Improve Your Photography Guaranteed - Mode Dial For Beginners

June 11, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

If you just picked up a new DLSR or Mirrorless camera or have not left Auto yet, then this post is for you.  We are going to start at Auto and look at eight different settings on the Mode Dial.  We will not be covering P, TV (S), Av (A), or M in this post, which are more advanced settings on the Mode Dial.

Camera Mode DialCamera Mode DialCamera Mode Dial

The modes we are looking at are:

  • Auto
  • Auto with no flash
  • Creative auto
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Macro
  • Running person
  • SCN


Me: "Let's start in Auto Mode."
You:  "But I already know how to use auto!"

So, let's check.  To start, we first have to dive into the exposure triangle.  There are three adjustments on the camera for the exposure triangle:

  1. Shutter Speed
  2. Aperture
  3. ISO

For a more detailed understanding of these settings watch my YouTube Video explaining these three settings.  You need to understand the exposure triangle even in auto mode.  Sure, you can get by without learning the exposure triangle.  However, if you want to understand why a subject is blurry or the background or foreground is over or under-exposed, then understanding the exposure triangle will help you as you move away from auto mode.

In Auto Mode, the camera will decide the settings for each side of the triangle and it may choose a value that may not necessarily give you what you want or expect.  It may pick a high ISO, a high shutter speed, a wide-open aperture, or some combination of those.  The settings the camera chooses will be based on the scene and the amount of light across the scene.   It is even possible that your subject does not match the light in the rest of the scene so your subject may get over or under-exposed.  The point is you will have very little control.

If your scenes are always evenly lit, then auto mode may work for many situations.  However, as you learn how to use your camera you will want to control the exposure triangle to support what you are trying to accomplish.

So let's start a journey to start learning some different settings on your camera to help you in different situations.  All of the settings are still a form of auto-mode, but each setting on the camera mode dial that I will be covering will have a preference for one leg of the triangle. 

  1. Full Automatic – In this mode, the camera does not know what your subject is. So the camera will just try to get the best image it can with the available light.  In full Automatic, the flash may pop up if the camera thinks it needs it.
  2. Full Automatic without Flash - In this mode there is no flash hence the name.  If the scene is too dark you will most likely not be able to get handheld shots.
  3. Creative Auto - In this mode you will be tasked like you are in "Scene Mode" to choose a setting to adjust to take some of the control from the camera.  Similar to the "Scene Mode", I do not use this mode because there are other settings on the dial that will accomplish what I need.
  4. Portrait Mode - In this mode the camera will blur the background by trying to keep the aperture as low as possible while adjusting the other legs of the triangle to achieve the correct exposure.
  5. Landscape Mode - In this mode the camera will attempt to get both background and foreground in focus by using a high aperture setting while adjusting the other legs of the triangle to achieve the correct exposure.
  6. Close-up (Flower) Mode - In this mode, the aperture will be the primary goal for the camera as you get close-up photos of small objects.  This is a form of macro photography using camera settings to assist.
  7. Running Icon Mode - In this mode, the camera will attempt to keep a higher shutter speed while adjusting the other legs of the triangle to achieve the correct exposure.
  8. Scene Modes – In this mode, you can give the camera a little more information for the automatic decisions the camera needs to make.  To be honest, I find this setting not needed because there are similar results from other settings on the mode dial.



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