Before you can become a better photographer, you must first learn your way around the tool of your craft. Most entry level and semi-professional Digital SLRs come equipped with a dial displaying a list of modes to choose from. This dial is generally located at the top of the body of the camera. Looking at the icons around the circle, a photographer should learn what modes to use and when.
Manual Mode gives the photographer full control over both aperture and shutter speed, which can be challenging for new photographers because there are two technical aspects to think about at once. Although there is a learning curve, manual mode can be ideal in extreme light situations. If the camera is having difficulty adjusting correctly using the other semi-automatic modes, switch over to manual mode to make the required changes yourself. It is best to save manual mode for when you have a little more experience.
You may as well categorize this mode as another automatic option. Since it adjusts both aperture and shutter speed, you are left with little control over exposure, other than adjusting ISO. This can be a great mode for a quick shot if you have little time to analyze the environment and make adjustments accordingly.
Shutter Speed Priority Mode:
This mode gives the photographer control over shutter speed, but automatically adjusts aperture. To be creative in how you capture an action shot, using Shutter-priority is the most ideal. You can slow the shutter speed to create motion blur, or speed it up and freeze a moment in time. All the while, you do not have to worry about adjusting aperture at the same time.
Aperture Priority Mode:
Opposite to Shutter-priority, this mode gives the photographer control over aperture and automatically controls shutter speed. This is probably the most favored by a majority of photographers. Since photographers prioritize playing with depth of field, this mode gives them the flexibility to do so. By adjusting only aperture, the camera compensates for lighting conditions by changing shutter speed accordingly.
As you can see on the dial, there are several other modes to be considered. These other options vary from camera to camera and are found as icons representing the type of image they can be used for. Examples include portrait, landscape, sports, night, etc. All of these modes are generally “automatic”, but make adjustments specifically for the type of photograph you are trying to capture.
With all the options available, consider familiarizing yourself with the four main modes listed above. All four can be used for all types of environments and will help you obtain the quality image you want.