Shoot in automatic mode and keep things simple

Just like the t-shirt says: Live Simply. Shoot simply too!

Sometimes when you start learning about photography, optics, depth of field, shutter speed,  shooting raw, and all the things your digital camera can do, you forget about the basics. Put your camera on automatic mode and take a day off from all that techy stuff.

Today I took pictures in 100% automatic mode

You can call the photo police, but I’m in my secret hideout. They’ll never find me!

All too often when I’m teaching photography, students take the little knowledge they have and then go out and shoot the hardest possible subjects.

Here are some actual examples from my own students:

  • rock bands
  • indoor horse jumping
  • indoor hockey in a community arena
  • kids playing basketball in a school gym
  • their 2 year old twin grandsons who only stop moving when they’re sleeping

They come back defeated!

Then they come back to class defeated and disappointed and want to know why their photos didn’t turn out so well.

What most of these subjects have in common is that they happen in low light and the subjects are moving. The white balance is hard to determine and it’s impossible to focus. It’s really tough to learn how to photograph moving subjects in bright daylight, let alone in the dark. It takes a lot of practice.

Do this instead

Instead of starting off with those really tough subjects, go for a photo walk in an interesting part of town for a couple of hours. Go alone or with another photographer who doesn’t mind that you stop every 50 feet to take pictures. You can even split up and meet up later.

  • Travel light, with only one lens, no flash
  • Put your camera on fully automatic or program mode
  • Concentrate on composition
  • Look for patterns
  • Look for textures
  • Look up and look down
  • Look for details – remember life is in the simple details
  • Look how light falls on things and creates shadows
  • Don’t be a tourist, rather be a detective looking for interesting clues about the neighborhood
  • End up at a cafe or pub, grab a beverage and review and think about your photos

Sometimes I do this exercise when I need a creative break. I go alone and use it as a time of personal reflection too. It’s fun and very grounding. I have a favourite part of town that I go to. I take my point and shoot camera so I don’t stick out too much. But if you’re learning, you should probably take the camera you’re learning on.

Have you taken a simple photo walk lately? Maybe it’s time. Let me know in the comments.

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