DSLR Camera Modes : A Guide You Should Not Miss!

You have got yourself a camera, but you are not sure about how to use it. Because, as soon as you have unboxed it, you have found that it has come with so many buttons. Now you are not sure about their functions. Learning the camera mode and selecting the modes to meet specific needs means mastering the dslr. A dslr camera comes with so many modes. Each has distinctive features to meet different shooting conditions. If you can learn them properly, you will be able to select the right one at the right moment, and then your moment will be best captured. Here we have discussed some dslr camera modes selection guide for photographers.

Dslr camera modes: Let’s Start!

First of all, it’s mention worthy that, depending on the brands or manufacturer the camera mechanisms or functions might be different. But we’ll discuss on the most common functions that maximum brands have.

The first place you need to start is the camera mode. You will find the shooting modes on a dial labeled like “A+, P, M, Av, Tv” etc. If you select the Auto mode, the camera will do everything on its own about the exposure, aperture or shutter speed. The mode is actually the command you are giving your camera. It is how you want your camera to behave. Other than Auto mode, all other modes have specific features.

camera mode selection tips

For example, if you select the Av or A mode, it means aperture priority mode. With this mode, you have set the aperture and the camera will now set the shutter speed. We will discuss that in next point more broadly.

Semi-Automatic Modes

Aperture Priority Mode

The aperture measures the opening of the lens. Light gets inside the through this opening as the shutter opens. So, light gets in more if the aperture is more and light gets in less if the aperture is less. Normally aperture is measured.

We measure aperture in ‘f-stops’ and show it by ‘f-number’ like f/2.0, f/2.8, and f/4.0. Aperture is the ratio of focal length and diameter of the opening. Wider opening results due to larger aperture and a smaller f-number (e.g. f/2.0). On the other hand, a smaller aperture results in a narrower opening and a larger f-number (e.g. f/22). Reducing the aperture by one whole f-stop, e.g. f/2.0 to f2/8 or f/5.6 to f/8.0, it means reducing the light entering the camera to half value.

Aperture priority is one of many moves of the camera. Another parameter that depends on the aperture is the depth of field. With a low aperture, you can get a shallow depth of field with a large aperture large depth of field. The depth of field if larger, means you can focus on a large area, like a landscape. And if it is smaller, it means you are going you are going to focus only on the subject.

Shutter Priority Mode

Shutter priority mode is another mode of the camera. In seconds or fraction of seconds, shutter speed is calculated. As the name implies, slow shutter speed means it remains open for a longer period and allows light to get into the sensor. And if it is a fast shutter speed then it will remain open for a shorter period. Stationary objects are captured using fast shutter speed. But for capturing a fast moving object, you need to have a slower shutter speed.

Automatic modes

If you are at the beginner level, this is a most friendly mode for you. With Automatic mode, your camera finds the best shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, focus, and flash to take the best shot. There are some cameras which have an automatic mode that overrides flash or give red eye reduction. You can get best shots with this types of cameras. But always remember that your camera is guessing your choice, it does not know that for sure.

Portrait Mode

If you are looking for a portrait image with shallower depth of field, focused on a specific subject, stationary, fast shutter speed, then it is the mode. It is popular to take our personal photos. With this mode, you may only cover your upper body part or a small subject, the background remains blur mostly and out of the frame.

Macro Mode

Another camera mode is Macro mode. It will let you move your closer to your subject to take a close up picture. Macro mode is most suitable for capturing the images of flowers, insects or tiny objects. Macro modes in different cameras come with different abilities. With macro mode, the depth of field is very narrow, so focusing is pretty much difficult. You need to keep your camera and the object parallel.

Landscape Mode

Landscape view is opposite of the macro mode. It has a large depth of field. So focusing is easier. Because you don’t have to focus anything specific. Just make sure the metering is right.

Sports Mode

Sports mode is suitable for capturing fast-moving objects. The shutter speed is slow to set for that. It is also known as an action mode. When you are capturing fast-moving subjects chances of capturing them with panning of your camera can be increased along with the subject and/or by trying to pre-focus your camera on a spot where the subject will be when you want to take the shot.

Night Mode

Night mode is specially programmed for low light conditions. This mode typically comes with better ISO. The flash is automatically turned on.

Movie Mode

You can also capture videos with your DSLR camera. You can set the resolution and sizes. It can be panoramic, snow, fireworks, underwater, beach, kids, indoor or foliage mode.

Manual Mode

There is also completely manual mode. In manual mode, you have to select everything manually. When you can get to the expert level, you can try with this manual modes. You will then understand which capture requires which level of aperture, shutter speed, ISO and other features.

Few Basics Irrespective of Modes of a DSLR Camera

Understanding the ISO

ISO means how much your sensor is sensitive to light. It is represented numerically from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, even more depending on the camera. A lower value means lower ISO and a higher value indicates higher ISO. ISO determines the amount of light required by the sensor to gain a given exposure. The camera will need more light to gain a given exposure at low lights, but, with the higher sensitivity, it needs less light. For shooting indoor, you need higher ISO to increase the sensitivity and multiply the light available. Thus you can get a better image.

Understand the Exposure Triangle

The aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO- These three are interlinked with each other. And to take control of your camera, you need to learn to control them. If you change one of them there will be the subsequent consequence on the other two.

Consider a condition where you have ISO400, f/8.0, 1/10th second. Now if you want a shallower depth of field and aperture f/4.0, you have to increase light to camera 4 times. Then to balance the exposure you have to reduce shutter speed or ISO by a factor 4. Also, shutter speed and ISO both by a factor 2 combined.


There are three metering modes:

Average: The camera will assess and expose the scene to 18% gray.

Centre-weighted: The camera weights the exposure and totals up to approximately 80% of the scene.

Spot Metering: The camera will use a very small area of the scene that totals approximately 5% of the viewfinder area.

Exposure Compensation

There is a button that has +/- marked on it. This is there for exposure compensation. It will help you to increase or decrease default meter reading considering actual brightness of the image. If the scene normally has bright tones and rendered too dark, you can have positive exposure compensation. This will command the camera to take the scene lighter than usual metering. If a scene, on the other hand, has dark tones and rendered too light, you can use negative exposure compensation. This will command the camera to take the scene darker than usual metering.

Know your focusing

There are different types of focusing. DSLRs come with auto focusing techniques. The autofocusing can be single or continuous. If you are taking a snap of a stationary object then auto focus single is good, but if you are taking a photo of the fast moving object then you need to select the autofocus continuously.

Final Verdict

This post will give you some confidence to control and use your camera. You will start exploring all the features and thus you will understand the difference between different modes. On the other hand, different cameras have different modes Begin with aperture priority and then shutter control, soon, you will be able to go beyond that and master all those modes once appeared scary to you.

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I am a photography enthusiast turned blogger, sharing my passion and expertise on her blog, "CallofPhotography." Growing up surrounded by nature, I developed a love for capturing moments through my lens. After studying Fine Arts with a focus on photography, I launched my blog to share tutorials, gear reviews, and my own photographic work. Through engaging storytelling, I invites readers to join her visual journey, inspiring and empowering photographers of all levels worldwide.

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