How to Choose the Right Camera Mode to Get the Shot You Want (II)

Next article:How to Choose the Right Camera Mode to Get the Shot You Want (I)


Shutter Priority is usually denoted using an S on most cameras, while Canon uses Tv, representing Time Value to denote Shutter Priority mode. Shutter Priority Mode is just the opposite of Aperture Priority. In this mode, you set the shutter speed you want, as well as the ISO, and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture. This mode is an excellent choice when you’ve decided that rendering motion in a certain way is the key component of your image.

Shooting sports

For example, suppose you are photographing a sporting event. Most likely, you’ll want to freeze the action of the athletes on the field. To do so, you need a fast shutter speed, such as 1/500th or even 1/1000th. In shutter priority, you’ll need to again keep an eye on your ISO to ensure that the camera is giving you a proper exposure. Usually, the exposure indicator in your viewfinder will flash to show that at the current settings, proper exposure cannot be achieved. In this case, raise the ISO to achieve the correct exposure for the shutter speed you want.


As another example, let’s say you want a slower shutter speed to create a panning effect. Again you would set the correct shutter speed to create the effect, and let the camera adjust the aperture. Any time the primary concern is the appearance of motion in an image, Shutter Priority is a good choice for shooting or camera mode.


Manual Mode

Once you’re comfortable with changing settings and you really want to take control of your camera, Manual mode is the way to do that. You will set all of your settings according to how you want your final image to look. There is one caveat, however. Your settings will also be dependent on the available light in the scene. So if you want a fast shutter speed, and deep depth of field, you’ll probably need to raise your ISO a bit. Or compromise on one of the other settings as well.

Watch the meter

Just keep an eye on your camera’s meter and it will help you find the right combination of shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. The other modes do a nice job of taking some of the load off your brain by allowing you to choose one setting to have priority, but sometimes you just need to take full control.


Exposures long than 30 seconds

One instance where you’ll need to do this is when creating an exposure longer than 30 seconds. Today’s cameras don’t have shutter speeds for longer than that, so you would need to calculate in your head how long to keep the shutter open, and then use the Bulb setting to do so. Any time the camera can’t properly calculate exposure is a good time to use Manual Mode.


Another time to use Manual Mode is when the lighting in a scene is especially challenging, such as when there are a lot of dark shadows. Your camera will try to expose for the deep shadows, causing the highlights to overexpose. Using a manual setting to override the camera’s choices will work well in achieving a satisfactory exposure.


As I mentioned, there are many ways to capture an image and arrive at similar settings. But each time I’m out photographing, I go through the following checklist in my head:

1. Do I want deep or shallow depth of field?

2. Do I want to stop action or is some motion blur okay?

3. Which of the above two choices is more important for this image?

4. Is one of the priority modes suitable for the available light of the scene?

The answer to those four questions should lead you to the correct mode for the shot you want.