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A recent social media advert for a t-shirt had the words ‘Everyone’s a photographer until …’ and below was a picture of a camera dial displaying the M, A, S, P and Auto symbols.

The message is clear. It is possible to get some good photos just by keeping your camera constantly set to Auto, but that doesn’t make you a photographer who has full control creating the images you really want. It can be likened to owning a high performance racing car and only using it to drive half a mile down the road to pick up a loaf of bread from the local convenience store rather than take it to a race track and give it some welly!

Manual Mode. The only way to take back full control.

Now, I don’t own a such a vehicle, and I don’t know many people who do, but I know plenty of people who have a camera that is capable of far more than Auto Mode, yet they keep it in Auto Mode. Why? For some of those people it is because they don’t know what those other symbols mean and have not got round yet to finding out. Maybe it’s a daunting prospect for some. For others it might be a case of ‘well, why bother with those other modes when I get perfectly good photos in Auto Mode’?

In response I have a few questions.

1. Why spend your money on a camera with more controls and capability than you need? Just use your phone camera or buy a basic ‘point and shoot’ camera.

2. Are your photos in Auto Mode really as good as you think? Yes, they may be acceptable, but does Auto Mode produce the results you would like to achieve? Does it allow for your creativity to flow? Does it give you full control?

The human eye is still more capable of reading a scene and making sense of the various tones, hues, shadows and highlights than the most advanced cameras can cope with. For example, if you see a dramatic sky full of colour with the sun about to burst its rays from behind a cloud, and you take in the effect this light has on the trees, grass, sand or water below, your brain can interpret the scene to give you that 'wow' moment. Now point your camera at the scene in Auto and you will most likely be disappointed when you view the result on the camera's screen. This is because the camera's built in metering system, as clever as it is, has taken an average reading of the scene and exposed accordingly, possibly hiding all that lovely foreground detail in shadow.

The good news is that taking full control of your camera is not so difficult, and there are plenty of ways to learn how. You could read a book or watch an online video of which there are very many. Some not so good, others are excellent. Alternatively, have a look at workshops in your area. There are lots of these being made available now, and it gives the advantage of having a tutor on hand to go over things for you in a way you can understand, and you have the opportunity to ask that burning question that the book or online video may not answer. You also get to meet other hobbyists like yourself and learn from each other. For those who prefer 1-2-1 tutoring, many workshop leaders like myself offer that as an option too.

So, why not go and give that 'racing car' some welly? Have a look at photography workshops and consider booking yourself on one. I'm sure you won't regret it, and you'll enjoy learning how to be creative with your camera as you 'TAKE BACK CONTROL'!

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