Photo Tip Friday - What's that dial for? Pt. 1

Starting today, I'm going to explain what those letters and symbols on your camera dial mean. I won't do them all at once in detail. But I'll give you a quick overview today and then go into more detail in subsequent posts on how to use them.

So, let's get started.

Here's the dial on my Canon. Your symbols should be similar.

I'm going to list the "words" and what they mean first.

The symbols come in another post.

A-DEP : (I'm skipping this one for now)

M         : Manual            
Av        : Aperture Value
Tv        : Time Value
P          : Program mode
A+       : Automatic

Now for more detail.

M: Manual allows you to control all the variables of Aperture, ISO, and Time Value.

Av: Aperture allows you to control the depth of field and how much light is allowed in.

Tv : Time value allows you to determine how fast you want the shutter go.

P :  Program mode allows you to control the ISO or "speed" of the film.

A+ : Automatic is just that. It takes the picture automatically for you.

Ready for a little more?

Aperture is what controls your depth of field. The depth of field is how much of the photo is clear. That is, how "deep" the focus is.  Apertures run from f/2.8 or so to f/22. The smaller the number, say f/2.8, means that the depth of field is shallow. But it lets in more light.  The larger the number, say f/22 means you'll have a deeper amount of what's in focus. But it doesn't let in as much light.

Time value is how fast the shutter speed is. It ranges from several seconds to 1/250 of a second and faster. The brighter the room or subject, the faster you need to take the shot. Leaving the shutter open for 2 seconds on a bright day will completely white out the entire shot. Two seconds would be for a dark place and a tripod. But if you're shooting outdoors on a sunny day, then you want the shutter speed to be faster, like 1/250 th of a second.

ISO is how fast the speed of the "film" is. Remember when you had to choose your ISO for your roll of film? Well, you still have to remember what you learned. But here's the cheat sheet. ISO runs from a  100 (think bright sunny day) to upwards of 6400 (think a candle, low light settings.) The slower the speed of the film, 100 ISO, the more light you need. So a sunny day and actually most shots can be taken with 100 ISO. But if you need the speed of the film to be faster for darker conditions, then use 1600 or higher.

Once you understand about aperture, time value and ISO values, then you can go to manual and start playing around with it.

I think that may be enough for today. Next week I'll show you some examples of what the different components do.

Feel free to ask me questions. It takes a while to learn all this.

If you have a question, just leave it in the comment section. And if you leave your web address, I'll be happy to pop over to your site.And is there anything else you'd like to learn? Just let me know!

Hope this tip helps!

Keep on clicking!



  1. Thanks for all the tips! I used to have so much fun with the manual mode on my Pentax in the days of rolls of film. I've lost touch and needed this refresher. I love my new camera, but I haven't taken the time to learn how to use it other than the simple settings. I have a Canon Power Shot 20X Optical Zoom.

    1. I love Canon! ;) I'm glad to know the posts will be a good refresher. I loved your beach pics of the South African penguins! Watching documentaries are great, but they obviously don't tell all the penguin stories! How fantastic that you can see them on your beaches! Thanks for dropping by.

  2. It all sounds so simple - until I pick up my camera. Looking forward to your next few posts!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Sheryl. Most cameras do have a good program mode, but sometimes, you may just want a little more control. Hope my tips will help with that! Loved your son's lego themed party! How fun! Have a great weekend. :)

  3. My cell phone doesn't have all those gadgets.

    1. Hey Joyce, thanks for stopping by! Stick with me and you can still learn to take better shots with your cell phone! We'll get there!

  4. LOL. Probably not! But, hopefully my posts can help with composition and things like that! Thanks for dropping by Joyce!

  5. There's a lot here, Mary but taking it one thing at a time, I hope to get it eventually. At least I know what all those symbols on my camera mean now.

    I used to have what was advertised as the "idiot-proof camera." Your series should help me move beyond that now. :)