I wish to live to see the day when camera manufacturers ditch the automatic mode.
Don’t use it.
Some people argue that it helps when starting out with a DSLR but I disagree for this reason: when you first pick up a camera you want to learn how to use it but automatic mode teaches you nothing – it does all the thinking for you.
So if you want to start taking better photographs switch that dial to aperture-priority mode the minute you’ve unboxed.
Take control over the look of your photographs
Aperture-priority mode gives you control over one of the three elements of the exposure triangle: the aperture (the other two being shutter speed and ISO but more on those another time).
Being in aperture-priority mode means you can concentrate on just that while the camera worries about the shutter speed. It allows you to choose the aperture which in turn controls the depth of field (how much of your image is in focus).
This is so important because controlling the depth of field has a major impact on the look of your photographs. Not only that but using this mode will help quickly familiarise yourself with the initially confusing relationship between f numbers and aperture size.
Quick-start guide to aperture-priority mode
Turn the mode dial to A (Nikon/Sony/Fuji) or AV (Canon).
Select your aperture (which is represented as an f number).
The lower the number = the wider the aperture = less depth of field. This is ideal for portraits, low-light situations or where you are trying to isolate your subject from the scene.
The higher the number = the smaller the aperture = more depth of field. This is ideal for landscapes or street photography where you want more of the scene in focus.