Differences between Automatic and Semi-Automatic Camera Modes


Most photographers start off by learning a few things about their cameras. I remember when I first got my digital camera that I was rather curious of each setting – I was setting white balance to its weirdest numbers on manual mode just to see how the picture would turn out.

As I grew more into photography, I have understood the power of the manual mode. Frankly, I never found much use for that auto mode since me and it never seemed to have the same thoughts about how a photograph should be taken.

I always enjoyed modifying my settings, making the pictures a little under or overexposed just because I wanted to prove a point. In my opinion, automatic modes are only useful if you are at the beginning and your more interested in composition rather than in camera techniques. Within this article we shall discuss bits and pieces about each of the modes presented on your digital camera.

The Automatic Mode

I believe that no matter whether you are a beginner or a guru in photography you find no use for the description of the automatic mode. Auto mode basically makes some measurements and tells your camera what would be the best shutter speed, aperture, ISO, WB focus and flash in this particular case. Numerous shooting conditions may be quite appropriate for the Auto mode, but then again, as mentioned before, I never liked using it but only in extreme cases when I want to be very comfortable.

Semi-Automatic Modes

A or AV (Aperture Priority Mode)

In this case, you choose the aperture you need, and afterwards the camera does all the other settings. So, let us say you want to shoot all pictures at 2.8, then you set your camera to A or AV and then let the camera do its magic. The most affected part in this case with be the shutter speed (remember that they go in opposite directions – the smaller the aperture, the smaller the shutter speed). Aperture priority mode is truly useful if you aim towards controlling the depth of field – for example you may want to use A with macro shots or portraits.

S or TV (Shutter Priority Mode)

Frankly, S and A are two semi-automatic modes that have a lot in common. While one controls the aperture and leaves everything to the camera, S controls the shutter speed and leaves everything else on the camera. This mode is great when you want to photograph moving subjects (like in sports photography) or even more when you want to do panning (when you follow a moving object in its run) and in this case, you will need a slow shutter speed.

P (Program mode)

The issue with P is that most people do not actually see its purpose, especially since its options are similar to the auto mode, or even more in some cameras it is exactly the same as the auto mode. P mode gives you some control over a series of features – you may have access to flash options, WB, ISO and a series of similar ones. In order to find out which options are configurable read the manufacturer’s book. Program mode is only useful for those that want to learn more of their cameras and yet want to have a safety net built by the integrated auto mode.