Reasons to Break Away from Automatic Shooting


Little ThingsWe have often suggested that you should be shooting manual, or at least a priority mode, with your camera as often as possible.  It’s not that we want to turn you into professionals nor do we wish to subject you to the same steep learning curve that we were subjected to so many years ago.  Honestly, we just want you to have control of your camera – of your vision.  But if you have not yet been motivated to venture outside the comfortable realm of your camera’s automatic mode, here are some good reasons to do so.

  1. Focus on What You Want – In auto mode, you don’t have control over where the camera will focus.  Want to shoot a tiny flower with a shallow depth of field in a sea of greenery?  What about a soft focus on the foreground subject while really getting a crisp, clean, attention-grabbing shot of the girl in the background?  These scenarios will not happen in an auto mode.
  2. Control Your Flash – Too dark?  No worries, your flash (if you have one)  will automatically pop up to compensate.  But we all know on-axis flash makes photos look drab and it blows out close subjects.  Get out of auto and you no longer have to deal with such a nusiance.
  3. Depth of Field – You have absolutely no control over depth of field when shooting in auto.  Sometimes you’ll end up with something desireable.  But don’t be disappointed when you find a photo featuring a DOF much too broad or too narrow.  After all, you shouldn’t have been shooting in auto.
  4. Shutter Speed – you will lose control over your motion blur.  Your camera will try to carefully balance signal response with an appropriate depth of field based solely on the subjects that your camera thinks you’re shooting.
  5. Train Your Brain – How can you expect learn how to handle delicate shots if you’re not experimenting at least with a priority mode?
  6. Have Fun Shooting – Car enthusiasts like to drive manual transmissions simply because it’s more fun.  Photographer’s report that shooting in manual is also more fun than automatic.  Give yourself a challenge and stop shooting in Auto.
  7. Tricky Situations – If you’re shooting something unique (eg: silhouettes at sunset), your camera won’t really know what to do.  It’s trying to make everything expose properly.  You can override your camera’s brain outside of auto.
  8. Metering – You can meter off of anything you want.  You can choose to have parts of the photo poorly exposed or you can overexpose to get that artistic rock-n-roll type of look.  Those effects can’t be done in auto.
  9. Respect – Some would say you aren’t really a photographer until you shoot in manual mode.  I don’t know if I believe in such an extreme (the priority modes serve a lot of purpose), but you surely can’t do earn any respect in auto.

In auto, all you do is take photos.  As a photographer, you want to make photos.  Stop taking photos and start making them.  Get out of auto.


About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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