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Use program mode to nail your exposures

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This portrait of Renita was made right before her ceremony. I didn't have a lot of time and the lighting was a mix of ambient and artificial lights coming from above. I used Program mode to nail the exposure. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • This portrait of Renita was made right before her ceremony. I didn't have a lot of time and the lighting was a mix of ambient and artificial lights coming from above. I used Program mode to nail the exposure.
In fast moving situations and changing light conditions — which is pretty much every job I shoot — I like to rely on the camera to help with my exposures. I just don’t have time to tinker with manual exposure modes. If I tried, I'd miss the shot.

Using the P for Perfect mode (really it’s Program mode) I'm able to capture fast moving subject matter as they move from one light condition to another. 
As Renita got closer the exposure value changed. If I had to do this in manual mode it would have taken several seconds to get it right. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • As Renita got closer the exposure value changed. If I had to do this in manual mode it would have taken several seconds to get it right.

In program mode, the camera automatically determines both the shutter speed and aperture value. The brightness of the subject and the lens type are also taken into account in the consideration. When shooting in a dark church, for instance, the light typically changes as a person walks through the space. The Air Force Academy Chapel is a great example of this dramatic space. Sunshine streams through stain glass throughout and it’s also lit with artificial lights from above.
The saber arch is one of the highlights of the ceremony. Speaking of highlights you can see in this image just how much bright the background is. My camera's program mode adjusted for the foreground and background lighting values perfectly. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • The saber arch is one of the highlights of the ceremony. Speaking of highlights you can see in this image just how much bright the background is. My camera's program mode adjusted for the foreground and background lighting values perfectly.

Nevertheless, the chapel is still quite dark and the changing color makes it difficult, if not impossible to nail the correct exposure of a bride walking down the aisle, or the saber arch as the couple exits the ceremony. But by relying on my camera to take care of my exposure I’m able to concentrate on capturing those moments. 
Another moment during the saber arch. If I had to fiddle with exposure in this instance, I would have missed the moment. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Another moment during the saber arch. If I had to fiddle with exposure in this instance, I would have missed the moment.

I’ve included pictures of Renita and John’s wedding day to illustrate. Pay special attention to the shot of Renita walking into the ceremony. In the image you can see the entire chapel and the dramatic difference in light from the back to the front of the space. 
When Renita started her walk I wanted to include the dramatic organ on the second floor behind her. The two different areas of this image have two different exposure values, but my camera balanced them out perfectly. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • When Renita started her walk I wanted to include the dramatic organ on the second floor behind her. The two different areas of this image have two different exposure values, but my camera balanced them out perfectly.

Also, the shots outside happened very quickly, and again I relied on my camera’s judgement to determine the exposure. By not having to worry about the exposure myself, I’m able to confidently move from one lighting situation to another and capture the action indoors and outdoors. 
Renita and John with their four boys. Again the lighting value in the aisle is much darker than the background and again the camera's program mode handled it perfectly. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Renita and John with their four boys. Again the lighting value in the aisle is much darker than the background and again the camera's program mode handled it perfectly.

Try program mode the next time you’re in a challenging lighting situation. The results might surprise you.
You only have a few minutes to take photographs before the next wedding. i had to run outside and make pictures and the light couldn't more different than inside the chapel. Again the program mode saved me so that i could concentrate on the moment. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • You only have a few minutes to take photographs before the next wedding. i had to run outside and make pictures and the light couldn't more different than inside the chapel. Again the program mode saved me so that i could concentrate on the moment.

Renita and John share a kiss in front of the Chapel. Possibly the most dramatic church in the country to be married and I couldn't afford to worry about the exposure. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Renita and John share a kiss in front of the Chapel. Possibly the most dramatic church in the country to be married and I couldn't afford to worry about the exposure.
Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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