You don’t take a photograph, you make it – Ansel Adams

How many of us have expensive cameras without even running them on its full potential? I know…I was in the same boat before and there are many people who have expensive cameras but they are stuck in the “Auto Mode”!  I was also quite frustrated for not being able to operate it manually but after searching the massive influx of information I was finally able to get rid of my “Auto Mode”. I realised that it could have been much easier to understand if someone could have explained it in a layman’s term so I decided to do a post in a very simple language without getting deep into the technicality… So let’s start with the basic terms and their functionalities!! 

What is ISO? 

ISO is simply a camera setting that brightens or darken your photo. If you are out in the sunlight you may require minimum ISO which is “100 or 200” depends on your camera model but if you are inside the building with limited light, you need a higher ISO, say 800 to 1600, basically, it depends on the light visibility that how much ISO is required but it’s always wise to keep it balanced because too much ISO can ruin the picture quality by increasing grain and noise.

Below are some scenarios;

  • ISO 100 – 200 (lowest) is sufficient under the sunlight in the morning 
  • ISO 400 should work fine under the sunlight in mid-afternoon
  • ISO 800 – 1600 is a good balance if it’s about to sunset, or sunrise because it’s usually dark at these time and you need a higher ISO for good visibility and same applied if you are inside a building. 
  • You can use maximum ISO Possible when it’s the darkest but remember that maximum ISO will lead to a grainy or noisy picture as it compromises the quality of the picture and mostly you want to avoid that. 

what is Exposure?

Exposure is denoted by (+/-) sign, it is the duration for which the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to the light. The correct combination of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO gives you the right exposure and this is called the exposure triangle. 


Photo credit by Digital Trends

What are the modes and why we use it?

I’m using the example of Nikon D5600 but don’t hesitate if you have any other camera as it’s almost the same but uses the different terminology like AV (Aperture) instead of (A) and TV (Shutter speed) instead of (S) in canon. 

NIKON D5600 has eight different modes such as Auto mode, Auto without flash mode, Programme (P) mode, Scene mode, Effects mode, Aperture (A) mode, Shutter (S) mode, and Manual (M) mode

Auto mode (Auto): I call this “a super easy mode” because while on the auto mode, you just need to switch on the camera, focus on your subject, zoom in or zoom out if you have to and “click”, it’s as simple as it sounds because in “Auto Mode” everything is taken care by the camera and you don’t need to do anything except the click, This mode is basically for those who simply want to click pictures without getting into too much creativity. 

Auto mode without flash: This is an auto mode but without the flash because sometimes you want the picture in the dark with no additional flashlight. 

Program Mode (P):  Program mode gives you the power to control ISO and white balance without disturbing the other settings like aperture and shutter speed. It means you can play only with ISO and white balance and rest is adjusted by the camera.

Scene Mode: This mode is like an auto mode but with predefined scenes like portrait, landscape, child, sports etc. It’s like if you want to do portrait photography but you don’t know how to do the settings for a portrait then you can simply choose the portrait scene and camera will adjust the portrait settings for you. This allows you to click a particular subject or photography without putting your brain into the settings.

Effects Mode: I call this ” a fun mode” where you can give different effects to your pictures like you can click a black and white picture in night effect mode or an illustration type of picture in photo illustration mode etc. Play in this mode and you’ll know how easy it is!! 

Aperture Mode (A): This mode is used for portrayed photography and denoted by the “F stop number”. It allows you to change the aperture to focus on the subject while blurring the background.

For example, imagine you’re in a football stadium and you have the opportunity to capture your favourite player so you’ll zoom in the lens, decrease the F stop number to the lowest (whatever your cameras’ lowest is) and it will ignore the other player by blurring them in the background and focusing only on your favourite player which means you have selected the shallow depth of field (DoF). 

In the below example the focus is only on the water droplets while blurring the background which means a shallow DoF with the lowest f stop number. 

Photo Credit – James Batt

Now in the same scenario you want to capture all the players, therefore you have a broader focus, which means a deep depth of field (DoF), so this time you’ll zoom out the lens, increase the “F” stop number by focusing on multiple subjects and you’ll get all the players sharp in the picture with no background blur.

In the below picture the background is super clear without any blur that means deep DoF with maximum f stop number based on your camera.

Deep Depth Of fIELD3
Photo Credit: Susan Taylor

Also in aperture mode, you can adjust the ISO settings based on the light conditions which means you have the power to control F stop, ISO and Exposure.

Aperture Mode (A) = F stop + ISO 

Lower the F-number = only 1 subject

Maximum the F-number = all the subjects including background

Shutter speed Mode (S): This mode allows you to change the shutter speed and it is used to capture moving objects, like running car, motorcycle, waterfall etc and denoted by the seconds (minimum seconds 1/4000, maximum seconds 30″ based on my Nikon D5600).

For example, If you are on the racing track and want to click the picture of your favourite car while it’s running, you’ll have to maximize the shutter speed by selecting the lowest seconds for example 1/250 to get the clear picture of your moving car. 

The other example


while on low shutter speed like 1″ second will blur the object and you’ll end up getting a blurry picture but you can achieve the creative results by doing so.

shutter speed

Like aperture mode, you can adjust the ISO settings in Shutter speed too. which means you have the power to control the seconds and ISO.

Shutter Speed Mode (S) = Seconds + ISO 

Lower seconds = clear picture

maximum seconds = blur picture

Manual Mode: This mode allows you to control both the Aperture & Shutter Speed.

Now imagine you are in the same football stadium, however this time, the game has been started and your subject is moving fast, now you’ll adjust both, the shutter speed for moving the subject, and the aperture for focus…Also, you may have to adjust the ISO based on light visibility. so overall you can adjust all the parameters as per your choice except the exposure. In short, this mode provides all the power in your hand!


Program mode – you can’t change aperture and shutter speed but ISO

Aperture mode – you can’t change the shutter speed but ISO 

Shutter Speed mode- you can’t change the aperture but ISO 

In Manual mode- you can change both the aperture and shutter speed including ISO.

I guess that’s it!! This post is just to give you an idea about important terminologies, I know it’s just a simple explanation without much of technical detail, but once you understand the gist, you can easily grab what the technical gurus are trying to elaborate.

 here is the link which can help you to understand the basic functions of the camera and to dig deeper you can check out the videos which helped me to understand my camera in a better way. 

I would love to connect you all through social media so please follow the link here. Till next time Keep Learning & Keep Clicking  🙂

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