You are currently viewing The Photographer’s Eye: Dial A Photo – Part 1

The Photographer’s Eye: Dial A Photo – Part 1

As part of a series of articles designed to help you take better images, Anne Watson, of the Whitley Bay Photographic Society, explores the camera Mode Dial. 

If you’re new to photography or have recently bought a camera, you have probably looked at the circular mode dial on the top of the camera and wondered what do those letters and symbols mean? 

Modern cameras are packed with microchips to help you capture the photo you want and the mode dial “tells” the camera how much control to take over shooting the picture. The string of letters and symbols can appear baffling when all you want to do is take a photo. Don’t worry, there’s a great place to start – Auto Mode. 

The Auto dial does what it says on the tin. It takes complete control over the exposure (the amount of light entering the lens), the shutter speed (how long the light hits the camera sensor) and the sensitivity of the camera adjusting for high or low light levels. It sounds complicated but is actually quite straightforward as Auto mode leaves you to focus on your subject and the camera takes care of the rest. As you press the shutter button the camera checks the lighting conditions adjusting the aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity (ISO) to take a correctly exposed photo. If there isn’t enough light it may also fire the flash unit if the camera has one. Some cameras also check the focus point to work out if you are taking a photo of a landscape or people then uses an internal database of settings and images to best match the settings to give the correct exposure.

In most cases Auto mode lets you take good photographs in a variety of lighting conditions and is especially useful for those ‘point and shoot’ moments where you simply don’t have the time to check what your camera settings are but want to capture that specific moment in time. 

However, the camera can’t read your mind and does limit your ‘artistic’ intentions.

In the next article we’ll look at the Aperture mode where you can let your photographic creativity start to take a bit more control over your camera.

If you’re interested in joining the Whitley Bay Photographic Society, please visit