button down halfway to use auto-focus, and shoot. The digital camera senses which shutter speed and aperture provide the optimum exposure. Some digital cameras have more than one auto mode, such as Program Auto and Intelligent Auto. Program Auto is the basic auto mode to get the optimum exposure. Intelligent Auto tries to understand your intention with the photo and adjust accordingly. For example, it may recognize a moving subject and try to freeze it, or it may see the warm colors of a sunset and try to bring out those colors. The image below shows an example of a digital camera mode selections dial. You'll learn more about the little picture icons (scene modes) in the next lesson.

    digital camera mode settings dial

    Semi-manual mode generally has two options, Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority. In the last lesson, you learned about the relationship between these two. Shutter priority allows you to set the shutter speed to control how moving objects are handled and lets the digital camera attempt to find an aperture value that works with your shutter speed. The majority of digital cameras use "S", while some use "TV" (time value), to indicate shutter priority on the dial or menu selections. Aperture priority does just the opposite of shutter priority. Aperture priority allows you to set the aperture value to control depth of field and lets the digital camera attempt to find a shutter speed that works with your aperture setting. Many experienced photographers use a light meter to help them determine appropriate aperture values. The majority of digital cameras use "A", while some use "AV" (aperture value), to indicate aperture priority on the dial or menu selections.

    Manual mode allows you to set both the shutter speed and aperture value. In manual mode, YOU have to determine all of your motion and depth of field needs and requires a lot of experience. Again, many experienced photographers use a light meter to help them determine appropriate aperture values.


    Explore

    Learn about shutter and aperture priority modes at Aperture and Shutter Priority Modes from Digital Photography School:
    http://digital-photography-school.com/aperture-and-shutter-priority-modes/

    Learn about shutter and aperture priority modes at Which mode is better? Aperture priority of shutter priority from Digital Photo Secrets:
    www.digital-photo-secrets.com/tip/1330/which-mode-is-better-aperture-priority-or-shutter-priority/


    Record Your Findings

    • Describe the differences between auto, shutter, aperture, and manual shooting modes.
    • Which mode do you think you'd use most often and why? (There's no right or wrong answer for this one.)

    References

    Image Reference Attributions

    [Figure 1]

    Credit: Athepal; June 13, 2007
    Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AModeDial.svg
    • Was this article helpful?