What is the P (Program) Mode in Digital Cameras?
Most amateur and novice digital camera users don’t know the difference between Auto (usually represented by a green camera symbol) and P mode on their camera, or simply don’t use the P setting because they don’t know what it does or means.
Placing your camera in Auto, is the equivalent to the Point & Shoot mode, this is fine for many situations, but this blog is for those who are interested in finding out what the Program (represented by the letter P), setting is for and what is does – or doesn’t do!
If you want to take more control over, or experiment with your ISO settings, the White Balance settings, the pop-up flash, and to some extent the aperture or shutter speeds, etc. then the P setting may be what you should look at.
The P mode will switch off the automatic flash, automatic ISO settings, will usually keep your auto white balance, but mostly what the P mode does is it tries to find the optimal combination of shutter and aperture to reach the optional exposure (plus the automatic ISO value in some digital cameras). This is usually done by taking matrix measurements and deciding “intelligently” what total exposure will deliver the optimum results, and then sets the Aperture and Shutter Speed accordingly.
Some cameras offer a flexible program mode where once it has determined the optimum shutter and aperture setting you have the choice to dial the shutter speed or aperture up or down a few notches without becoming over or under exposed, given the lighting conditions and the selected ISO.
I would like to encourage you to test your digital camera by selecting the P setting and experimenting with changing the ISO settings then taking and reviewing pictures (on your computer screen for best results) at the various ISO settings to see the difference.
Try experimenting with your flash settings too, especially fill in flash, by altering the + or – stops to see what gives a better fill in result. You may find that reducing the power of your flash fill in, could give a more subtle, flattering result.
If it all gets too confusing, you can always revert back to Full Auto. Full Auto sets everything, including the ISO and flash settings.