What Do The Modes on A Digital Camera Mean? – Part 1

Apr 4, 2022 | 0 comments

A product photographer must know their equipment and how to get the best out of it! Whether you’ve just upgraded to a brand new camera or are in the early stages of your career and want to improve your understanding, this short guide will touch on the key modes of a digital camera and what they mean.

This is part 1 of our two-part article on the subject of digital camera modes. Look out for our next article in the coming weeks.

Auto Mode (Green Box/AUTO)

The most simple mode available to a product photographer, and one that is usually the first we use whether working outside on a project or within a packshot studio.

This mode controls everything about the exposure that you could select separately. This includes the aperture, ISO, white balance and shutter speed. Furthermore, it will control whether your flash is used.

Clearly, there are some downsides to this mode as it produces very generic results and it can be tricked by the environment. As a result, it is seen as a tool for those very new to the product photographer field. However, it is a useful mode to use if you need those quick point-and-shoot style shots that require minimal set-up.

Program Mode (P)

Program mode bridges the gap between auto mode and the other modes listed below in this article. When you choose this mode, a packshot studio or individual product photographer will be able to control both the aperture and shutter speed settings.

This mode is still seen as one that is good for learning, as it requires less effort and tweaking of settings than the manual options but still allows for some control, such as the ISO and white balance.

The drawbacks are similar to auto mode in that the camera is estimating the required settings and if the light meter doesn’t correctly measure the environment then the product images will not be good enough.

Aperture Priority Mode (Av or A)

An incredibly popular digital camera mode, great for any product photographer out there as well as packshot studios using new cameras.

In this mode, you will be able to choose the aperture you require and the camera then adjusts the shutter speed accordingly. For example, should it be a scene with low light then it will decrease the shutter speed without affecting the aperture settings. You also have the option to use exposure compensation with this mode, allowing you to adjust exposure in increments after the shutter speed has been set.

If you need specific settings for depth of field then this is a great choice, otherwise, other modes detailed in our next article may be more relevant.


As you can see, we’ve only touched on a handful of the modes found on a digital camera. We will explore the others in a future article and it is important to then do further research to help understand how they can be utilised as a product photographer. There are some fantastic tutorials and guides out there and the best thing is to get out there and practice with these modes and see how they work for you.

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