Louisville Wedding Photographer – Settings 101

Welcome back everyone. I hope the weekend was kind to everyone. Our hearts and thoughts here at Veritas go out to those affected by the tragedy in the Pacific.

Today we will be quickly discussing some of the different modes found on your DSLR and how they change the Aperture, ISO, & Shutter Speed settings.

We have already discussed in past weeks what each of the settings do, but now lets take a look at how you actually change those settings.

Different manufacturers designed different ways of switching camera modes, but the basics should apply to every DSLR you find across the board. Located on your camera you will find a dial with many different letters and icons displayed along the circumference. In the image below we see a few of the cameras you can find in the market with the dial circled in red.

Here is a close up of a dial found on a Nikon D50. You can see that along the edge there are many different modes, each of these modes adjusts settings in the camera (or gives you the ability to adjust those settings).

Each of the modes have a particular scenario for which they were designed to be used. As the name suggests the AUTO mode gives complete control of the camera settings to the camera its self. This really frees the photographer to just point and shoot. The camera also retains control of the pop-up flash and will use if when it feels the light is insufficient.

The other pictorial icons are spin offs of the Auto mode, with setting differences tailoring them to specific shooting scenarios. For example: The icon with the lady wearing the hat is a portrait mode that tells the camera to use a wide aperture for shallow depth of field. The running man icon is a sports mode that tells the camera that you need a fast shutter speed to capture motion. While these modes are convenient in a pinch they really relinquish a lot of control to the camera and often can inhibit your creative photo abilities.


The letters on the dial P,S,A,&M are the user controlled modes on your DSLR.

Program Mode

Shutter Priority Mode

Aperture Priority Mode


Program mode is similar to the Auto mode discussed earlier, however in Program mode the camera only controls the Aperture and Shutter speed of the shot, the user retains control of ISO and any flash use the scene may call for.

Shutter Priority mode gives the photographer the ability to select the desired shutter speed and let the camera determine the best aperture to use with that selection. The photographer still retains control of the ISO in this mode.

Aperture Priority mode is similar to the previous mode, but the photographer determines the desired aperture value and lets the camera balance the shot with the proper shutter speed.

Manual mode – As the name suggests, manual mode gives the photographer complete control of every camera setting.

PSAM offers photographers greater creative control over the images taken in a given scene, but do require a little bit more knowledge of the workings of the camera to use effectively. This is in contrast to their more automatic counterparts that allows the camera to take on the setting responsibility.


Some of you may be looking at your cameras now and wondering why you don’t have PSAM.

There are camera manufactures, most notably Canon, that uses different names for the same modes. On a Canon DSLR Shutter Priority mode is replaced by Tv, or Time Value mode. The mode is the exact same as Shutter Priority mode, just a different name.

Similarly the Av, or Aperture Value mode is the exact same as the Aperture Priority mode discussed earlier.

I hope this posts helps those of you who may have been a little confused by the camera settings.

Click here for previous 101 posts

Next week we will be covering jpeg and RAW. What’s it all about?

If you have any questions or concerns on the post, feel free to email us and we will be glad to help you. Or feel free to email us any questions you may have about photography and we will be sure to work them into another how-to post.

Email me at: will@vivalaveritas.com

(and comments are always appreciated!)

Louisville Wedding Photographer


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