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Using Program Mode

Mastering Program Mode Can Help Those New to DSLR Photography


If you're new to using a DSLR, you've probably been sticking to the Auto mode and allowing your camera to do the work for you. While you'll end up with great results most of the time, there will still be occasions where something in your scene confuses the camera.

So, if you want to start taking advantage of your camera's abilities and produce better images, you need to learn how to take your camera out of fully Auto mode. A good place to start is by using Program mode.

What Can You Do in Program Mode?

Program mode means that the camera will still set your exposure for you. It will choose the correct aperture and shutter speed for the light available, meaning that your shot will be correctly exposed. Program mode also unlocks other functions, meaning that you can have more creative control over your image.

Here are some of the key elements that Program mode will allow you to control.

  • Flash. Unlike Auto mode, where the camera decides if flash is needed, Program mode allows you to override the camera, and choose whether to add pop-up flash. This can help you avoid overly lit foregrounds and harsh shadows.
  • Exposure Compensation. Of course, turning off the flash could cause your image to be under-exposed. You can dial in positive exposure compensation to help correct for this. Being able to use exposure compensation also means that you can help the camera out with tricky lighting conditions (which sometimes confuse its settings).
  • ISO. A high ISO, particularly on cheaper DSLRs, can lead to a lot of unattractive noise (or digital grain) on images. In Auto mode, the camera has a tendency to raise the ISO instead of adjusting the aperture or shutter speed. By having manual control over this function, you can use a low ISO to prevent noise, and then use the exposure compensation to compensate for any loss of light to the image.
  • White Balance. Different sorts of light cast different color casts over your images. The Auto White Balance setting in modern DSLRs is usually pretty accurate, but strong artificial lighting, in particular, can throw off the camera's settings. In Program mode you can set your white balance manually, allowing you to feed the camera the most accurate information about the lighting you are using.

The advantage of Program mode is that it allows you to learn about other aspects of your DSLR without having to worry about getting your exposure perfect. It's a great first step in learning how to get your camera off the Auto setting!

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