The next time you go on a photo walk, I encourage every single one of you to turn off all the automatic modes and shoot completely manual. While this may sound like something lots of folks do, I’m sure that you all know in the deepest darkest parts of your hearts that you’re not doing this. Many folks shoot in aperture priority or even P for Professional mode. I did it. You most likely do it. Lots of folks do. And I think that we should all stop operating on autopilot and instead make more concerted efforts to take better images instead of just shooting hundreds just because we can. It genuinely isn’t going to make any of us any better no matter how hard you’ll try to argue against it.
Here’s what I mean by going fully manual:
- Manual shutter speeds: Obviously figuring out whether or not you like the look of an image underexposed or overexposed lest perfectly balanced according to the light meter is a big one.
- Manual apertures: Selecting the depth of field of the scene will also relate to sharpness and what folks see
- Manual ISO: If you’re in bright daylight there usually isn’t a great reason to shoot above ISO 400. If you’re trying to capture faster moving subjects, then fine. But control this manually and learn how to get the shot.
- Manual focus: Selecting a focusing point is fine, but if you really want to get more creative, just switch to manual focus. The focusing process will really make you be the one setting up the focus and not the camera.
- Manual white balance: You’d be surprised at what florescent white balance, daylight, or Tungsten can do for a scene. Don’t necessarily worry about manipulating it later on.
Now, don’t make excuses. Don’t say you can fix it in post; we know that. Don’t say that “Oh, well I’m going to miss the shot!” Learn how to get it. Use zone focusing. Embrace camera blur to create a nice artistic effect. Stop worry about clinically perfect photos in a world where we edit images and export them to be shared on screens that can barely resolve the details to begin with. What you’ll end up with are less photos. If they all suck, then it’s clear that you probably aren’t that great unless you fully rely on what modern day machines can do. I say this with all intent as I’m legally blind and still able to do good work with completely analog cameras, lenses, etc. You can too.