When to shoot in manual versus aperture or shutter priority modes

by SomeGirl on March 7, 2012 · 7 comments

I’ve feel so scatter-brained lately…

My intentions were to wake up this morning and write a photography post.

Then I followed my boys outside…

And got lost in observing their play.

Now, after some time playing outside and a run to the grocery store, I remembered what it was I wanted to do here this morning.

So, better late than never (which seems to be the story of my life), here are a couple of DSLR tips for when to shoot in manual versus aperture priority mode where you set your ISO and only worry about changing your f-stop (AV on Canon/ A on Nikon) or shutter priority mode where you set your ISO and only worry about changing your shutter speed (TV on Canon/S on Nikon).

The basic rule I follow is:

If you’re in an area with consistent lighting and/or you have time time to pay attention to and correct the numbers in your view finder… shoot in manual.

If the lighting changes quite a bit and your subjects are relatively still, but you don’t have time to fiddle with buttons because you might miss a shot (like an outdoor birthday party in a treed park)… shoot in AV (A).

If your subjects are moving quickly (like a soccer game)… shoot in TV (S).

My husband and I debated which mode to shoot in at an indoor birthday party. I said AV/A and he said TV/S. You’d probably be better off following his advice, but it’s worth playing with the two to see what you like. :)

Hope that helps you a bit!

Now, back to observing more outdoor play…


Kara @ Just1Step

I’m rusty on my photography skills at the moment – all my reading and practicing fell by the wayside when life got busy over the last 6 months. Thanks for this quick tip and reminder. :)

Shari @Leaving A Legacy

Thank you for the helpful information! I have a Cannon Rebel. Last night I just started taking a photography class. I’m excited to learn! My family calls me Mrs. Spielberg because I’m always taking pictures. :)

Brooke McGlothlin (@BrookeWrites)

Good point! In my efforts to force myself to use & learn manual mode, I often forget about A and S modes, but they can be useful. I need to remember that :) Thanks friend!

Jenny Gibson

as i’m learning more about how to use my camera, i’m finding that the basic online sharing/photo print making companies are doing a crappy job of uploading my pictures in the same quality in which i took them. What photo editing software and online photo sharing/ printing companies do you recommend?


Hi Jenny,

We use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to edit photos. Both are great. Adobe Photoshop Elements is a good introductory program and can be downloaded for a free 30 day trial, and later purchased for around $90.

As far as printing goes, we’ve tested different local basic services by printing one photo at each place then comparing. There is definitely a difference in each place’s quality. I don’t remember which was the better.

For online printing my husband suggests http://mpix.com

Something we noticed early on in our stock photography career was that our monitor needed to be calibrated. We would got a rejection for “sloppy cloning” and could not for the life of us see what they were talking about. After resubmitting the same photo with the same “sloppy cloning” the istock inspector suggested we calibrate our monitor.

We googled instruction on “how to calibrate monitor.” Followed the instructions. And wallah! We could see the cloning issue and the photo details more clearly.

This might be something you need to look into. It’s possible the printed photos could be showing you something you can’t see on your screen. At least, that was our case.

Hope that helps!




Great tip! I will be looking into monitor calibration right away.

Lisa @ i took some pictures

My sister told me about your site, as I’m new to blogland and trying to find other people with photography tips! I just started my own blog on this topic and started out shooting in manual, so it’s good to know when to use aperture and shutter speed priority modes. I look forward to reading your other posts!

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