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A Little More about Priority Modes

Let’s talk about those priority modes a little more because they can be quite useful if you know what to do with them. Your camera may not have these modes, but it may have scene modes on that knob on top of it, so we will discuss both of these right now. When you look on the top of your camera, there should be a knob and it should have little pictures or letters on it. We have already talked about the auto setting, which will be green, and will allow your camera to work as a point and shoot style camera. However, let’s discuss what those other pictures mean.

If you have an SLR camera, then those priority modes will be listed as letters, (M, A, S). The easiest way to understand these modes is to think about them like this. When you set your camera to aperture priority (A), then you are telling the camera to only worry about the other settings because you are choosing to set the aperture on your own. This gives you the freedom to control the aperture without having to also worry about setting the shutter speed or ISO. The shutter speed priority mode works in the same way but with shutter speed as well. These modes can be particularly useful if you are trying to learn how to set the aperture and shutter speed since you will not have to deal with other parts of the camera setting.

There is another priority mode that may be marked on your camera. It will be marked as a “P” and we will discuss it in the next lesson when you learn how to bracket your image.

Now, if your camera does not have priority mode, then it will most likely have scene modes, which can make your shooting easier in certain specific situations. These scene modes can be different on different digital cameras, but when you use them, it will affect the aperture and shutter speed specifically to handle that type of scene.

As I have mentioned before, your camera may be different, but here are some of the scene modes that you may have access to on your camera: sports/action (also very useful for taking pictures of kids and pets since they are rarely still), scenery/landscape (the camera will set everything to get the most focus and color balance overall), macro (this will allow you to focus on things more close up for dramatic pictures), nighttime (your camera will switch to modes for dark situations. Watch out for slow shutter speeds), and water/glass (this will help avoid glares or reflections).

Real Life Example: You take your family on a trip to the aquarium and there is a cute scene with your child trying to touch the fish through the glass. On regular modes, the camera may have a great deal of trouble with reflections and glares to the point that you cannot even see the fish behind the glass. When set on aquarium mode, the camera will compensate and you will get a better image. 

Some camera controls have scene options on the dial


Scenes may also be selected from the camera menu

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