Shooting modes

Main digital camera shooting modes

Written by Gail Bjork

If you want to simply point and shoot, use one of the fully automatic modes on your digital camera. For more control over the final outcome of photos, use semi-automatic and manual modes.

Main modesAll digital cameras have fully automatic modes to take photos by simply pointing and shooting. Intermediate and advanced cameras that have semi-automatic and manual modes allow for more creative and technical control.

Automatic modes

Auto/Simple – fully automatic, point-and-shoot mode, which lets beginners easily take photos. The camera selects all settings.

Intelligent Auto – Intelligent Auto Mode analyzes the type of scene and shooting conditions you’re photographing and then automatically selects the best settings. The camera knows if you’re taking a close-up, landscape, portrait, backlit and other types of shots. It can be more effective than a simple auto mode.

Program AE – camera automatically sets the shutter speed and aperture based on the brightness of the scene. User can adjust some settings such as exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, focusing and metering modes. P Mode gives the photographer more control than automatic modes.

Semi-automatic modes

Shutter priority (Tv) – User selects shutter speed and the camera automatically selects the aperture. Selecting a faster shutter speed allows you to “freeze” the action of a moving subject. Slower shutter speeds capture movement and also let you shoot without a flash in dim lit scenes.

Aperture priority (Av) – User selects aperture and the camera automatically selects shutter speed. Opening up the aperture (smaller f-stop number) decreases depth of field. Closing down the aperture (higher f-stop number) increases depth of field.

Manual mode

User manually selects the shutter speed and aperture. An Exposure Display visible on the LCD or electronic viewfinder shows the amount a photo will be over- or underexposed. Very long exposures can be taken in manual mode.

Scene modes

Digital cameras have a variety of scene modes, pre-programmed to provide optimal exposure for a specific scene. Scene modes can be very effective and, like other automatic modes, are useful for those who prefer not to tweak camera settings.

Video mode

Switch the camera to video mode to record movies, some in High Definition. Don’t forget to hold the camera horizontally when shooting video, or your videos will be the wrong orientation. If you do forget, the software that came with you camera may let you correct the orientation. So will video editing programs such as Apple QuickTime Pro.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • phil, I’ve checked the manual and can’t find anything about a Frame Shot function. Are you sure the function you’re asking about is called Frame Shot? Your camera has built-in help so, if you haven’t done so already, enable the Photo Help Guide mode.

  • i have a samsung es 71 camera which has a frame shot function which i do not understand i.e. what it is and how does one use it