What Do The Modes on A Digital Camera Mean? – Part 2

The second part of our look at the most important modes on a camera and what they mean for a product photographer or packshot studio. We do understand every camera will differ slightly, but these fundamental modes are on almost all cameras so it is a great place to start for those who want to understand how best to utilise their photography equipment.

Shutter Priority Mode (Tv or S)

We start off with the Shutter Priority Mode, as it is very closely linked to the Aperture Priority mode discussed in the previous article. In essence, this mode is perfect for those situations where you need a specific shutter speed. For example, if you want to freeze movement in a product shot such as a model running then this is what you would use.

When you use this mode you select the shutter speed you desire and the camera would then measure the available light in your scene. It subsequently sets up the lens aperture to ensure the exposure is at the correct level.

A more popular choice for a product photographer or packshot studio who is working with less light or where there is a need to capture movement.

Manual Mode (M)

As the name suggests, Manual Mode gives the product photographer control over all of the settings. This means that ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance etc are all manually set to the specific values you choose.

This definitely comes with a degree of risk and requires experience and understanding of how each subject and scene requires different settings. In many cases, a packshot studio will likely use one of the pre-set modes above but if you can develop an understanding of controlling the different settings then it opens up more options for you.

Our advice would be to take advantage of the increasingly advanced modes on cameras to save time and energy in most cases but find opportunities to get creative and test with Manual Mode.

Other modes often found

We haven’t gone into detail about every mode found on a camera because some of them are less frequently used or may be more suitable for specific areas of product photography. Here is a summary of other common modes found on cameras:

  • Macro Mode: Perfect for shooting smaller products such as jewellery that require a focus on very small detail.
  • Portrait Mode: As the name suggests, it will help create the perfect setting combination for portraits of people.
  • Landscape Mode: It will help maximise the depth of field, useful for those wider shots that involve distance or multiple subjects.
  • Sports Mode: If you want to take action shots for a product, such as sports equipment then this is really helpful as it uses a fast shutter speed and reduces blur.


We hope you’ve found the two articles on camera modes useful, but we do appreciate there is no better way to learn than to get out there and start practising. Find a subject and a setting and take shots using different settings.

By comparing the results you will very quickly come to understand how each mode becomes more relevant, depending on the product you’ve been commissioned to shoot.