How to Stop Shooting in Auto Mode | Part Two

Last Friday, I shared my journey to the camera and equipment I have today….  But today it’s time to officially STOP shooting in Auto Mode!

Again ~~ I feel the need to say:  I do not even pretend to be an expert.  I don’t even pretend to have the basics nailed down.  I’m just a girl who made the commitment a year ago to stop shooting in Auto Mode…. who now wants to help you make the jump too!

If you are stuck in Auto Mode, I promise that learning to shoot without that crutch will leave you with MUCH better photos.  It just takes some time and practice.  But once you get hooked, you will NEVER shoot in Auto again!  I also promise there is SO much to learn.  I’m yet to scratch the surface.

A little over a year ago, I was given the gift of a two-hour individual photography lesson.  That lesson + practice + researching online has gotten me thus far…..

Here we go…  Let’s try to make this quick and easy….  and NOT boring:

On your DSLR there is a dial that allows you to choose which mode you shoot in:

  • P = Program ~> User controls ISO | Camera selects Aperture & Shutter Speed
  • S = Shutter ~> User controls Shutter & ISO | Camera selects Aperture
  • A = Aperture ~> User controls Aperture & ISO | Camera selects Shutter Speed
  • M = Manual ~> User controls all
Program mode is the closest to Auto Mode — to be used when you don’t want to have to think.
Shutter mode works well for motion events to freeze or slow the motion.
Aperture mode is great for details and portraits (will give blurry background).
ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light.  The higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light.  You will use high ISO in low light situations.  But beware:  the higher the ISO, the more grain the photo will have.

{Tip:  I usually strive for no higher than an ISO of 400 when possible.}
Controlling Shutter Speed is controlling how fast or slow the camera’s “shutter” opens.
  • A slow shutter speed keeps the shutter open longer, allowing more light to enter (used in low-light situations).
  • Likewise, the faster the shutter speed, the less light that is allowed to enter (used in brighter situations).
  {Tip:  Using a shutter speed of less than 1/60 will need a tripod to prevent blur 
(because the shutter closes slowly, natural hand shake will blur the picture).}
In the top picture = ISO 400, f/5, 1/60 = TOO MUCH LIGHT
In the bottom picture = ISO 400, f/5, 1/1250 = Just Right
Aperture is the size of the opening of the lens that is measured in f-stops.  Aperture is one of those things that takes a little time to understand — but once you do, you will be “cookin’ with peanut oil”  {any Duck Dynasty fans?}  Ok, so stick with me:

  • The smaller the number (i.e.: f/1.4), the more shallow the depth of field (more blur in background), the bigger the opening/aperture, the more light is let in.
  • Likewise, the higher the aperture (i.e.: f/16), the deeper the depth of field, the smaller the opening/aperture, the less light that will be let in.

Picture on the left = ISO 400, f/1.8, 1/400
Picture on the right = ISO 400, f/5, 1/60

Focus Point
If we get our ISO, aperture, and shutter speed all set correctly…..  yet we focus our shot on the wrong point…..  It’ll be all for nothing.  Use your camera’s User’s Manual to understand how to focus.

{Next time we can talk about White Balance….  You can see that I got the white balance much cleaner in the pic on the right.}

Exposure Indicator
So how do we know what the right ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings are for each shot?  That’s what the exposure indicator is for!

Left of center = Too Dark
Right of Center = Too Bright

Putting It All Together
Here’s my two cents on how to take a shot:

  • I always shoot in Manual Mode (just how I learned and I’ve been too lazy to use the other modes…  great reminder to make myself do that).
  • I start with my ISO at 400.
  • If I’m worried about not having enough light and I am hand holding the camera, I will set Shutter Speed to 1/60.
  • For Aperture, it’s totally dependent on the subject…. If I’m taking a picture of my two kids I will use a higher aperture to be sure I get them both in focus (not blurred).  If I’m taking a picture of something I baked in the kitchen like a muffin, I’ll shoot with f/2.2 or f/2.5.

The biggest thing to remember is that it takes practice to hone in on the basic settings you will use.  When you set up a shot, you will need to play with each setting a little to find the right balance for that shot.  Give yourself time and practice!

There are three basic principles when it comes to composition.  I use these as reminders when trying to take better shots…  But it’s a work in progress for me!

Rule of 3rds:  When taking a photo, imagine a grid divided into 3rds.  Place the subjects on the intersecting lines or in one of the sections to create more interest of the subject.  Here is a great article that explains this more clearly.

Symmetry:  This is when a photos is best created with equal space on either side of the subject.  Here is an example.

Leading Lines:  This occurs when multiple lines lead to the subject.  Great article on the how-to found here.

Just Try!
The easiest thing is to get discouraged and give up.  I hope you’ll take these basics and do as I did….  Stop Shooting in Auto Mode!  Just try.  Remember what Ansel Adams said…

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
{Courtesy of my man who took this shot of me taking a shot of the sunset this summer on my parent’s boat.}
I would LOVE to see some of YOUR photos.  
Post them to the:
  Just For Clicks FaceBook Page 
Not sure where to start?  
Snap your morning coffee, your puppy-dog, your kiddo….  Anything!
And for those who’ve shared that you are shooting with point-and-shoots or smartphones….  
We want to see your shots too!  
Let’s all learn and grow from one another.

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