When should you choose Auto mode on your digital SLR camera, and when should you start setting exposure, aperture, and ISO yourself? How much control do you want over the camera, and for what kind of photograph? Should you turn off the flash? Should you use scenes like Landscape and Portrait?

Name Description When to Use This Mode
Automatic Point the camera, press the shutter button halfway to focus, and then press the shutter button fully to take the photo.

Some cameras have more than one automatic mode, one of which will be Advanced.
Use when you're learning about your camera and photography or when you need to transfer the workload to the camera so you can relax and have fun.
Flash Off This mode is Auto without the flash. It may be called Auto (Flash Off) on your camera. Use it when you want to be in Auto mode but can't turn off the flash.
Portrait Take photos with nicely blurred backgrounds and sharp subjects. You're photographing people.
Landscape Scenes full of scenery, processed to make the colors stand out. Photograph cityscapes as well as traditional shots of nature.
Sports/Action Optimized to photograph moving subjects with a fast shutter speed. Someone else is moving or you're moving.
Macro/Close-up A close-up. You need something close up.
Other scenes Your camera may have more scenes, such as Child, Sunset, Night View, Handheld Night, Twilight, or Night Portrait. Try them out in different scenarios.
Specialty Many cameras now have some form of automatic HDR shooting mode. Some enable you to shoot multiple exposures. Sony cameras have Sweep Panorama and Continuous Advance modes. When you want to try high dynamic range (HDR).
Program Auto (P) Program auto is like Auto mode, but you have much more control over the camera. Exposure is automatic.

You can shift the program by changing which combination of aperture and shutter speed the camera uses in a given situation.
When you want to point and shoot, but want to set up options like metering, drive mode, white balance, and so on.
Shutter priority (S or Tv) Set the shutter speed; the camera works around that to get the right exposure. In all other aspects, the camera is under your full control. Good for sports, action, and when you are moving.
Aperture priority (A or Av) Set the aperture; the camera works around that to get the right exposure. In all other aspects, the camera is under your full control. Good when you want to control the depth of field more directly. Good for portraits, landscapes, and close-ups.
Manual exposure (M) You're responsible for all exposure settings. You're ready for major responsibility.
Bulb (B) This mode opens the shutter for as long as you hold down the Shutter button. If you don't have a B mode on your dial, you may access it by increasing your camera's shutter speed.