These days, most digital cameras allow you to select from among a number of shooting modes.
Shooting modes determine how various camera settings for your shots are determined. These settings typically including the exposure parameters (aperture, shutter speed and ISO), as well as white balance, bracketing, exposure compensation, and the onboard flash settings.
The camera mode can be changed using the mode selector, typically a wheel or dial located somewhere along the top of the camera body near the shutter button. Rotating this dial allows you to select from among the available modes.
Most cameras offer a variety of modes ranging from fully Automatic to fully Manual, with semi-automatic and scene-specific modes filling in the gap.
Realistically, though, most folks live their photography lives almost completely on Automatic (A on the mode dial). And that’s understandable to a point. The appeal of Automatic is obvious. The camera makes all of the decisions for you.
But that’s also the downside to shooting on Automatic. While Automatic mode can certainly come in handy and works well with lots of shots, it also robs you of the chance to take real creative control of your images by deciding for yourself exactly how the camera will take those shots.
So what to do? What do you do if you need help with the exposure parameters but still want to start taking more control of your photography?
Well, there is a middle ground and it’s called Program mode (sometimes called Programmed Auto mode), which is usually indicated with a P on the mode selector dial. Program mode is a great first step for anyone who wants to start controlling his or her camera settings.
In Program mode, you can override some of your camera’s basics settings. The settings that you have control over varies by camera brand and model. But, in most cases, Program mode allows you control over all of the camera settings except the aperture and shutter speed. And some cameras even give you a bit of control over those parameters too, using a feature called Program Shift. Program Shift, also known as Flexible Program, allows you to take advantage of the reciprocal nature of the exposure parameters and choose between different shutter speed and aperture combinations, all of which produce the same overall exposure.
The great thing about Program mode is that it gives you as much control over your camera settings as you want. You can change any of them or all of them, depending on how involved you want to get.
With that in mind, here are some of the settings that you will probably want to start adjusting when you first begin shooting in Program mode.