A nice camera can make your photos a lot better, but knowing how to use it is even better. If you've always been afraid to switch out of Auto, our friends at Gizmodo have a video that explains what each of those mode dial settings does.
The video has all the details, but here's a very brief summary:
- Program Auto mode is like a "mostly automatic" mode, but lets you adjust the camera's exposure compensation to make the scene lighter or darker.
- Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority (Av and Tv on Canon cameras) let you adjust depth of field and shutter speed respectively. The first is great for portraits, while the second is ideal for action shots. The camera sets exposure automatically, although you can still adjust it with exposure compensation.
- Manual gives you complete control by letting you choose each setting yourself.
If you aren't familiar with some of those terms, the video shows off some examples for each setting, which really helps visualise how each one works (as does this graphic). You can also check out our guide to the basics of photography for a whole lot more.