“The secret to a successful relationship is knowing who is the boss!” – Desmond Tutu
This is quoted in Andrew Zuckerman’s fabulous book “Wisdom”. It makes me wonder what is your relationship with your camera? Is it successful, productive and creative, because you're in control of what it does. Or is your camera the boss? Is it spending all of its time telling you what to do and making decisions on your behalf? If it is, then your photography will suffer as a result.
How can your camera be the boss?
- Well, are you in control of your exposure? If the camera decides, it is probably making decisions for you, particularly if it is in Auto or Program mode and even Scene mode. Photographers who are the boss of their camera may have it set to Manual or Aperture / Shutter priority. Some professionals laugh and will tell you their camera is usually set to “P = Program Mode = Professional Mode”, but there is one thing that they are doing to make sure they are in control of their cameras. They check the exposure, including; the aperture, the shutter speed and the ISO before and or after taking a photograph, and then they change it if they need too (that is what those scroll wheels are for and why many cameras have those settings displayed in the viewfinders).
- Do you control where the camera focuses? When my camera tries to take over my focusing I often go back to my manual focus lens, particularly if it isn’t behaving. Mind you, I don’t mind it taking control when I am taking portraits and it is set to nearest eye in focus mode. If your photographs are in focus anywhere other than where you want them to be, then unfortunately I have to tell you that you are letting your camera control you. Does the camera control how you use it, how you hold it, where you put it?
If your camera is the boss of your relationship with it, I do recommend taking over and putting it in its place. To produce beautifully crafted images you need to be in charge of your camera. Here are some things to do:
- Put your camera in manual mode until you fully understand what all of the different settings do to the final image. These include: apertures – small versus large, open versus closed, lots of light, depth of field, shutter speeds – what effect each has on the image, which shutter speed stops motion in your subject, what can you hand hold (stopping motion is dependent on the length of lens, level of acceptable sharpness and the speed of the object – so there is no one answer) ISO – what does changing the ISO effect? noise, speed, dynamic range
- Change your settings so you get the best compromise of shutter speed, aperture and ISO for the image you intend to take. Figuring out this triangle of settings is crucial in your understanding so that you can control the final image.
- Figure out how to focus your camera… How, you may ask? Well there is nothing better than reading the manual, practicing and trialing all of the different settings. Then pick one, and practice using it until you can get the camera to focus where you want. Not just vaguely in focus, but accurately in focus every shot.
- Practice, practice and practice…Finally, if your camera ever decides to take over again, stop, take a deep breath and figure out how to make it do what you want it to. Me, I have to resort to the manual regularly so I keep a pdf copy on my phone.