Program Mode Explained: how to creatively shift aperture and shutter speed

Program Mode Explained: how to shift aperture and shutter speed for more creative images

Program mode alternatives

Recognise when Program mode can get it wrong – and what you can do about it

Program mode alternatives: Bright or dark scenes

Bright or dark scenes
The exposure generated by Program mode is an automatic one, based on the metering mode selected on the camera. As a result, it can get things wrong: typically over-exposing dark subjects and under-exposing bright ones.

Using Program Shift to select a different combination of aperture and shutter speed will have no effect on the overall exposure, so use your camera’s exposure compensation feature.

SEE MORE: Raw format vs JPEG: how much can you REALLY recover in raw?

Program mode alternatives: Flash exposures

Flash exposures
Program mode is not a good choice for
flash photography, because your choice of aperture and shutter speed will be limited.

Program Shift won’t be available, and your camera will default to a shutter speed that’s between 1/60 sec and the maximum ‘sync speed’ (the fastest shutter speed that can be used with the flash). Consider using one of the other semi-automatic or manual shooting modes instead.


Program mode alternatives: Low light

Low light
Program mode is limited by the range of apertures offered on the lens, and the shutter speeds available as a result. In low light you may not be able to select an aperture that will give a fast enough shutter speed for sharp pictures.

If you’re already working at the lens’s largest aperture, select a higher ISO setting to increase the shutter speed. Alternatively, use Auto ISO and let the camera vary the ISO according to conditions.

PAGE 1: Program Mode Explained
PAGE 2: Working in Program Shift
PAGE 3: Using aperture and shutter speed in Program mode
PAGE 4: How to shift the exposure
PAGE 5: Program mode alternatives


Common mistakes at every shutter speed (and the best settings to use)
Best photo apps for photographers reviewed and rated
10 portrait photography mistakes every photographer makes (and how to fix them)
32 things photographers say… and what they really mean