Camera modes P, A, S, M

Usually, after getting bored with all the camera's 'Auto' modes, a lot of people start using the special semi-automatic modes. MORE P. These modes can be found on the camera control wheel, as shown in the image below. Usually mode MORE P stand out in a separate set, for example, in the photo below, these modes are highlighted by a special arc that combines them. Can be found instead of naming 'M, A, S, P' another name -  'P, A, S, M' or 'M, AV, TV, P' - they are all the same. I will try to talk about these modes in this article.

Camera Modes

Camera Modes

All camera modes are aimed at creating optimal exposure. Any mode selects the shooting parameters in such a way as to obtain the most correct picture in terms of the amount of light needed to transmit the exposed scene.

Important: modes P, A, S, M give additional access to many menu itemsthat are not available in automatic modes. In these modes, you can configure any functions to your liking, for example, control ISO, choose the format of pictures, etc.

To understand how these modes P, A, S, M work, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with such basic concepts in photography as:


The simplest special mode is 'P' (Programmed) - flexible program mode.

It is very similar to the automatic mode of the camera 'Auto', but in this mode you can change exposure within certain limits. Exposure varies in a range that allows extreme aperture values ​​of the lens. Shutter speed can be changed using the control wheels of the camera. If a excerpt changed by the photographer, “*” is added to the mode name. The shortest excerpt in mode 'P' available with the smallest number F, and the longest excerpt available at the largest number F. There is a golden rule of interchangeability of aperture values ​​and excerpts, it is precisely on this rule that the work of this regime is built. For example, if you increase the shutter speed, for example, 2 times, then the aperture closes one step.

Example:  if you increase the shutter speed from 1/200 second to 1/100 second, this will enable the matrix to absorb more light and get overexposure, because the camera should reduce the amount of light by covering the aperture, and the aperture will close one step. For example, if at 1 / 200s it was F4.0, then at 1 / 100s it will become F5.6. I do not like this mode in that it constantly tries to set the value excerpts and apertures that are convenient to the camera itself. With each new scene with a different exposure, camera selects shutter speed / aperture again and the exposure value has to be changed over and over again to suit your needs.

What the 'P' mode is used for: it’s convenient to use the mode when switching from the green zone (fully automatic camera mode) to class modes MORE P... You can be sure that the camera will help you get the normal settings. In this mode, you can take pictures of almost everything without worrying about the correct settings. It is very easy to achieve the fastest shutter speed available with the lens and the current ISO, and you can have complete confidence in the correct exposure. This can be used for 'stopping time'. If you turn on the auto-iso mode, then the program mode works a little differently.

Snapshot in one of the PASM modes

Snapshot in one of the PASM modes

A (or Av)

A very useful mode is 'A' (Aperture Priority), or 'Av' (Aperture value) - aperture priority

This is one of my favorite camera modes. It is quite convenient, as it allows you to control the aperture, and with it the depth of field. In this mode, you can simply set the desired aperture value, and the camera itself will recalculate and select the shutter speed. The larger the aperture, the slower the shutter speed. Conversely, the smaller the aperture, the longer the shutter speed. The shutter maneuver is much wider than the aperture maneuver. Usually the shutter speed varies from 30 seconds to 1/8000 of a second, that is, the shutter speed limits are very long and the camera is almost can always find the right shutter speed for almost any aperture value on the camera.

For example: for a lens with aperture limits from F3.5 to F36, the camera will almost always select the desired shutter speed for any value of F. So, for F3.5, a relatively short shutter speed will be selected, and for F / 36 a long shutter speed will be selected.

If for a certain value of the number F the camera cannot find the desired shutter speed, then the camera, in the field that is responsible for shutter speed, will display the value HiGH or LOW.

What is the 'A' mode used for: in this mode it is very convenient to control image depth of field. Using aperture priority mode makes it easy taking photos with blurry background. Typically, aperture (iris control) can seriously improve image quality, since most lenses give maximum image quality only in a certain range of F. So, aperture greatly affects vignetting and chromatic aberration. Using this mode, you can easily control the bokeh intensity, which is sometimes important for photographing portraits. And with the closed aperture in mode 'AND' you can achieve long exposure photographs, for example, such. You can get various interesting effects, for example such. This mode works very effectively when enabled ISO auto sensitivity functions.

Snapshot in one of the PASM modes

Snapshot in one of the PASM modes

S (or Tv)

Mode 'S' - (Shutter Priority), or 'Tv' (Time value) - shutter priority

Here, the opposite is true - this mode allows you to control the shutter speed, in contrast to the program mode, the shutter priority mode allows you to set any shutter speed that the camera can use. If you set a certain shutter speed on the camera, then the camera will automatically select the desired aperture value. The mode works similarly to the aperture priority mode, only instead of the aperture value, you need to set the shutter speed here. The aperture travel is quite limited, and you can often find that the camera is unable to set the desired aperture for a certain shutter speed.

If, at a certain shutter speed, the camera cannot find the desired aperture value, then the HiGH or LOW value will be displayed on the camera in the field that is responsible for the aperture.

What the 'S' mode is used for: using this mode is very easy to achieve motion stop effect. This is very useful when shooting sports and fast-moving objects. In order to freeze something in the photo, it is enough to take a picture at a fast shutter speed, for example, for 1/2000 second, while the camera itself will select the desired aperture value for a shutter speed of 1/2000 second. Also, in this mode it is convenient take off without grease pictures. This mode works very well when the auto ISO function is on.

Snapshot in one of the PASM modes

Snapshot in one of the PASM modes


'M' (Manual) - manual mode.

In this mode, the camera will have to set both shutter speed and aperture manually, in fact, that's why the regime is called 'manual camera control'. Of course, the manual mode can be a little automated, about this in more detail here.

Usually mode 'M' used in difficult shooting conditions when exposure metering cannot cope with the determination of the desired exposure. When working in 'M' helps a lot to get right exposure scale exposure in the viewfinder as well, use bar charts. Mode 'M' considered truly a creative mode and allows you to control all the available parameters that are responsible for the exposure. Interesting effect in mode 'M' obtained when using external flash, you can read in more detail here.


Creative semi-automatic camera control modes are very useful in a number of situations and can very easily get the camera to do what the photographer wants. I recommend doing your own experiments. And a short video on the topic:

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Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Training/Consultations | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram

Add a comment: B. R. P.



Comments: 164, on the topic: Camera modes P, A, S, M

  • Varya

    Good afternoon. Please tell me nikon d90, in any “masp” mode, everything is white. How to set up these modes? I just picked up the camera a couple of days ago, help the user figure it out from scratch

    • B. R. P.

      Everything in this article is very clear. Try reading the manual for your camera. Do you have a lens on your camera?

    • Kate

      You seem to have high settings, such as ISO, shutter speed, maybe something else is done wrong. Read what is iso, shutter speed, aperture, exposure for starters and how to combine them correctly, but for now take pictures on auto or R

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