2. Speed mode (S)
In some specific scenarios I know that I need a minimum or a specific shutter speed. For example, if I am photographing people practicing sports, cars or I want a panning photography, It’s me who should be defining the shutter speed and not the camera. In this cases, we can use the Speed Mode (S).
With this setup you define the shutter speed, which is measured in seconds (or parts of a second, like 1/125) and the camera will adjust the rest of the parameters accordingly. This may mean the camera needs to use a high ISO in order to match your high shutter speed, but in this case we should be able to deal with it, because, is it worth a picture of a Formula 1 car that is blurred? Maybe it is better to have a sharp F1, even though it is in ISO 3200.
A very good rule in order to calculate what is the minimum shutter speed you need to shoot handheld photographs, is to use your lenses focal distance as reference. So, for example, if you are using a lens of 50mm, your minimum shutter speed should be 1/50 or higher. If your lens is a 80mm, you should at least use 1/80s speed. (This approach is for full frame cameras. If your camera is a DSLR, you should multiply your focal distance by 1,5 and then use the same logic: so a 80mm in DSLR would use a 80*1,5=140 so a 1/140 speed).
The most interesting use of this mode is for panning photography. This is a technique that requires a lot of practice and experience, but however it is one of the easiest to exercise. You just need to sit on the side of a street and wait for cars to pass by, following them with your camera in the right way to capture the subject in focus and get a blurred background.
If your shutter speed is too high, the whole picture will be frozen; however, if your shutter speed is too low, everything will be blurred. Check this amazing picture by @MilekZolaPhoto where the background and the foreground, both are blurred.
You will have to workout your ideal shutter speed for panning photography which of course will depend on your camera and specially in your focal distance (lenses zoom). I can give you a starting point from what I have learnt on my own, and it is to use a 1/125 shutter speed for a 55mm lens. Good luck!
3. Manual mode* (M)
I have discovered the need of using the manual mode in specific circumstances (and with a small trick*). The fact is that shooting in (A)perture mode in very dark environments, my camera sets a very low shutter speed by default (1/60 while I most of the time use a 55mm lens). Even this could be an acceptable speed for handheld pictures as I said before, it does not work for me, because while practicing street photography there is a big uncertainty about where the next picture will be. You need to be very fast, and most of the times you shoot without framing very well, in a rush or while you are moving. Therefore, I found out that most of the pictures I was taking during the night were blurred.
In order to avoid this, I thought the following: I will define the aperture (lowest F), I will define a speed so I’m sure the pictures are frozen (1/125 – /160) BUT, I will define the ISO in Auto, so the camera sets it. This way, I make sure the aperture is the brightest one so the ISO the lowest possible but the speed will be enough to freeze the image always. The downside of this setup is that, if for some reason, you step in a too bright scenario, your camera will not be able to set a ISO lower than 100 and your image could be overexposed. Therefore this setup should only be used in night or very dark places.
That’s all about the shooting modes and camera setups for now. I hope you found it interesting and maybe helpful for your practice.
Thanks for reading!