Advanced Techniques

Program AE mode

Written by Gail Bjork

Program AE is a useful, often overlooked, digital camera exposure mode that lets your creativity come into play in a simple and reliable way.

Digital camera Program modeFor any given scene, there are usually multiple combinations of aperture and shutter speed that will deliver a correct exposure.

Most digital cameras have Program AE mode, indicated by a P on the camera mode dial. P Mode is an automatic digital camera exposure mode that gives you more control than full automatic mode.

When in P mode, the camera selects the shutter speed and aperture automatically, but allows the user switch between those combinations once the exposure has been evaluated. The changes can be made when half-pressing the shutter button. This is known as Program Shift.

Program Shift

Program Shift is useful because it lets a camera users creativity come into play in a simple and reliable way. It makes the selection of various aperture and shutter speed combinations easier for the photographer, while still ensuring accurate exposure.

For instance, a scene can be photographed with an f-number of f/2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/500 seconds. It can also be shot with an f-number of f/5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/125 seconds.

The first settings combination allows for a shallow depth of field and makes it easier to photograph moving subjects. On the other hand, the latter settings ensure that more of the scene is in focus. But both images will be exposed similarly.

Check your manual for camera-specific instructions for using this very powerful, often overlooked, tool for photographers who want more control than offered by full automatic mode.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.