Getting out of Auto mode & why you want to

Do you own a camera but you’ve never quite had the time to work out what all those buttons mean?

Whether you have a DSLR or a compact camera the chances are your camera offers you a choice of different shooting modes. If you are new to photography or simply just want to snap & go you may well have selected the Auto mode option after you got your camera out of the box, and thats how it has stayed in ever since.

There are three fundamental elements that will influence your images, they are referred to as The Exposure Triangle. They are:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO

Each of these have a significant impact on the look of your image, and each will be covered in much more details in upcoming blogs. But for a quick introduction to them for the purpose of understanding Auto mode, they are:

Aperture Priority

Controls the depth of field in your image. Depth of field simply refers to how much of the image is in focus.


The above shows how an image with a shallow depth of field. As you can see very little of the image is sharp and the background is blurred.


This is the same image as above, but this time with a large depth of field, bringing both the foreground and background into focus. The image is ‘busier’ with detail and as a result your eye may be distracted away from the intended focus point of the image.

Shutter Priority

Used for when you need to freeze or blur a movement, say for example if you are taking a picture and your subject(s) are running.


The above image shows that even though the children at this wedding were running towards me, I was able to freeze their movement by applying changes to my camera’s shutter speed.


The sensitivity of your cameras sensor is to light, the higher the ISO the more Noise (grain effect) your image is likely to have.

Back to Auto mode, so what is Auto mode?

Auto mode quite simply takes care of all of the decision making for you. Your camera assesses the scene and determines the best use of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, and flash to take the picture.

If Auto mode does everything for me why would I want to use a different option?

That’s why you got the all singing all dancing camera right? Well there will be times when Auto mode just doesn’t cut it, because you are not able to give the camera any information about the type of picture you want to take. Today’s cameras are technically better than ever at being able to provide you with a well exposed solid image. But in Auto mode it is still using a degree of guesswork, and it wont necessarily produce the image in your mind you set out to achieve.

For example you want to take a beautiful picture of your child, but they are standing in front of an ugly cluttered background and you don’t have the option of placing them anywhere else. If you were in Aperture Priority you would have the creative control to blur that background, making your image much more pleasing.

Whilst Auto mode offers a significant benefit for taking all of the guesswork away and doing the job for you, at some stage you will see the benefit to taking a bit of that control back.

So you may wish to leave some of the constraints of Auto mode, but still would prefer the comfort of the technical intelligence of your camera, your next step is Programme mode.

Programme Mode


In Programme mode your camera will still make some of the decisions for you, but it also allows you to start flexing your creative muscles.

Programme mode will be covered in much greater detail in an upcoming blog.

In the meantime I encourage you to dust off your cameras instruction manual and start getting creative with your images.

If you would like to learn more about how to work your camera on a 121 or group basis, I offer training workshops for anyone new to photography, or for individuals who want to learn a specific skill, such as photographing for their business needs, or their families and children.

If you would like more information about learning to make the most of your camera with me please get in touch.

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