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Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, Auto Modes explained

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For most amateur photographers, the mode dial on their cameras goes from Auto to Manual and just stays there. I’ve barely seen people using any other mode on their DSLRs.

Yes, manual mode gives you all the control, but the other modes on your camera are not that bad either. They might even turn out to be better than the Manual mode at times.

In this article, we bring you all the different modes available on your camera.

Note that we’re only describing modes that allow control over at least shutter speed, aperture or ISO. Also, we’ll be using the Canon 200D (Mk 1) as a reference, but it applies to all cameras regardless of make and model.

The modes on your camera

Manual Mode

We’ve talked about this in detail in a recent article, so I won’t go into the nitty gritty here.

The manual mode, as the name suggests, puts you in charge of the camera. You control everything, and by everything we mean everything.

Manual, Aperture Priority , Shutter Speed Priority, Auto Modes explained

You get full control of the Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, White Balance, Exposure, Focus, Flash and anything else that your camera has to offer. You can get creative with the numbers and can snap out some fascinating pictures if you know what you’re doing.

It’s going to take you some time and a lot of practice to master the manual mode. But it’s well worth it. As you progress forward as a photographer, you’ll often find yourself wanting to adjust everything yourself and starting that off since the beginning is a pretty good idea.

Aperture Priority (Av)

Aperture Priority, often abbreviated as Av, is a mode that allows you to control the aperture of your lens. Everything else gets adjusted accordingly.

Manual, Aperture Priority , Shutter Speed Priority, Auto Modes explained


This is a very commonly used mode for those who know about it. You can call it the Auto-Manual mode if you want.

You see, for the most part, you’re not going to have to change your aperture. If you’re using an 18-55 kit lens or even a 55-250 zoom one, you would still prefer the largest aperture you can get.

As long as your lens doesn’t have a really wide aperture, like f1.8 or f1.4, you’re most likely not going to change it. And since you don’t need to make any changes, you’re camera is up and ready to go the second you hit the power switch.

Av, lets you have the convenience of the Auto mode while also allowing you some control over how much light is hitting the sensor. A good thing to have if you’re short on time.

Shutter Speed Priority (Tv)

As you can perhaps guess, in this mode, you get to control the shutter speed, and the camera adjusts everything else accordingly.

Manual, Aperture Priority , Shutter Speed Priority, Auto Modes explained

This mode is beneficial when you’re trying to capture something like sports, where the action is quickly moving, and you don’t have the time to go through a jungle of settings.

Also, since shutter speed is mapped to the main dial of most cameras (Canon at least) by default, there isn’t any button pushing at all. You can continue looking through the viewfinder and keep snapping while making adjustments on the fly.

Try it out; it’s great.

Programmed Automatic Mode

Marked as a ‘P’ on most cameras, the Programmed Auto mode is midway between Auto and Manual modes.

Manual, Aperture Priority , Shutter Speed Priority, Auto Modes explained

In this mode, you can control your White Balance, ISO and Exposure Comp, and your camera will adjust other settings automatically.

Now it might seem a little bit weird to use, but P mode can be effective when learning to use the Manual mode. It acts as sort of an intermediate step. You can use it to determine which settings to pick and when.

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: