Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Do You Shoot in Auto Mode Even When Your Camera Isn't?

One of the things I've often stressed in my ebooks as well as here, on the blog, is the importance of practice. Practice! Practice! Practice! If it was almost any other sort of advice, I'd probably be guilty of beating it to death. But you almost can't beat to death the notion of practice being the best way to get good at something unless, I suppose, you're practicing beating something to death, but even then...

While there are a few (very few) photographers who seem to be prodigies of some sort -- they pick up a camera and, almost from the start, they're shooting terrific photos -- that's not the way its been or is for most of us. Most of us have had to pay or are paying our learning and practice dues. Some people advance quicker than others. (That's usually because some people practice more than others.) Does innate talent have anything to do with it?  Sure. Sometimes. But innate talent is not a requirement for shooting terrific photos. Practice is a requirement.

In my mind, the biggest pay-off from practice is the ability to shoot in auto mode. I'm not talking about the camera's modes. I'm talking about a more personal mode. A shooting mode, i.e., a mode the shooter is in when shooting.

The more you practice, the more the things -- things like techniques, using your gear, whatever -- become almost second nature. They become, to varying degrees, part of your subconscious. When that happens, they become automatic or nearly automatic (how about calling it "semi-automatic") allowing you to shoot in (what I call) your personal auto mode. My best work, I believe, was snapped when I was barely thinking at all about what my camera or lights were doing. In other words, it happened when nearly all of of my attention and focus was where it should be: On the model.

I'm not suggesting that practice will make you completely forget about thinking what you need to do (technically) to capture the images you're intent on capturing. I'm simply saying the more you practice, the closer you'll come to that auto-like place. And it's the best place to be! For photographers, especially those shooting people in non-candid ways, there's no better place to be in order to capture your best photos.

Every time I need to pause and think about what I'm doing, gear-wise or for any reason, is time taken away from my models. It's time taken away from the creative process going on in my head. It breaks my concentration and focus. It makes the smooth harmony of my shoots (something I always strive to produce, harmonious shoots that is) miss a beat, stutter, hiccup, or fall flat. That's not to say I can't recover and manage to get back to that place of model/photographer harmony, I almost always can, but I have to work a bit to get back there. Sometimes, more than "a bit." (Something I'd rather not need to do.)

If you want to improve your photography -- and just about every photographer I know wants to do that -- the best way to accomplish that goal is via learning and practice.  The worst way to try to accomplish that is by purchasing new cameras or other new gear.  Gear will never make you a better photographer. Leastwise, not automatically and not on its own. As a general rule, new gear will (at first) likely take your photography down a few notches, for a while at least. That's because new gear requires learning how to use that new gear and learning how to use it well requires practicing with it until you return to the point you were already at before purchasing and working with the new gear.

None of that is intended to suggest you shouldn't buy new cameras or other gear. But in my mind, the  best time to do that is when your skills have outgrown you current camera or other gear, you are going to begin shooting other genres or subjects which may require different or more gear, some unforeseen calamity renders your camera inoperable on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.

Course, if you have plenty of dough to constantly spend on the latest and greatest cameras and gear, by all means-- buy it all and buy it often. I'd probably do the same whether I needed the gear or not. But if you're not so flush with money that you can treat yourself regularly to all the new stuff that's constantly being released, you might want to consider what that new gear will really and truly do for you and your photography. Often enough, it won't do much.

The pretty girl at the top is Hannah. I pulled it out of the JimmyD archives. It's from six years ago! Wow! Where does the time go?  We were shooting at a Harley Davidson dealership. (After hours, of course.) For some reason, a few of the dealership's employees decided to put in some no-pay overtime. I wonder why?

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