How to use a camera: exposure modes made simple

How to use a camera: exposure modes made simple

Buying a good camera and staying on auto settings is like buying a Porsche for the school run. In our latest Shoot Like A Pro series we show you how to use a camera in a more meaningful way that lets you take control of the picture-taking process.

In this series we’ll run through all of your camera’s exposure modes and explain when – and why – you should use them. This week we’ll start with Program Mode.

Bulb Mode: how to get pro-quality shots in low light


The longest automatic shutter speed setting on digital cameras is 30 seconds, which is fine for most subjects. However, there are some situations when you need to make much longer exposures – after dark, for example. This is where your camera’s Bulb mode – (B) exposure setting – comes in. This handy setting allows you to hold the shutter open for as long as required, enabling exposures of minutes (or hours) to be made.

When to use spot metering

When to use spot metering: an accurate exposure

Knowing when to use spot metering is one of the questions we often hear from photographers who are struggling to get accurate exposures.

The default matrix, or multi-segment, metering on most digital cameras is accurate and reliable in most shooting situations. However, if you’re shooting into the light or against a light or dark background, the results can be under- or overexposed. It’s not always easy to get the exact light level you want using exposure compensation.

For complete control, use spot metering. Instead of taking several readings all over the subject, your camera’s spot meter takes one from a tiny area of the subject. Spot metering requires a little more effort than matrix metering but can give much better results.

Dial M for…? Your exposure modes exposed

DSLR Tips: exposure modes explained

If you have a new digital camera, or if you’re new to digital photography, all hose abbreviations on the top dial of your camera might seem a bit confusing. Your top dial is where you will find your camera’s exposure modes.

Contrary to popular belief, the exposure modes you shoot with aren’t a reflection of your technical ability. Your exposure mode of choice is also about selecting a mode that gives you the freedom to stop worrying about other settings and start concentrating on taking great shots.

The right way to set up your camera

Best camera settings: how to set up your DSLR

DSLRs enable you to take much more creative photos. But this extra functionality does require you to spend a bit more time getting to know your camera settings. This can be frustrating if you’re keen to get shooting, but it’s the only way to ensure your camera’s set up properly for the best results.

To help you get started on your journey, here are the key things you should know about how to dial in the best camera settings for your DSLR.