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9 Aug

That Auto Setting Is Not Your Friend

Hey, everybody! Meet Jason! He’s a dad and a photographer and he’s going to be contributing here, sharing his digital life, and providing much-needed professional advice on all this photography stuff that I am so resolutely amateur about. In his own words:

“Jason Thomson is insane. How else do you explain being a dad to six kids, working as a full time writer and photographer and publishing “Frame One,” a blog to help anyone who wants to take better pictures without being a photographer.”

Take it away, Jason…

It’s just so darn tempting.

You turn on your camera and are bedazzled by that ever-expanding list of situational settings. Portraits. Fireworks. Aquarium (!). When you first buy the camera, you think to yourself “Oh man, I’m totally going to use all of those on trips next summer.”

Then next summer comes and you can’t find “Aquarium” buried under menu three and how to get the best shots from it.

“Auto” is a scam.

Here’s the truth: these settings are more than a bit misleading. They promise you professional-quality shots by letting the camera do all the thinking for you. If you’ve ever seen the robots rise up in movies like the Terminator, you know that letting the machines take control is rarely a great idea.

If you take the time to learn what these settings mean and how they can be used, you can get snappier snaps. But you don’t need to go that far. There’s an easier way to get the same shots with a little less mental ballet. It’s probably why you give up at some point and just use the dreaded Auto Setting — the roulette wheel of photography.

Use these settings – and get better photos:

Look for four settings on your camera “P,” “Av,” “Tv” and “M.” Learn these four settings and when and how to use them and your aunt will consider you the photographer at the next family reunion.

We’re going to cover each of these settings over the year, but for today, I’m going to ask you to do just two easy things. Stop using the fancy settings — including Auto — and start using “P.” This is an easy move because “P” or “Program” is like a fancier version of “Auto.” Ultimately it gets you some more street cred with the family and forces you to start thinking about what you’re shooting. My shot of Cabot up above was the very first one I took when I moved the dial.

Make your next frame by shooting on “P.” Forget you “Fireworks,” I’m trading up to better moments.

What To Do:

* Forget about creative settings like Sports, Portraits or Night.
* Stay away from the simple Auto Setting.
* Use the “P” setting in place of Auto.