Getting out of auto mode



TL;DR: Probably not.

Auto in the days of film

Back in the days of film, you didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t an ‘auto’ mode. You just had to learn exposure rules and then learn from your mistakes.

Pentax film cameraAs time went on, there were several cameras that gave you a ‘program’ mode.

This mode allowed the camera to take control of shutter speed and aperture. And, as ISO was fixed by your film choice (unless you changed the ISO setting for creative reasons), this became the equivalent of Auto mode.

The other difficulty or course, was that you had to make a physical note of your settings for each image. Otherwise, when you got your photos back from the developer, you wouldn’t remember what your settings were.

With film, your exposure pretty-much decided whether the image was even useable. Your image was physical. Unless you had access to a darkroom yourself, together with the knowledge and skill to manipulate the light coming through the enlarger lens, you had to get it right in camera.


Using auto in digital photography

Today, things are very simple by comparison.

You can see the results immediately, and change your settings as necessary.

Also, in smartphones and cameras today, the auto mode setting will give better than adequate images in almost all circumstances.

The quality of computational photography today, produces incredible images just by clicking the shutter.



So, should I continue to use auto?

Use auto modeLike a said before, auto mode will usually give you excellent images.

With the technical side of photography taken care of, you’ve got more time to concentrate on the other aspects of great photography.

For most people, a good image is one that brings out a feeling, or emotion in them.

Usually, the simplest way to give an image an emotional connection, is through composition.

If the viewer feels connected to the subject, or feels like they’re almost ‘in’ the image, etc. they have a good experience of the photograph.

The other important aspect of photography is light. Good lighting can turn an average image into a great image.

I always recommend that as a new photographer, you keep your camera in Auto mode until you’ve got a good handle on composition, and get used to working with differing types and intensities of light.



When should I not use Auto mode?

Keeping it as simple as possible, you only really need to make manual adjustments for creative reasons.

What do I mean? Here’s some examples…

  • If you’re shooting a portrait and you need the background to be more blurry.
  • If you want to take images of things like, light-trails or show silky-smooth water in a river.
  • If you’re trying to shoot moving objects and the camera doesn’t pick a fast enough shutter speed.
  • Anytime you need to have a large depth of field. eg landscape, or street photography.

Many times, the camera will still do an adequate job, even if you don’t change the settings. And who knows? maybe the photograph you take in auto will have an etherial effect that you like better than your initial plan 🙂



Where can I learn more?

There are some great tutorials over at the Digital Photography School website.They have a simple explanation on Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority over there.

If you like the idea of using Auto mode, but you’d like a little more control, then below you’ll find a video from Paul Farris that gives a good introduction to the ‘Program’ mode.


If you have any questions, or thoughts, drop them in the comments section below. Or, you can drop me an email.


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