Tips on Tuesday: Making The Switch – Auto vs. Aperture/Shutter/Program/Manual

I’m sure there are some of you starting to read this and going, “That’s not me.  I don’t shoot in Auto”.  You may not, but there are some people who do.  Those people are new to the photography world and they have to learn to eventually steer away from Auto Mode and learn new things.  Auto, in camera, means that the camera chooses everything when you start shooting.  The aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity…everything.  So, all you literally have to do is pick up the camera and start shooting.  Simple, right?

Technically, it is.  At least it is at first.

Then you start to fool around with your camera a little bit more……do some experimentin’.  And you start to notice these letters on the dial of your camera.  ‘A’, ‘S’, ‘P’, & “M”.  Typically cameras will give in-camera hints when you switch over to these modes on the dial, in a quick summary as to what they do and they are best for.  I’ll just give a quick lesson on them all and my experience.

‘A’, is Aperture Priority – The camera automatically chooses the shutter speed based on the aperture that is set by YOU for the proper exposure for your shot.  What is aperture, you ask?  Aperture is (simply) that number called an f/stop or if you see it on your lens or camera screen as f/1.8, f/5.6, f/4, etc.  Now technically, when it comes to numbers, the smaller the number, the larger the aperture.  See, when you’re shooting with such a large aperture, such as f/1.8, there is an opening in the lens that allows the amount of light to come through the lens.  So, with f/1.8, for example, you’re letting in a tremendous amount of light for your photos, which giving you proper exposure (when shutter speed & ISO are set correctly).  Examples are below.


The photo above was shot at f/13, – 1/4’s (shutter speed) – ISO 100 – with a 35mm f/1.8 lens

Notice that the background is more in focus with the smaller (less opened) aperture setting?  The smaller the number, the more in focused your subject and the surrounding area will be.


Same subject.  Different settings

f/1.8 – 1/125’s (shutter speed) – ISO 100 – same 35mm f/1.8 lens

Now with this photo, notice that the background area is more blurred, creamy and less in focus.  And now the main subject is in focus and is all that you see?

(Both photos were shot using the Aperture Priority setting)

The aperture setting was what I used the most after switching from Auto because I loved having control over the amount of light and that great creaminess in my photos.  Best used for general portraits.

‘S’ is Shutter Priority.  This is when the camera chooses the aperture setting while you control the shutter speed.  I would suggest Shutter Priority to someone who likes to shoot sports, moving children, or anything with motion.  When using Shutter Priority you’re not worried about the amount of light coming in the lens, but mostly if you can catch the subject in motion without getting a blur.  Also, with the faster the shutter speed, the darker the image.  When you’re using a faster shutter speed, you’re not letting in as much light (which is where the f/stop takes over!), and when using a slower shutter speed, more light is being let in, which CAN result in a blurry photo if you’re not careful.  I never really used ‘S’ very often because I liked taking advantage of natural light (and still do) as much as possible, so the aperture mattered the most to me then.

‘P’ is Program Priority.  Which is essentially the same as Auto…like the only difference between Auto & Program is that you can change ISO, White Balance, and just fine tune a few things.  But the camera takes over the aperture and shutter speed in Program.  I don’t recommend using ‘P’ unless you just want to experiment with ISO sensitivity in photos.  But I’ll get onto ISO later 😛

And if you’re feeling REAAAAALLY adventurous, you can switch over the Manual, which I wouldn’t recommend switching from Auto.  I  mean, if you want to make the move, I say go for it!  But it’s just easier to make the adjustments from Aperture or Shutter Priority and then to Manual.  And as you can imagine, in Manual…..everything is well….manual.  You can control every single thing yourself.  The aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, White Balance, Focus Area, etc.

So…I challenge you.  If you are still shooting on Auto, go through your camera and test out a few things with the other modes.  Write out what looks good and what doesn’t….what settings did you use for those test shots.  Take other shots with the successful settings and continue on experimenting with what you love.

This may have been a little longer than I expected, but I hope that this will give someone the courage to improve their skills as a photographer 🙂

Have a great week,


2 thoughts on “Tips on Tuesday: Making The Switch – Auto vs. Aperture/Shutter/Program/Manual

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