A Week on Manual Mode, Day 1: Auto is Holding Us Back

I have a couple for friends who are incredible at taking photos (eh hem – check out Jennifer Borget and The Happyish Homestead) – so I decided I need to figure this out.

I am a journalist. I actually paid for college classes to teach me light, composition and blah, blah, blah. Sadly, most of what I heard was blah, blah, blah because my wee-tiny 19-year-old self I thought ‘I don’t need to know this stuff.’ 

Baha – jokes on me. Not only was a wrong when it came to my career (we shoot video all the time!), those skills could have helped me capture better photos.

Today – I decided to put my big girl pants on – and turn the dial to manual.

There’s a lot to understand to do this correctly (hopefully I’ll be able to get into some of that as the week goes on), but the number one thing I noticed is auto mode is holding us back. The crutch that is auto on our DSLR isn’t doing us any favors – it’s over-exposing, flattening and quite frankly, ruining the perfect moments we want to remember.

Auto Mode Vs Manual ModeI can’t even on these photos. By golly – the walls are white. We deserve to have the wall color represented correctly. Right?

You’ll also notice in the auto mode photo how the flash washes out his feet – leaving his face and Curious George dark. It is impossible (for me) to get creative with items in the foreground with that flash on. Not to mention the yellow tint of the color caused by our awesome indoor lighting.

In the manual mode photo the light is distributed evenly because I didn’t use a flash. It’s incredible. Look at his face. Look at Curious George’s face.

In this photo I captured the real moment – what it felt like to see that little face, with his big cheeks, dimpled chin and expressive eyebrows looking at this book. In the auto mode picture it’s all washed together. You can’t even see the spark in his eyes.

By the way – ‘G’ loves Curious George. He has also determined he is the curious one. When he goes somewhere he’s not supposed to – like the bathroom – he narrates, “G is curious.”

Manual mode is holding us back!

Oh my gosh. Is this real life?

What have I been doing for the last 5 years of owning a DSLR camera?

Manual mode – it’s incredible. You can see the color of his eyes. You can see the dimples beneath his smile, the color on his cheeks and on the tips of his nose. There’s even texture in his hair – freaking texture.

Auto mode – Um. I can’t. It’s one flash-ified, over-exposed color. While he’s still a cutie you cannot capture the full essence of this little being. There’s even a shadow around the bottom of his face.

Auto vs manual

This might not be the best example because I actually love the auto mode picture too. It seems auto mode does a little better outdoors.

But look – with manual mode – you have the power. You make the decisions. Those brown eyes are crystal clear, even reflective in the manual mode. I love the background with the blurred out flowers. It’s just angelic.

P.S. – Auto mode picture was taken while ‘G’ was yelling, “I’m flying!” No wonder he was so happy.

I have so much to figure out with photography. Everyone I’ve talked to who knows how to take great pictures says it’s all about practice. That’s why this week – I’m committing to do just that. Each day I’m going to focus on something new – and hopefully learn something new.

This is going to be beginner stuff. Like way beginner. Like – it took a whole blog post for me to figure out manual mode is better than auto mode – kind of stuff. But hey – we all have to start somewhere.

You can follow my photo self-discovery here and on Instagram.




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