Scene mode

Automatic mode designed for beginners where the camera applies the settings that best suit the subject you’re shooting (landscape, portrait, action etc). Some cameras can analyse the scene in front of you and choose a scene mode automatically. Experts don’t normally bother with scene modes because they’re designed solely for those who don’t really want to get involved with individual camera settings. If you do know your way around a camera, you’ll generally want to make your own choices about the settings.

Program shift

An override option in program AE mode which shifts the shutter speed and aperture combinations in favour of faster shutter speeds or smaller apertures. This is often quicker than swapping to aperture-priority or shutter-priority mode if it’s for a single picture.

Program AE (P) mode

In this mode, the camera chooses combinations of shutter speed and lens aperture automatically to give a good compromise between safe shutter speeds (no camera shake) and reasonable depth of field (smaller apertures).

PASM modes

A set of four exposure modes that distinguishes a serious camera from simple point and shoot models. It stands for Program AE, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual modes. You’ll find these on many better compact cameras and all DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

Metering mode

Digital cameras usually use multi-pattern/multi-segment light metering, but they also offer other ‘metering modes’ – centre-weighted metering (simpler) and spot metering (more precise). The camera will have a button or a menu option for changing the metering mode.

Manual exposure

Where you set both the shutter speed and the lens aperture used by the camera. The camera’s exposure meter may recommend the settings, but you’re free to use or ignore this information. Manual exposure gives you total control but requires some experience.

Flexible Program (Nikon)

Nikon’s name for its ‘program shift’ control, where you can change the balance of lens aperture and shutter speed without having to leave the program AE mode – you simply turn the command dial until the camera displays the lens aperture or shutter speed you want.

Exposure mode

This controls the camera’s operation, from fully-automatic (the camera controls everything), semi-automatic (you can choose the shutter speed or lens aperture) to manual (you choose all the settings).

Aperture priority (A) mode

This is an exposure mode on more advanced cameras where you choose the lens aperture yourself and the camera then sets a shutter speed that gives you the correct exposure. This gives you creative control over depth of field, for example, without losing the convenience of automatic exposur