Oxford School of Photography

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Daily Archives: August 11, 2014

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

From Digital Camera World, an explanation as to why the P program mode is a much better alternative to the fully auto mode

In this guide to your camera’s Program Mode – or P Mode – we’ll answer many of the common questions about what it is and how it works, as well as show you how to get more creative results by shifting the aperture and shutter speed.

Program Shift, also known as Flexible Program, is an advanced semi-automatic exposure mode – although you won’t find it listed as an option on your camera’s mode dial.

What you will find is the letter P, which stands for Program mode. Select this, and the camera will adjust both the aperture and the shutter speed to produce what it judges to be the best exposure for the scene or subject you’re photographing.

However, you can manually override the camera’s choice, ‘shifting’ to a different combination of aperture and shutter speed. It’s by doing this that you effectively enter Program Shift mode. 

It sounds a bit automated – so why wouldn’t I just use my camera’s Automatic mode?


Program Shift is what’s known as a semi-automatic mode: you can let the camera handle the whole picture-taking process, or you can roll your sleeves up and make some adjustments manually.

For example, you can select an ISO sensitivity, tweak the white balance and picture style, and dial in exposure compensation. Your camera’s Automatic mode – the green icon on the mode dial – doesn’t give you this level of freedom.

You may be able to choose a drive setting and decide whether to fire the flash or not, but that’s about your lot. 

Are there any drawbacks of using Program Shift?

If you know you want a particular effect, such as a shallow depth of field or a slow shutter speed, it can often be quicker to work in the appropriate mode mentioned above.

Having to scroll through a range of combinations in Program Shift until you come to the one that best matches the effect you’re looking for takes a little longer.

On some cameras, any ‘shifted’ exposure combination in Program Shift will only be available while the camera’s meter is active.

If you take your finger off the shutter release and the aperture and shutter speed disappear from the viewfinder or the LCD screen, the shifted exposure will be lost.

When you dab the shutter release to activate the meter again you’ll be back in Program mode, with the initial combination of aperture and shutter speed that’s been suggested by the camera. See the full article here


Masters of Photography – their thoughts and ideas


Please read these quotations, think about what these supremely gifted photographers have to say, what do you think? Leave a comment and start a debate. Or find a quotation of your own and post it and start the conversation going

1. “ You don’t take a photograph, you make it. – Ansel Adams

Full awareness of what makes a good photo is essential in taking great photographs.

Why would anyone be interested in this photo and what elements can be included or excluded to make it truly great?

2. “ Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Do you know how many photos you have taken up until now? You will have to take thousands of pictures to reach a point where you can begin to evaluate them objectively. Looking upon your photos as if you were looking at them through someone else’s eyes is a good way to give yourself constructive criticism. Comparing your first photos with your most recent, do you see improvement? Do you remember how you loved some of your first photos – do you still love them or are they now not so good anymore?

3. “ Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph. – Matt Hardy

You often don’t or can’t see beauty in the world until someone shows it to you. Take a look around you just now – even without moving from the computer. Can you see something in a new way, a different way of presenting something common? Just take a look again…

4. “ Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times I just shoot at what interests me at that moment. – Elliott Erwitt

When the world is your canvas, so to speak, you need your tools with you to capture everything around you. Make a habit of always carrying a camera with you—you will never suffer the regret of wishing you had.

5. “ Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. – Imogen Cunningham

Never be fully satisfied with what you’ve done.

Never stop photographing. It is very likely that your best photograph has not yet been captured.

6.  “ You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper. – William Albert Allard

We are always looking for reasons for not taking good pictures. Cartier-Bresson used film camera, same lens, no flash, same shutter speed – he didn’t need the newest digital equipment to take great photos.

We all have access to some subjects that no one else has access to – look at your friends’ hobbies, the workplaces of friends and family, and any place you have access to to find a vision that comes uniquely from your access. Many people would dream of having the same access you have, and you might not have considered how valuable your access is.

7. “ If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up. – Garry Winogrand

How often have you seen a photo that is missing something, thinking, “This is a good photo but I’d make it different somehow.”? Sometimes small things make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to shake things up.

8. “ I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good. – Anonymous

Sometimes it is interesting to hear the story behind the photo and you see the photo in a new light. But in most cases a photo shouldn’t need a story to back it up. It has to speak for itself.

9.  “ Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop. – Ansel Adams

Even one of the masters in photography, Ansel Adams, didn’t expect to get more than 12 great photographs each year.

How can anyone expect more?

Take a look at your last year in photos – do you really see 12 photos that stand out from the rest?

10. “It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get. – Timothy Allen – On editing photos

Editing photos can often be the most difficult but also the most satisfying part. Sometimes taking a quick look at all the photos and then going away for a while before taking a closer look lends a fresh eye to your viewing. You may see things you did not notice previously. Stepping away from the mass of photos can make certain images stand out in your mind’s eye, leaving a memorable impression that can characterize a good photo.