Camera shooting modes: Part 2 – Program

Program mode (P)

The Program mode is the flexible version of the full auto (green square of death) mode. In full auto, the camera makes all of the decisions for you.

In Program mode you can set:

And, you won’t have the stress of choosing f-stops and shutter speeds.

When to use Program

This mode is great for beginners, or if you’re having a day where you just want to concentrate on composition and light. The camera uses automatic metering so you don’t have to think about exposure too much. Program mode is great for outdoor shooting in good light. It’s a good starting point when using flash too.


Exposure compensation works really well in Program mode. If you need to add or remove light, the +/- feature is the tool of choice, even if you know nothing about f-stops or shutter speed. For more on exposure compensation, read this post.

Blurry photos

Sometimes you get blurry pictures using Program mode because the camera chooses a slow shutter speed. That might happen in low light situations. In that case, you have three choices:

  1. Use a flash
  2. Use a tripod
  3. Choose a higher ISO

Flash tips

  • If you want to use your flash, your main subject needs to be fairly close to you
  • Keep the distance to 4 meters (or about 12 feet) for the small pop up flashes
  • You can be farther away from your subject if you have a larger flash

Program Mode + Flash + ISO 400 = Great party photos

If you are photographing people at an indoor party or wedding reception, where you need to use flash, I suggest you use the Program mode. Set your ISO to 400. That will preserve your batteries, and will take advantage of any available light already in the room.


Get in a little practice time before heading off to your next party.


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