WatsonPhotography.ca | The Beauty of P

The Beauty of P

May 22, 2016

Grizzly Bear No doubt you have heard the snobbery in photographic circles when using anything but manual mode when capturing your images. The disdain towards Auto mode even more so. But is this justified or is this merely rhetoric to dissuade from valid uses of camera automation.

Much of the rhetoric comes from the inclusion of Auto mode on point and shoot cameras and the full automation provided on phone cameras. This is not the origination of camera automation. Camera automation started many years ago with the mass market adoption of the Kodak Brownie camera. This camera offered fixed focus and a choice of two to three shutter speeds depending on the model. Film sensitivity was also rated at ASA 80-125 depending on the year of manufacture.

The Kodak Brownie was used by millions of people over its product lifetime. Later camera designers adopted automation over the years to the current day. Today camera automation is more sophisticated and encompassing several additional elements; including auto ISO, shutter speed, f stop and automatic lighting adjustments. 

The DSLR and mirrorless cameras of today offer varying levels of automation. There are two primary options for the modern photographer. The first one is the full Auto mode where the camera takes full control of all settings and the photographer does nothing but press the option. The second automation feature offered is the P mode or flexible Program mode. This mode allows the camera to set an optimum setting for exposure but also allows the photographer to vary the settings in either direction via a command dial. This allows the photographer to quickly change f stop or shutter to match the situation but still have the correct exposure.

So why would a serious amateur or professional want to use the P mode on an expensive camera. The answer is simpler than you think. Often in life a fast moving situation presents itself that may interfere with photographic thinking or it is a quickly fleeting moment that must be captured quickly. In the example image you see a massive grizzly bear standing on its hind legs. This is an example of fear interfering with photographic thinking. This shot was possible because the flexible program mode was used to capture the image.

A good practice for a nature or street photographer is to leave your camera in Program mode so that a quick image capture is possible and when time permits then change over to manual or Aperture priority mode. When you are finished shooting simply return the camera to Program mode. This simple practice will let you capture those fleeting moments in life and still delve into more creative settings when using manual mode.


Watsonphotography.ca creates unique images of fashion, models, people, travel, nature and racing sports by Toronto photographer Peter Watson.