A lot of photography beginners who just bought their DSLR or mirrorless camera still stick to AUTO mode or P (Programmed) mode. However if you want to seriously learn more about controlling your camera, neither of the above is recommended as the control is rather limited. One of the shooting modes that our photography instructor highly recommended is the Aperture-oriented Mode (A-mode or Av-mode). Let’s learn how to use this powerful yet simple-to-use shooting mode on your camera.

Understand what you can control with A-Mode

Remember when we talked about the first 3 things photography beginners must know, we introduced Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. In “Full Auto” mode you can control none of these (that’s why it’s not recommended).

However in A-Mode:

  • Aperture (Can control)
  • ISO (Can control)
  • Shutter speed (No direct control. Calculated by camera automatically)

So you can see within the three most important elements in photography, we can control two of them in A-Mode which is AWESOME because we now, as a photographer, have more power on deciding how the final image is formed.

Step-by-step tutorial on using A-Mode

In order to let you familiar with A-Mode, you can take out the camera and follow the below steps to start experiencing the power of A-Mode:

  1. Turn the shooting mode to A or Av
  2. Adjust the Aperture to f/5.6 (or other value you choose)
  3. Adjust the ISO to ISO100 (or other value you choose)
  4. Check the shutter speed value (You cannot change this. Just observe what value your camera gives you)
  5. Press the shutter button and shoot.

It is easy, isn’t it? By adjusting the aperture and ISO, you can indirectly control the shutter speed. By using A-Mode, you can temporarily forget about the shutter speed and focus on composition and depth of field. However when you find the shutter speed is slower than the minimum shutter speed for hand-held shooting, you have to make some changes to the aperture and/or ISO. Here we mentioned another important concept “The minimum shutter speed for hand-held shooting”. To learn more about this, you can refer to another article.

How to increase or decrease photo brightness

If you find the photo over-exposed or under-exposed, you should use another function key on your camera – EV Compensation. Just press the button “Av +/-” or “+/-” icon at the back and start turning the front or back dial. Then you will find a metering bar moving (or a number +0.7, +1.3, -0.3, -1.3 etc). After adjusting this EV Compensation icon, the camera will automatically increase or decrease the shutter speed to make the photo brighter or dimmer.

Heads-up! In A-Mode, adjusting the aperture WILL NOT give you brighter or dimmer image as the camera will automatically compensate the aperture change by shutter speed. For example when you are using f/4 aperture with 1/100s shutter speed, changing to a smaller aperture f/5.6 will lead to a slower shutter speed, making the same exposure in final image. So always remember to use the “Av +/-” button in A-Mode!


We now learned about how to use A-Mode for daily shooting. Make sure you understand how to control the aperture and ISO in your camera and you are ready to some great photos!


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Author: Alex Tam