In the last few years many thousands of photographers have stepped up from compact cameras to digital single lens reflex cameras. By mastering a few easy to learn skills new DSLR shooters can capture images with stunning quality. Today’s article discusses the differences between the easy to use Green Zone and equally easy – but more flexible – Program Mode.
If you have experimented with digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLR) you may have had some fun fiddling with the exposure modes found on the exposure mode dial. For most photographers just starting out with a new DSLR the Green Zone mode is the easiest to use. Using this setting the camera makes all of the decisions of exposure, metering and subject focus. Basically the Green Zone setting turns your DSLR into a great big point and shoot camera.
It is important to note that while each camera brand may call the green easy setting by a different name the operation remains the same across all brands and models.
With a camera set for the Green Zone all that the photographer needs to do is aim the camera at the subject, adjust the zoom lens for magnification and press the shutter button to capture the image. Operation is easy, and that is the lure of using the Green Zone mode. In fact when using the Green Zone, outside of the shutter button none of the camera’s other operation buttons work!
For all of its ease in operation there is a very basic problem at the core of the Green Zone mode. The engineers and programmers who created the camera’s Green Zone programming aren’t standing beside you when you take your pictures. The Green Zone wasn’t created to ensure capturing the “best pictures ever”, it was programmed to satisfy the opinions of many thousands of photographers. In other words, the Green zone is programmed to create the least objectionable image possible. That’s hardly a lofty goal.
Thankfully your DSLR offers the photographer a “Program Mode” on the exposure mode dial (designated as a “P”). Program is just as automatic as the Green Zone; in fact it is almost the same program. However with the camera set to Program the main difference is that all of the camera’s operation buttons work. The camera will set a basic exposure but the photographer can override or shift the exposure in any way they choose.
The most basic skill in using Program Mode is called exposure shift. After lightly pressing the shutter button to activate the camera’s exposure system, Program mode displays its best exposure value along the bottom of the viewfinder. By rolling the control wheel the photographer will see the exposure values for aperture and shutter changing in tandem. (The control wheel can be found near the shutter button or just at the rear of the camera’s top deck.) Even though the aperture and shutter speed are changing the exposure value remains the same.
By taking control and shifting the exposure the photographer can choose a faster shutter speed to stop action or a wider aperture to help blur the background. Each combination of exposure settings will yield a well exposed image. Program exposure shift is an easy skill to acquire and by applying it correctly the photographer will get better pictures than the Green Zone could produce.
Go ahead and use the Green Zone when it’s time to take snapshots. But when you expect better pictures set your DSLR to the Program mode and put yourself in the driver’s seat.
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