Why Program Auto Mode is a Beginning Photographer’s Best Friend

I Love P! I do! Ask any of my students ūüôā I tell them all P is their best friend – their buddy, their pal! ¬†So who or what is P I hear you ask?

Ah! P doesn’t stand for Professional, ahem, as I’ve heard, ahem, at least twice before…

P = Program Auto Mode! See it up there on your camera Mode Dial?


P100 Mode Dial

Program Auto Mode is your best friend because it gives you all the benefits of shooting in Auto Mode such as, the camera takes care of all of the exposure decisions for you, but lets you override any setting you wish.  And as you know, there are lots of other things to worry about on your DSLR or mirrorless camera other than just exposure.   In Program Auto Mode you can control the Flash, the White Balance, the Metering, the Auto Focus Modes etc. while the camera makes sure you have a well exposed shot every time.

All of these things are functions of your camera that you really need to take time to learn. ¬†These will make the difference in your photography between¬†just “blah” photos to something that you’re really proud of. ¬†And while you are learning about these things, you¬†don’t have to worry about Shutter Speeds or f-Stops – all that is taken care of by P so you can spend your time getting to know all the other stuff while still getting correctly exposed shots.

Little Tweaks make a big difference

I believe that you should run before you can walk and using P mode allows you to do just that.  Before you start manipulating the exposure get to know how your camera sets things and you will see how small tweaks can make a huge difference.

For example, look at the following two shots:

Fill FLash-2

Pic without Flash

Fill FLash

Pic outside with Flash

In Auto, the camera will never decide to pop up the flash when you are  outside as it only worries about whether there is enough intensity of light or not.  Using Fill in Flash when your outside will help to avoid these shadows and totally change the look and feel of your image. You can only add this pop of flash in the P mode but it is as simple as just by pressing the Flash Button on the side of your camera flash.

As you can see, using your flash outside as a Fill In Flash can bring your photos to life!

There are so many of things like this that cannot be done in Auto Mode and once you’ve been using your camera for a while you’re bound to come across these limitations. In fact, if you’ve had your camera anything more than a wet weekend (or a snowy one) I’m willing to bet you have already.

Little Clues

Program Auto Mode also gives you little clues as to how the camera is deciding to set the exposure.  If you pay attention to the numbers on the back of your camera, you can quickly begin to see the exposure combinations that work best for various scenarios.  This will give you a clue as to where to start when setting manual exposures.



The first number you see is the Shutter Speed and the Second is the Aperture.  These two varibles will dictate the exposure along with ISO.  And ISO can be controlled in Program Auto.

As your photography progresses knowing the variables will be come very important

I actually believe that getting a firm grip on ISO and its impact on your images is a great foundation in shooting in manual and P mode allows you to play with ISO and figure out this important part of the equation.

So the next time you are at the park, or messing around with the camera outside, don’t be too hard on yourself and have a go in Program Auto Mode and see what you can change ūüôā

If you’d like to learn more about all the things your wonderful camera can do, then join me for a live webinar on “Simple Things you can do to Improve your Everyday Photos.”

Happy snapping