What Camera Mode Do You Use?

Creative Commons License photo credit: mag3737

I don’t think I’ve asked this one before, but I think I already know the answer… I think. At any rate, it should be interesting to get some actual poll results on the topic of camera modes. Most cameras (including some compact cameras) will give you the ability to shoot fully manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, program auto, fully auto, or some other defined auto preset (portrait, landscape, night, macro, action, etc.). So which is it for you? What’s your favorite setting?

What Camera Mode Do You Use?

Also check out the results from the last poll on the topic of Film Experience. It’s pretty crazy — over half of you USED TO shoot film, but no more. About 25% still shoot film occasionally, while only a handful prefer it to digital or shoot with film 100% of the time. Similarly, there are a small number of us who have either never shot film or have only tried it once or twice. Well… that’s about to change for me. My Dad is sending his old manual SLR down to me and I’m pretty stoked to give it a shot.

24 thoughts on “What Camera Mode Do You Use?

  1. Janne

    Actually “Super Program” or whatever it’s called, that runs automatically to keep the right exposure, but allows you to change all three parameters (aperture, shutter, iso) and exposure compensation at will, effectively working as an instant switch from auto to any of the modes, then back again.

  2. the_wolf_brigade

    It’s rare that I shoot digital these days so I had to answer fully manual, as even though my film cameras (well, some of them) offer program and aperture priority modes etc, manual gives me the results I want.

    Digital…well that varies a little. Since I use it mainly for the kids I leave it in Program mode primarily, but if I’m using it outside family situations, then the mode will vary according to what I’m shooting, but revolves around aperture priority (cause I’m so shallow – pun intended :D ) or a preset mode if I can’t get the results I’m after in a hurry.

  3. Jenni

    I’m mainly using Program Auto right now but I’m trying to switch to Aperture Priority (yeah, I’m working my way up in terms of flexibility ;) ).

  4. Harley Pebley

    I agree with Damien, there’s an option missing “It depends”. Or instead of being a 1 of many list, it needs to be a prioritized list. When out of the studio, I’m mostly in aperture priority mode, occasionally moving into manual or shutter priority. In the studio it’s always manual.

  5. My Camera World

    I use 4 modes and the first 2 the most.

    Auto for when I am street walking and images may have on the spur of the moment and you have only have time to point and shoot.

    Aperture priority mainly for macros and landscape and sometimes portrait shots.

    Shutter priority for when I need to control speed, either increase motion blur (water, special people movements) or freeze fast action like flying birds or sports scenes.

    Manual mode- probably the least of the all but mainly for long low light exposure or when I need to ensure that either highlights or darks contain adequate detail but then I will most likely also take multiple exposures.

    Niels Henriksen

  6. Tibor

    Even though in most of the cases I use aperture priority, a few weeks ago I tried manual mode.
    It was not that manual though, since first I set what I could read from the camera in A priority mode, furthermore you can see those little arrows in the view finder as suggestions for dialing up or down.
    However the experience of M was just amazing and just started to realize what I’ve been missing before trying it. It was like my first big bicycle that finally let me ride from Budapest to Paris.
    If you know what you want to achieve with and on your photo, I suppose the ultimate tool is manual mode with manually adjusted flash lights if you need any.

  7. Peter Collins

    Yeah, I needed a button to vote for both manual and aperture priority. LOL

    I use aperture priority most of the time, certainly, but will often switch to full manual for shooting with flash and getting a bit more control of the light.

    Great blog, enjoy it everyday!

  8. Luis Cruz

    My camera is almost always set to full manual mode. Occasionally, when shooting events (parties especially) where the light changes often, I use Av.

    One thing I do quite a bit when shooting parties switch between two different modes:
    - I use manual mode when shooting the smile-for-the-camera shots and other shots that I’ll keep taking throughout the event
    - I switch to Av when I raise the camera above my head and point it down or at the crowd in general.
    Doing this saves me from changing my settings all the time, but also gives the rest of my shots (the ones shot in manual mode) a level of consistency. Of course, if I could have preset modes on my camera, I’d set a few at the start of the event and use those.

  9. spencer

    I’m usually on auto. Second choice is aperture priority, to control DOF. When shooting at night, fully manual is the only way to go.

  10. libeco

    I must admit I have no idea how all the modes on my 400D work. I think if I will ever try to turn that wheel it will be stuck on M… :-)

  11. Andreas Manessinger

    Aperture priority with ISO automatic set to 3200 max ISO and a minimum shutter speed that fits my lens. With the stabilized Nikon 18-200 VR I go down as low as 1/4s on the wide end, 1/30s normally, and with longer non-stabilized lenses I set it as high as 1/100s.

    Basically this is full aperture and DOF control with as much automatics as possible. Manual mode is normally set for night shots in bulb mode, and shutter priority for capturing action. Thus I may change modes occasionally, but mostly it’s A.

  12. Brian Auer Post author

    Wow gang! Geat set of responses! It’s interesting to hear how many of you actually use manual mode on a regular basis. For me, it’s Aperture priority. I absolutely need that control over the DOF, even when I’m doing street photography. I’ll use full manual at night or on a tripod, and I rarely use shutter priority. Program priority and auto? I can’t remember the last time I used them.

    For those folks who wanted an anwer along the lines of “it depends” — I intentionally left that off the poll. I fully recognize that most of us don’t use a single mode 100% of the time, but “it depends” doesn’t tell us much — that’s what the comments are for. The poll is intended to capture what you “typically” use for a majority of your shooting.

    For the folks who are still new to photography, the poll results and all the great comments should give you an idea of which camera modes you ought to be preparing to explore (if you haven’t already).

  13. Tris Hussey

    I, like most folks, started in full auto, then worked from the presets on my point-n-shoot. I read somewhere (or was told) that I could do cool things in program mode … did that for a while and got great results. When I got my D80 I just tried out the settings to see the results I would get. I liked the program mode for a while, but after being told that aperture priority is where you can do cool stuff, that’s what I stick with most of the time.

    I have switched to shutter priority when doing night shots (long exposure), waterfalls, etc. Something where I wanted to control that aspect.

    My pics are all on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tris/

  14. Steve Crane

    It depends on the camera I’m using. When shooting with my Canon 30D I use aperture priority mostly, sometimes full manual or less often shutter priority. When shooting film with either my old Praktica or even older rangefinder, it’s manual all the way. The odd one out is my compact digital (a Canon A540) where I started out trying to use aperture and shutter priorities or full manual. I was less than happy with the results though and have been using full auto or programmed auto more lately.

  15. Denear

    I am in full agreement with the majority of the comments you have received so far. I too needed a button with more options….
    I shot mostly in Av, followed closelly with M, and Cn (Custom Function on the 40D). I will even admit to shooting at times in full auto, but less and less these days. These days I shoot almost exclusively in RAW, which is causing me all sorts of other issues, but that is another matter all together….
    Thanks Brian for the great job you are doing with this site. I visit daily (RSS), and often pick up great tips from your site.

  16. Stephen gray

    I think a poll allowing us to rank the various modes in terms of use would be cool. I’m curious how it breaks down.

    For me–I shoot aperture priority almost all the time. Sometimes I shoot in shutter priority when i’m shooting handheld in low light and want to make sure I don’t go below the lens’ “shake threshold.” Then of course there’s manual when the first two don’t give me what I need.

    Can’t remember the last time I shot in program mode.

  17. Helen

    For the last couple of years I used Av pretty much all the time, however in the last six months or so I have been using M pretty much all the time as I have become more aware of light and been able to read the scene.

  18. Gowri

    Hi Brian,

    I have voted for Aperture Priority sinec that’s the mode I use always when I am shooting Macro and I shoot Macro the most. However when I do use my 70-300 telephoto for bird photography I prefer Program Auto mode for the convenience it provides.

    Thanks for putting up this post. Would be interesting to know your views.



  19. Matt

    I mostly shoot available light snapshots of my family, so I’ll vote for shutter priority. It’s just easiest to set the shutter for the lowest handheld speed for the lens and let the camera pick the aperture based on the light. (For really bright scenes I need to adjust of course.) Sometimes I’ll use the exposure compensation to bias the meter.

    I think “P” mode is too biased toward wider apertures. If the light level suggests 1/60@F16, P will try to set it at 1/350@F7.2 or something like that. Maybe there’s some reason F7.2 would produce a better image than F16, but I don’t know what it is.

    I’ve never gotten into the “pictogram” modes. I don’t know what they do, or why they do it, so I don’t know why I would use them.

    Of course, for the occasional formal portrait with off camera lighting, I use full manual.

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