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Shooting Mode: Auto

Lesson 7 from: The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

7. Shooting Mode: Auto

Lesson Info

Shooting Mode: Auto

Alright when we talk about shooting modes, what are we talking about? I like to think of it as control, for me it's all about control (laughs). I do have a bit of a control theme going on and you might be sensing that. So I like to call this little thing the continuum of control, and on one side we have little control, or possibly no control whatsoever over here on the left. On the right we have some more control or possibly my favorite, full control over here on the right. And the modes sort of fall along this spectrum somewhere in different places, okay. So on that spectrum, of course, the mode with the least control, is gonna be Auto mode. You knew that, right? The least control. It can vary by camera, some cameras might give you like a smidge of control, they let the leash a little bit out, but most cameras really don't let you do anything in auto mode besides point your camera at something and press the shutter. And for some people you may be like oh thank goodness that's all I wa...

nt, everything else is too hard. Of course, it's not hard, you just have to learn it. So that's what we're here for, so don't freak out. But auto mode is of course very restrictive, and we like it because we don't have to think in auto mode. But of course we don't like it because it falls short a lot. So here's some examples of how that can be. This is a photo shot at Grand Central Station in New York, and this I shot years ago on about six or seven thousand dollars worth of professional camera equipment, including a big fancy, well it wasn't off camera, but a hotshoe flash. Yeah about six or seven thousand dollars worth of stuff, and I put all of it in auto mode, which I cringed a little when I did that, but it was for the greater good. (laughs) So I put it all in auto mode and I got this shot. Not very impressive right? Not only not impressive but it's not pretty, I mean nobody wants to look at that, it's very gross. And we'll talk a little bit more about some of its short-fallings later, but right now we can just see that auto mode was not so great. Okay? And it turns out that it doesn't matter if you're using auto mode on a $300 point and shoot or a $7,000 professional rig. If you are in auto mode, just by its nature, it's not that the camera sucks, it's that it doesn't know what you're doing, it doesn't know where you are, it doesn't know what you want, it is only measuring light and throwing together some sort of combination of camera settings. And you, in auto mode, have no control over the direction the camera goes with that balancing equation, that we talked about in the previous segment, of exposure. So here's now the same scene where I took over. Same camera, same equipment, but I was driving, so this is manual mode. (laughs) But you could do the same thing in any other mode besides auto. Any mode that's gonna let you boss the camera around is gonna get you a better result, something like this versus that. So this was me driving. Now just to prove that auto mode on a $7,000 rig is not any better than auto mode on a cheapo point and shoot, here's the same scene on a point and shoot camera. Well this I guess wasn't auto mode, this was like modified auto, so one step above auto. But, all I did here was I canceled the flash, that was it. And I got this result. On a cheap $300, really old camera at the time. So not even like really impressive technology. But that's not, I mean that's not bad, it sure looks better than this one, and it would've saved me about seven grand, almost. (laughs) So there's that for you. Okay. So auto mode can be nice, but it can often fail you because like I said the camera can't read your mind. And it's not the camera's fault, it's not that your camera is bad, it's that the camera cannot read your mind and that's okay. You have to learn how to communicate with your camera, and it turns out you can do that in these shooting modes. Just not auto. Okay?

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus Video - Shooting In Natural Light HD
New Camera Setup

Ratings and Reviews

Kate Ambers

Khara is awesome! She really breaks down how the camera works, photography terminology, and technique. She does it all with a fun and entertaining personality and really makes it easy to understand what you are learning! I love this course!!! So worth it!

Holly Cooper

Loved this course and have recommended it to a friend who is looking to purchase his first DSLR. This course is perfect for beginners or someone who is self taught and who has picked a few bits up along the way; Khara then puts all these little bits of information together. I feel like the pieces have come together for me and I have taken my best/favourite photographs after watching these videos. Thank you CL and Thank you Khara x


I’ve taken a number of excellent courses from Creative Live, and this very thoughtfully organized, well taught class took me from “I love photography but I’ll never get how to do it” to “wow I get it!” It created a huge shift (finally!) for me. There is an intelligent simplicity that really does make for lightbulb moments. I’m extremely grateful for this class. Now I can go back and watch the others courses again and they will make much more sense and I can apply what I learned here.

Student Work