Exposure Modes

Now that you know about the three things that will affect your exposure, you probably want to know how to change these settings in your camera. There are several different exposure modes in most cameras that will give you different amounts of flexibility.

Auto - This is the most basic exposure mode and one that you should avoid, even when you’re just starting out.

Program - Similar to Auto, but the flash doesn’t pop out automatically and you have the option to change ISO and exposure compensation. (We’ll talk more about exposure compensation in a bit)

Aperture Priority - Aperture Priority lets you change your aperture, and let’s the camera change the shutter speed for a proper exposure. You can also use exposure compensation.

Shutter Speed Priority - The same as Aperture Priority, but the other way around.

Manual - You have full control over aperture, shutter speed and ISO.


If you were to guess what exposure mode I shoot in most often, I’m certain that many of you will probably say “manual”. 

I actually shoot with aperture priority most of the time and highly encourage you to start off using aperture priority as well. 

The reason why I use aperture priority is because aperture plays the biggest role in the look and feel of my photography. I can simply adjust my aperture to get my desired depth of field and the camera does the rest of the thinking for me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still use manual all the time. There are times I need to control everything about my photos (off-camera flash work, long exposures, etc.), but generally, my camera is on aperture priority by default. 

Exposure compensation

When you’re using any of the semi-manual modes, you’ll be given the ability to adjust your exposure using exposure compensation.