Get Out of Auto: 5 Valuable Modes That Will Help Your Photography

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It’s my mission this year to help you become a better photographer for your family and we’re starting with Canon camera modes. You deserve to have great photos to look back on and cherish as your family grows up. I’m teaming up with Canon again to teach you everything I know–Or close to it. So if there’s something you have a question about ask and I’ll be sure to address it in an upcoming post!

Also, in a few weeks I’m going to be at the B&H Event Space in New York City giving a presentation about just that! If you’re in the area I’d love it if you stopped by, or if not, tune in because it’ll be live streamed!

An all-in one tutorial for how to get out of auto-mode and use your camera to its fullest potential. Canon camera modes explained.

Ok, so you’ve decided you really want to get better at photography, and you’re wanting to finally switch out of auto mode. What next? Canon Camera Modes!

On a Canon, scene intelligent auto is great for guessing the best settings for your moment. But learning your settings and switching to manual can make a huge difference.

It can be intimidating to switch to full manual mode (where you have control over all of your camera settings) all at once. But there are some other Canon camera modes in between that can help you get that perfect photo. There are a dozen modes on an EOS Rebel T7i and that alone can be intimidating. I’m going to highlight 5 favorites I have and work you through how to use them.

SCN (Special Scene Mode)

An all-in one tutorial for how to get out of auto-mode and use your camera to its fullest potential. Canon camera modes explained.

Similar to full-auto except in this mode you can pick a specific scenario you’re shooting in. Taking a group photo? A picture of your child blowing out his birthday candles? A night portrait or a picture of the delicious meal you just made? These special scene options automatically choose the best settings for your situation. It’s kind of like a more specific auto-mode.

Canon EOS Rebel t7i tutorial how to use special scene SCN mode

Make sure you pay attention to your camera settings in each of these different modes. That way you’ll get an idea of how to fix your settings when you’re ready to move to full manual mode.

Portrait Mode

Canon EOS Rebel t7i tutorial how to use portrait mode

You’ll want to switch to this mode if you want to… You guessed it, take portraits. It makes your subject stand out against a shallow depth of field (a blurred background) and creates smoother skin tones and softer hair. Great for beginners if you’re just wanting to shoot portraits. But if you think you’ll be switching back and forth between photographing portraits of your kids and your kids doing other things, I’d suggest using the next mode to photograph.

Canon EOS Rebel t7i tutorial how to use portrait mode

AV (Aperture Priority Mode)

Canon EOS Rebel t7i tutorial how to use AV mode

This is the Canon camera mode I switched to from auto when I was ready to step up my photography a little bit, but not ready to go to full-on auto. It allows you to set the aperture (f-stop) and automatically takes care of the rest. With the aperture you can decide how much or how little depth (or blur) you’d like in the background of your photos.

The higher the number the less background blur you’ll have. The smaller the number, the less depth you’ll have. Decide how much of the background you want to see and set your f-stop accordingly. The photo on the left I shot at f/1.4 the photo on the right was shot at f/11.

An all-in one tutorial for how to get out of auto-mode and use your camera to its fullest potential. Canon camera modes explained.

TV (Shutter Priority Mode)

An all-in one tutorial for how to get out of auto-mode and use your camera to its fullest potential. Canon camera modes explained.

This is a great Canon camera mode to switch to when you’re wanting to create a certain look for things in motion. A waterfall for example can be frozen with a higher shutter speed, seeing more of the droplets and stream of water. Or you can use a slower shutter speed and make it look like a smooth, rushing stream.

When it comes to photographing your kids–Riding a bike, or running for example. If you want to freeze them in motion, and capture them in a sharp image, you’ll use a higher shutter speed. If you’re purposely wanting to blur them a little bit–Capturing the motion, you’ll want to use a slower shutter speed. So in the photos below, on the left I used a shutter speed of 1/80. And the photo on the right was shot at 1/4000.

Canon EOS Rebel t7i tutorial how to use TV Shutter priority mode

Canon Camera Modes: Program AE Mode

All of these different settings we’ve been discussing–Aperture, shutter speed (and ISO), together determine your exposure, which is how bright your photo is going to be. Personally I like my photos to be ever so slightly over exposed. In this mode you get to decide your preferred exposure level, and your camera takes care of the rest. I usually set mine to be about +⅓ or +2/3 . I’ll take a test shot, see if I like how bright it is, and adjust as necessary. The nice thing about this mode is if you’re moving in and out of shadowy areas, or areas where the light drastically changes, your camera’s settings will automatically regulate.

Press and hold the +/- exposure button and roll the shutter wheel to set your preferred exposure level. Note that the higher that number goes, the brighter or over exposed the photo will be. The lower, the darker. You want to be around the 0, just above, or just below.

Canon EOS Rebel t7i tutorial how to use program mode and set exposure

Helpful Hints

The great thing is once you master the latter three modes you’re pretty much ready to switch to full manual. Then you can take full control over your settings. I like to set my aperture first depending on how much depth I want, then my ISO and last my shutter speed, keeping note to where that exposure meter is falling.

If you’re more of a visual person, I’ve created a video detailing the differences between these Canon camera modes.

We’re created a printable photography cheat sheet for you. You can download the full sized file here and print to keep on hand and help you out when you’re on the go. And for more of my photography tips check out my photography course: Child’s Play: Simple Tips for Photographing Children.

Photography cheat sheet and Canon camera modes explained

From birthdays to family vacations, to holidays and more, I’ve teamed up with Canon again this year to share how we capture the moments we cherish most. I’m also dishing out tips to help you better photograph your special moments with your family. Shout out to my favorite camera brand for sponsoring this series.

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  1. My sister just bought a new camera, this would be a great read for her to have her know a bit more.

  2. OMGoodness you are the BEST!! I really, like REALLY need to step up my photography. I am printing out the cards and cant wait to practice using these settings. Thanks!

  3. I need to keep this in mind for the future. I’ve always been the picture taker in the family (basic point and shoot but I love playing around with my camera when I can), but lately my husband has been talking about getting a fancy Canon to take pictures of our son playing lacrosse. He could use a hobby and I wouldn’t mind it since I’ve always wanted to go fancier, but not sure it’s in the budget right now since I need a new laptop first (my screen is permanently tinted pink!). But I think this guide would be a great starting point for both of us. Thanks!

    1. Oh my goodness do you know how badly I want my husband to take up photography?! You have no idea! haha. A permanently tinted pink computer screen doesn’t sound so fun though haha. Canon announced new cameras today and one of them is a very entry-level camera that’s super small and more affordable. Could be something worth looking into that’ll still get the job done for action shots!

  4. This is quite helpful as I learn to take better photos for my blog posts. I love that you made these modes sound much easier to understand. I will give them a try!

    1. It’s funny Mel, I actually didn’t play around with ALL of these when I was first learning but working when them for this post was a fun exercise. Glad you found it helpful!

  5. Thank you sooooooooo much for sharing this post! I have a brand new Canon and I swear I’m just now being able to understand some of the features. Your post has given me great insight on many different modes, wow thank you! Love your pictures!!

    1. You’re so sweet Lisa! Yay, I’m so glad you found it helpful! It was really fun to write. I’m here if you ever have other questions 🙂

  6. I have been shooting with a Canon 60D for about 3 years. I’m still learning it. I am getting better with manual but still feel intimidated at times with iso or deciding if i have the right lenses for the scenario. Great tips BTW!!

  7. I just discovered your blog and have already bookmarked it. I love it! I’ve “inherited” my husband’s camera and although he’s tried teaching me the various settings, I’ve been overwhelmed. Your post helps narrow down the wealth of information to the most important items. Thank you! Can’t wait to check back in and see future posts.

  8. I watched your video the other day and I was so proud of myself for already knowing everything you shared! Kinda made me feel smart… but I watched it twice because it’s always good to be reminded of the simple procedures!

  9. I would love a post on lenses for beginners. I have a Canon Rebel. I’m mostly shooting in full auto mode these days. I have the kit lens (which I hardly ever use) and 50mm 1.8. I would love to know another good lens to use to use to photograph my children.

  10. Hi Jennifer! First, your photos are always so beautiful! We bought a camera and this year we are going to attempt to take our own holiday photos… Do you have any helpful blog posts or videos that address family photography and editing the photos? Thanks in advance!!

  11. Nowadays Canon is on the top due to its better product quality or best customer service canon focus on after sale service to make easy to use of printers you can contact us to get instant support by dialing Printer Customer Helpline Number +1-800-610-6962.

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