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The "P" On Your Camera Does Not Stand for "Professional"

by Valerie Johnston | February 8, 2013

program mode, manual mode, shoot in manual mode, digital photography, photography tips, photography adviceSadly, too many people own a digital single lens reflex camera, and they never turn that knob past the setting that is green or says "auto" on it. If you only use the auto setting on your camera, you are not making use of its full capability and you are most likely not getting the images you want. It is important that you learn how to make use of manual settings on your camera so that you can have true control over your digital photography. It all starts with understanding that "p" does not stand for professional. Instead, it stands for "program" and it can also limit you and your photography. Instead turn that dial over to "M" for Manual. You will unlock the true potential of your DSLR on the Manual mode. I know it can be scary, but there are really only 3 things you have to learn to control.

Those three things include: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. When you master these controls, you can take amazing images. Here is information on each and what you need to know so that you can have more control over your digital photography.


The ISO is probably one of the most confusing parts of your camera when it comes to digital photography if you do not have much experience with it. The best way to understand ISO is that it controls the sensitivity of the sensor in the camera. In old, 35 mm cameras, this was the same as the film speed.

Higher ISOs can be useful in order to capture images in low light situations. However, the higher you go with ISO, the more noise you will have in the image. It is best to use the lowest ISO possible to still capture enough light.


Aperture has to do with how wide open the lens is when the camera takes a picture and this controls how much light reaches the camera sensor. When you are controlling aperture, the setting on the camera screen will be the f/stop. Here are a couple of rules to remember:

  • Aperture controls depth of field. The more wide open the lens, the more of the image the camera will focus on. A closed aperture will allow the camera to focus on one area.
  • For landscapes, you will want to use a small aperture (higher f/stop) to capture all of the area.
  • For portraits and focusing on one part of the image, choose a wide aperture (low f/stop) so that the camera just focuses on one subject.

A short depth of field also allows you to capture bokeh (that blurred background effect) when you focus in on a subject close to you.

program mode, manual mode, shoot in manual mode, digital photography, photography tips, photography adviceShutter Speed

The shutter speed on your camera has to do with how fast the shutter is open when the camera takes a picture, and this is important for digital photography. If there is a great deal of light around you, you must use a fast shutter speed. Otherwise, the whole image will be blown out or white. The slower the shutter speed you use, the more blur you will have on moving objects. Here are a few things to remember:

  • The slower the shutter speed, the more light will be allowed in the image. Night shots require a slow shutter speed.
  • To freeze action, choose a fast shutter speed. Everything will be in focus and clear.
  • To create a sense of movement, photograph action at a slower shutter speed. You can capture light trails and motion this way.
  • Avoid a slow shutter speed during the day.
  • When using an extremely slow shutter speed, you will need to use a tripod to avoid blur.

Do not be afraid of that manual mode on your camera. When you learn to use it, your digital photography will be all the better.


"How to Shoot in Manual Mode with Your Digital SLR", http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/how-to/tips/how-to-shoot-in-manual-mode-with-your-digital-slr#slide-4

"How to Shoot in Manual Mode the Basics", http://clickitupanotch.com/2010/09/shooting-in-manual-the-basics/

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