A camera with a screen on it in a dark room.

What The Symbols & Icons on Your Camera Mean

Unlock the mysteries of your camera with our comprehensive guide explaining the meanings behind each photography symbol and icon.

Camera symbols can be a real head-scratcher. But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with this guide!

Below, we’ll take you through what all those symbols and icons on your camera mean, from the basic symbols to camera modes to the more advanced settings.

Ready to master all those buttons and menu items? Let’s go.

Basic Camera Symbols


Understanding basic camera symbols is the first step to mastering your photography equipment and ensuring you capture the perfect shot.

Here are the most common ones you’ll find on any digital camera system:

  1. Camera or Shutter Icon: Depicts the basic camera functionality to capture an image.
  2. Video Camera Icon: Indicates the camera’s video recording function.
  3. Play Button (Triangle): Activates playback mode to view or play back images or videos.
  4. Trash Can: Lets users delete selected images or videos.
  5. Q or Quick Menu: Quick access to the most-used settings.
  6. Magnifying Glass (+ or -): Zoom in or zoom out while reviewing pictures.
  7. Folder or Album: Camera symbol for organizing or accessing different folders or sets of photos.
  8. Wrench or Toolbox: Gives you access to the camera’s setup menu.
  9. Face Recognition (Face icon): The camera will prioritize focus on any faces it detects.
  10. Eye Sensor: Switches between the electronic viewfinder and the LCD screen based on proximity to your eye.
  11. Touch Screen Icon (Hand or finger pointing): A hand or finger camera symbol indicates areas of the screen that are touch-sensitive.

Camera Modes

Camera shooting modes determine how your equipment interprets and captures a scene, offering various levels of automation and control. You can usually find these camera symbols on the dial of your camera body.

  1. Auto (A or AUTO): With Auto Mode, the camera makes all the decisions regarding exposure.
  2. Manual (M): Manual Mode gives the photographer full control over all settings.
  3. Aperture Priority Mode (Av or A): The photographer sets the aperture, and the camera decides the shutter speed.
  4. Shutter Priority Mode (Tv or S): The photographer sets the shutter speed, and the camera determines the aperture.
  5. P (Programmed Auto): This mode is like Auto but gives the photographer more control over some settings. The camera will choose the shutter speed and aperture, but you can override its choices.
  6. B (Bulb Mode): This mode allows the photographer to keep the shutter open for extended periods of time. It’s useful for low-light situations like night photography and capturing light trails.
  7. Scene Intelligent Auto (A+): Uses scene analysis to optimize settings for the best shot, found in some Canon models.
  8. Video Mode: Some cameras have a video camera icon on the modes dial to switch the camera into video mode.

Scene Modes

You can typically find some scene modes on a camera’s mode dial, or in the camera settings menu. They automatically optimize settings for specific shooting environments or subjects.

  1. Portrait (Head icon): Optimized for taking portraits with a blurred background.
  2. Landscape (Mountain icon): Ideal for capturing landscapes with everything in focus.
  3. Sports (Running man): Suitable for capturing fast-moving subjects.
  4. Macro (Flower icon): Designed for close-up photography.
  5. Astrophotography or Star Mode: Select this camera symbol when capturing stars and the night sky.
  6. Food Mode: Enhances the look of food in photos by making it look more vibrant and appetizing.
  7. Pet or Animal Mode: Optimized for capturing pets or wildlife, often focusing on tracking movement and enhancing detail.
  8. Night Portrait Mode: A combination of flash and slow shutter speed to capture both the subject (using flash) and the ambient low light of the environment.
  9. Beach or Snow Mode: These modes compensate for scenes that are predominantly bright, ensuring they don’t appear washed out.
  10. Fireworks Mode: Uses longer exposures when you want to photograph fireworks.

Advanced Camera Symbols

These advanced camera symbols provide seasoned photographers with the ability to fine-tune their photography output via more nuanced controls.

  1. Histogram: This camera symbol represents the tonal distribution in a photo.
  2. AE-L or AF-L: Auto Exposure Lock or Auto Focus Lock. Once you’ve got the right light or focus point, these buttons ensure your camera won’t change those settings, even if you move or adjust other things.
  3. ISO (ISO number): ISO refers to the camera’s sensitivity to light.
  4. VR or IS (Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilization): Select this camera symbol if you want to avoid camera shake. It helps reduce blurriness caused by shaky hands or slow shutter speeds.
  5. MF or AF (Manual Focus or Auto Focus): Indicates whether the focus is set to manual or automatic.
  6. AF Points (Multiple little squares in the viewfinder): These auto-focus modes show where the camera is focusing.
  7. Grid Display: Having a grid on your screen or viewfinder can be really helpful for different composition techniques. Use this camera symbol to turn the grid on or off.

Flash Camera Symbols

In low-light or dark situations, you might want to use your camera’s flash.

Here are common flash camera symbols you might find.

  1. Flash (Lightning bolt): With this camera symbol, the flash is activated.
  2. Flash with ‘A’ (Auto Flash): The camera decides when to deploy the flash, typically activating it when you half-press the shutter button.
  3. Slash through Lightning Bolt: Flash off. The camera will rely on natural light only.
  4. Eye Icon: Red-eye reduction.
  5. Rear-curtain Sync (Flash icon with trailing line): Flash fires just before the shutter closes, creating a trailing effect behind moving subjects.
  6. Slow Sync (Flash icon with ‘S’): Uses both a longer exposure and flash, capturing both subject and background clearly in low light.

Metering Mode Camera Symbols

Metering modes dictate how a camera measures light. Once you understand these camera symbols, you can ensure the optimal exposure for the central subject or the entire scene.

  1. Matrix or Evaluative (Grid or rectangle icon): Takes into account the entire frame.
  2. Spot (Dot in the center): Measures light only in the center spot of the frame.
  3. Center-weighted (Circle in the center): Considers the center and a bit of the surrounding area.

White Balance Modes

White balance modes adjust the camera’s color temperature, ensuring photos have a natural hue regardless of the lighting conditions.

  1. AWB or WB Auto: Automatic white balance.
  2. Sun Icon: Daylight.
  3. Cloud Icon: Cloudy.
  4. Tungsten Light Bulb: Tungsten or indoor lighting.
  5. Fluorescent Tube: Fluorescent lighting.

Battery Indicators

Battery indicators provide real-time feedback on your camera’s power status.

They’re usually represented by the following camera symbols:

  1. Full Battery: Fully charged.
  2. Half Battery: Half charged or medium battery life.
  3. Empty Battery: Low battery, needs charging soon.

Special Effects

Camera symbols for special effects open up more space for creativity.

These icons are usually found in a camera’s effects or creative menu.

  1. Star or Sparkle Icon: Adds a sparkle or starburst effect to bright objects.
  2. Vignette (Shaded corners): Darkens the corners of the photo.
  3. Pop Art or Vivid Color: Select this camera symbol to enhance colors and make them pop.
  4. Soft Focus: Renders the image with a dreamy haze.
  5. Miniature or Tilt-shift: Simulates the look of a miniature scene.
  6. HDR (High Dynamic Range): The camera takes multiple shots at different exposures and combines them for greater detail in highlights and shadows.

Connectivity and Storage Camera Symbols

Connectivity and storage camera symbols keep photographers in the loop about data transfer and image storage.

These icons are commonly located in the camera’s main menu or settings panel.

  1. Bluetooth (B-shaped logo): Indicates Bluetooth connectivity or transfer capabilities.
  2. USB Icon: Signifies USB connectivity or transfer mode.
  3. Multiple Overlapping Frames: Burst mode or continuous shooting.
  4. Multiple Rectangles or Stacking Image Icons: Indicates the camera is set to bracketing mode (taking multiple shots at different exposures).
  5. Cloud Icon: This camera symbol can indicate either a cloud storage option or a connection to cloud services.

Other Notable Camera Icons & Symbols

  1. SD Card Symbol: Indicates memory card status or storage.
  2. Self-timer (Clock icon): Sets a delay before the camera takes the photo.
  3. Continuous Shooting (Stack of frames): Captures multiple shots in quick succession.
  4. WiFi or Antenna Symbol: Indicates wireless connectivity or transfer is available.
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Content Manager

As the Content Manager of Shotkit, India Mantle brings with her a lifelong love for photography that she developed during her childhood, watching her father document their family moments with his Nikon EM. In her free time, you find her enjoying the awe-inspiring natural beauty of her home, Northern Rivers, Australia.



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