Settings: in which mode to shoot?

IMG_0810In this blog I will discuss the right mode to shoot: Aperture-Priority Mode, Shutter Speed-Priority Mode, or Manual Mode.
In Automatic Mode (A or P) it is the camera that decides what kind of picture is taken instead of you. So, the first step is to step away from Automatic Mode. The second step is to decide what is more important:

  • Large or small depth of field (Aperture Priority: Shutter Speed is computed automatically).
  • Frozen movements or not (Shutter Speed Priority: Aperture is computed automatically).

Aperture-Priority Mode (A)
Most of the time I use Aperture-Priority to have control over the depth of field. Wide open aperture to have a small depth of field to get the subject in focus and the background completely out of focus. This draws the eyes to the subject. Or, and almost closed aperture to get a large depth of field which is handy in for example landscape and cityscape. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions. While closing the aperture, the shutter speed goes up (longer time). If it is longer than 1/60th or 1/30th of a second, you should use a tripod. An alternative is to increase the ISO to keep a fast shutter speed.
Shutter Speed-Priority Mode (S)
When shooting activities with fast movements, it is best to use Shutter Speed-Priority so you can decide yourself if you want to freeze movements or not. Keep in mind that fast moving objects close by require a much faster shutter speed than when they are far away. Normally 1/60th of a second is enough, however, if you use a long telelens, for example mm, then you should us a faster Shutter Speed than 1/th of a second. This is to make sure that you do not need a tripod.
Manual Mode (M)
In Manual Mode you can set the Aperture and Shutter Speed yourself to get the lighting you want. I mainly use that in two cases:

  • when using flash, so I can decide the Aperture and Shutter Speed I want; longer Shutter Speeds give more ambient light and more saturated colors.
  • when there is not enough light I want to make sure that I have the right Shutter Speed; if there is not enough light the ISO is increased automatically.

In one of the next blogs I will discuss the use of lenses.

Update: I am a great fan of Sean Tucker. Here a YouTube video of him advocating manual mode.