Can ex­po­sure modes help?

Here’s how the so-called cre­ative modes on your Nikon help you pri­ori­tise…

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Pro­grammed Auto

The cam­era sets both shut­ter speed and aper­ture for op­ti­mal ex­po­sure, us­ing con­ser­va­tive rules for safe hand­hold­ing shut­ter speeds. Nikon rec­om­mends its use when “there is lit­tle time to ad­just cam­era set­tings”, but you can speed up the time avail­able by sim­ply think­ing harder at the time of shoot­ing.


You choose the shut­ter speed, the cam­era sets the aper­ture. This is use­ful when shut­ter speed is your top pri­or­ity and you’re con­cen­trat­ing prin­ci­pally on that. As with all ex­po­sure modes ex­cept for man­ual, you can over­ride the au­to­mated ex­po­sure if nec­es­sary by us­ing ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion to make the re­sult brighter (plus val­ues) or darker (mi­nus val­ues). If us­ing ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion in shut­ter-pri­or­ity mode, the cam­era keeps the shut­ter speed con­stant and varies the aper­ture to let in more or less light.


You choose the aper­ture, the cam­era re­sponds by al­ter­ing the shut­ter speed. Use­ful when depth of field is your top pri­or­ity. A straw poll sug­gests that most pro­fes­sion­als use ei­ther this or man­ual mode (be­low). Again, over­ride with the ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion but­ton if needed.


You set both shut­ter speed and aper­ture, keep­ing a close eye on the ex­po­sure level in­di­ca­tor (that lit­tle ar­row with num­bers ei­ther side). It de­mands more thought, and so, un­less you’re thor­oughly au fait with this way of do­ing things, more time.

Auto ISO

Not a mode per se, but an ad­di­tional con­trol that al­lows you to set an up­per limit for ISO that you’re happy with. Again, this can and should vary ac­cord­ing to what’s in the frame and how large the pic­ture will be dis­played.

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