(photo credit: Tom Langford)
Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website designer.
digital cameras are similar to TV remote controls – they each have lots
of buttons and clever features, but only a few of them are really
useful most of the time.
This week we will concentrate on one of
the most useful features found on most SLRs and many compact cameras.
It’s called Program Mode and is the professional equivalent of the
point-and-shoot “Auto” mode. Like many pro photographers, I use it most
of the time except when I’m shooting with flash in the studio. To see
why it’s so useful we need to understand the basics of exposure.Exposure
your camera is a light meter that measures how much light enters
through the lens. A miniature computer then adjusts the shutter speed to
allow just the right amount of light to affect the image sensor and
make an appropriate exposure.
Inside the lens is an adjustable
aperture that you can alter to allow more or less light through. As you
do so, the computer will make a corresponding adjustment to the shutter
speed, making it faster or slower, to keep the exposure constant.
Program mode is a very convenient way to benefit from this interlinked nature of aperture and shutter speed.Program mode
Program mode, gently press the shutter button to focus; the camera will
set an average aperture and shutter speed combination. This will be
fine for most general photography - you can start shooting and
concentrate on the picture rather than the camera.
however, you will want to take more control. The viewfinder display in
most SLRs will show the aperture and shutter speed; these will also be
visible on a compact camera’s preview screen. You can easily and quickly
adjust them to create a more blurred background, freeze motion, take
the sharpest picture, or for artistic special effects. Blurred backgrounds
make backgrounds more blurred and out-of-focus (useful for creative
shots and portraits) simply spin the thumbwheel on a SLR (or press the
appropriate buttons on a compact) in whichever direction makes the
aperture wider. Remember that wider apertures have smaller F numbers –
F4 will blur the background more than F8. Freezing movement
the thumbwheel on a SLR (or press the appropriate buttons on a compact)
in whichever direction makes the shutter speed faster. Speeds of
1/250sec or faster will capture action.Sharper pictures
don’t take the sharpest pictures if used fully open or stopped down to
their smallest apertures. You get the crispest results usually two stops
down from fully open.
So if your widest aperture is F4, you’ll
take the sharpest pictures at about F8. Use program mode to quickly
adjust the aperture when you want maximum sharpness. I do this if I’m
taking high-quality pictures of artworks for catalogs. A tripod may be
necessary to steady the camera. Choosing the ISO
you will want to use a faster shutter speed than what is available. You
can extend the range by choosing a higher ISO, the digital “film”
speed. Different cameras use various ways to set this so you may have to
refer to your manual. Remember to reset the ISO to a normal value, 100
or 200, afterward.Less fiddling about
you can do in P mode can be achieved by switching to other shooting or
scene modes. The instant ability to swiftly choose the best and most
appropriate aperture or speed is what makes P mode so versatile and
useful. With practice it will become instinctive and you can concentrate
on what’s important, creating Good Pictures.Send me your picture
you would like to develop your photography skills, send me a picture
with details of how you took it. I may share some constructive feedback
in one of my future articles.
Send one picture only, at a reduced size to [email protected]
If you don’t how to send a reduced size photo by email see myBrief Guide to Picasa:www.langford.co.il/courses/PicasaGuide.html
Langford is a commercial photographer, website designer, and
professional retoucher. He teaches photography courses for beginners and
advanced. Details of his next courses and field trips at: http://www.langford.co.il/courses
Sculpture by Israeli artist Doron Dahan: http://dorondahan.com