Canon 7D P: Program Mode

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Next up on the dial is the Program mode (P). This mode is similar to the Full and Creative Auto modes in that it gives the camera control over
some of the settings, but it opens up the rest of the decisions to the user (that’s you!).

So what are the differences between the Auto modes and the Program mode? It’s actually quite simple. In Program mode the only settings that the camera determines are shutter speed and aperture. You choose the ISO, white balance, focus point, and so on, so you will still have a lot of control over the quality of your images. The camera is just making some of the last, yet still very important, decisions for you.


  • When shooting in a casual environment where quick adjustments are needed
  • When you want control over the ISO
  • If you want to make corrections to the white balance

Now, just because the camera chooses a starting point with an aperture and shutter speed doesn’t mean that you are stuck with its fi rst choice. The Canon 7D has a feature called “Program AE” that allows you to adjust the aperture and shutter speed on the fl y while maintaining the same amount of light that is coming through the lens. Do you remember the Reciprocal Exposures chart in Chapter 2? That’s the same principle applied here—if the camera wants the settings to be 1/250 of a second (shutter speed) at f/5.6 (aperture), you can turn the dial to a reciprocal exposure of 1/60 of a second at f/11. You will get the same exposure in your image, but your depth of fi eld will vary because of the different aperture settings.

The key to using the Program AE function is understanding what you want the overall image to look like. If you are photographing a fast-moving subject and need to freeze the action, then you will turn the Main dial to the right to be sure that your shutter speed is fast enough to capture the movement. This also increases the size of the aperture, which can result in a blurred background, or shallow depth of fi eld. Turning the Main dial to the left will do just the opposite—it will slow your shutter speed, possibly increasing the likelihood of motion in the image, and it will shrink the size of the aperture, which will result in a more focused image, or greater depth of fi eld.

Let’s set up the camera for Program mode and Program AE and see how we can make all of this come together.


  1. Turn your camera on and then turn the Mode dial to align the P with the indicator line.
  2. Make sure that your ISO, white balance, picture style, and focus point are all set appropriately (this is where you get to make the decisions!).
  3. Point the camera at your subject and then activate the camera meter by depressing the Shutter button halfway.
  4. View the exposure information while looking through the viewfi nder (underneath the focusing screen) or at the LCD Panel on the top of the camera.
  5. With the Shutter button still pressed halfway, use your index fi nger to roll the Main dial left and right to see the changed exposure values.
  6. Select the exposure that is right for you and start shooting. (Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what the right exposure is. We will start working on making the right choices for those great shots beginning with the next chapter.)


There is a lot of discussion concerning ISO in this and other chapters, but it might be helpful if you know where your starting points should be for your ISO settings. The first thing you should always try to do is use the lowest possible ISO setting. That said, here are good starting points for your ISO settings:

  • 100: Bright sunny day
  • 200: Hazy or outdoor shade on a sunny day
  • 400: Indoor lighting at night or cloudy conditions outside
  • 800: Late night, low-light conditions or sporting arenas at night

These are just suggestions, and your ISO selection will depend on a number of factors that we will discuss later in the book. You might have to push your ISO even higher as needed, but at least now you know where to start.


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