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You've seen how you can use priority modes and manual mode to take control of your shutter speed and aperture settings, but program mode is awfully nice for everyday shooting. Let's face it: there are lot of times when you don't have any particular creative agenda in mind; you just want a well-exposed, sharp image, and that's what program mode is for. In program mode, your camera will always try and choose a shutter speed that will minimize the risk of hand-held shake and a middling aperture setting that will give you decent depth of field, but not go so deep that you get a softening of your image from diffraction artifacts.
If you just want to walk around, compose shots and shoot, then program mode is a boon. But some people get nervous about program mode. They think, "Oh! But what if I suddenly see a UFO, and I want to be sure I can get a sharp picture of it. I won't have time to switch to shutter priority mode if I am in program mode." Or maybe a scene unfolds on the street and you want to insure that you can shoot it with an extremely deep depth of field. If you are the type who doesn't want to give up a finer degree of manual control, I have good news. Most SLRs, and even a few advanced pointed shoots, have a feature called program shift, which gives you a nice level of manual control without ever leaving program mode.
Here is how it works. This should look pretty familiar to you now. This is our three cameras receding into the distance. The scene either is potentially needing a very deep depth of field, or I can take shallow depth of field control. Rather than switching to aperture priority mode, I am going to use program shift. So I am focusing on the middle camera, and I am metering, and you can see that I am coming in at 1/125th at f 4.5. Take a note, I am at ISO 1,600 because it's a little dark here in the studio. I am on a tripod. I could even shoot at ISO 100.
If I do that, my shutter speeds are going to go really slow, and that's going to take time to shoot. So I have cranked it up. But again, I am coming in at 125 at 4.5. 4.5 is pretty wide open. So if I hit the depth of field preview button, you see that my lens doesn't really close down to any significant degree. I have very shallow depth of field. So this camera is in focus. This one is out of focus. That one is out of focus. Let's say that I really want to shoot this with sharp focus. I could switch to aperture priority mode and change my aperture and all that kind of stuff, but I can actually do this from program mode in this camera.
Again, I meter. It comes in at 125th and at 4.5. Now there is a dial on this particular camera, and it will vary in its location depending on what type of camera you have. This is the program shift control. As I turn it, notice my shutter speed and aperture are both changing. Now you've learned about reciprocity. You've learned that for any given lighting situation, there are a big number of exposure aperture combinations that all yield the same level of illumination. All I am seeing here are all of the reciprocal combinations of shutter speed and aperture that yield this level of illumination.
So as I am turning this dial, you are not seeing a change in brightness, because these are all yielding the same level of brightness. So I am just going to dial up until I get a smaller aperture. I am going to go up here to f13, so that's going to be a pretty small aperture, which should give me deeper depth of field. Now when I hit the depth of field preview button, I've got focus here, I've got focus here, and of course my middle is focused. So that's an aperture change in program mode--actually it's both aperture and shutter speed. But I was able to dial in the combination that I wanted, to get the effect that I wanted.
What's great about this is I can work very quickly. If I meter the scene, and it comes in like this, it's nothing to quickly dial over here to a smaller aperture. Conversely, if I am out, and I am shooting a flower or something, and I am in program mode and decide I really want shallow depth of field, I can just spin it the other way and get a nice wide-open aperture. So this gives me the convenience of program mode shooting in that I can just shoot, and the times when I need some more manual control to achieve my creative vision, I can just turn my program shift dial. Check your manual to find out if your camera has a program shift control and how you operate it.
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