Monday, July 23, 2012

Lets speak some truth - "manual" is better, right?

Reading articles in my spare time and there always seems a pre-dominance of people who are willing to give advice.  I've got no problem with that, do it myself on occasion and some people seem grateful others would like to rip my head off.   All par for the course, you've gotta take them as they come.   Sometimes you are right, sometimes you are wrong - take the good with the bad.

A peave of mine here lately has been(and this is not new, these types of articles have been running the gammut for as long as I can remember) bloggers spouting off the requirement of shooting in manual mode and/or stating that professional photographers shoot better than you because they shoot manual.  Manual everything - manual focus, manual exposure, manual flash.

Let us get one thing straight from the get go.  A professional does not get better anything because they shoot in manual.  A professional "should" get better results because they have educated themselves in their craft to the point that the technical aspects of their job are second nature and they can concentrate more on the art and staging of the shot.  A professional "should" know every aspect of their camera that is required to do their job successfully and fulfill clients needs.

A professional photographer should know when is best to use aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual mode.  What is the furthest they can push the ISO without losing the quality in the images they are capturing.  They know when to use ambient light, when to use speed lights or studio strobes, and when to mix the two.
"I am occasionally in manual exposure mode,say, when in a dark room where aperture priority will dictate to me an unreasonably long shutter speed. But, I tell you, if you only use these cameras inmanual mode because, as I have heard on occasion,you “don’t trust the camera,” or you “don’t trust the meter,” then you are taking a souped-up Ferrari and driving it like the little old lady going to church on Sunday. Why do that? Use the technology!  Take this puppy out for a spin and see what it can do."

       --  Joe McNally, The Hotshoe Diaries
What makes for a better image?  A newbie photographer with a Nikon D4/D800/Canon 1Ds Mark IV - or - a seasoned photographer with a experience and education on their side using a Nikon D5100 and a kit lens?   I'd take the experienced, educated photographer every time. 

Experience gains you the knowledge of creating successful images, and knowing how to get from A to B to C and not hoping to stumble across a great image by spray and pray.

At the end of the day, there are really too many factors to let any one person tell you that one way is the best way.  There are various ways to solving problems - so solve them how best it suites your situation.  If that means shooting in manual mode, then do it, if you are shooting through a fence or some leaves and your focus keeps getting locked on the wrong subject - throw that thing into manual and correct it - or leave it on autofocus and move your position!  You decide - I can shoot in matrix metering in aperture priority and use a little exposure compensation - you can shoot in manual - get the same shot - exactly the same shot.   Who is better?  Does the client care?  Did you deliver as promised?  If the answer is yes, then you made the right decision.

I'd think twice about taking too much advice from anyone that tells you they have "fool proof" methods of getting great images every time(unless fool proof equals experience and knowledge), systems, that one set of gear is going to get you better images over another.  Hell, question me too, for that matter!!  If we all agreed with each other all the time, how boring would the world be?  How could we learn other viewpoints and techniques?
"What is the best light to photograph with?"  He(W. Eugene Smith) responded, "The best light is available light".  He then added, "by that I mean any damn light that is available!"

       -- W. Eugene Smith
Besides, what is "better" anyway?  Talk about a subjective can of worms!  The only people that really matter at the end of the day that need chime in on "good or bad" are you and the client.   On the flip side of that - when you do ask for a peer review, take it from an open mind and realize that if you are asking a photographer their opinion - 99% of the time, you'll get a photographers opinion.  Then ask yourself - is that what you really want?  Do you want an opinion from a non art inspired, non-photographer type, your average joe/josephine as it were?   Target your inquiry to the group you really want the answer from, you'll get a better result that way.

Well, enough of my rant for the day.  Just remember that "knowledge is power"(Sir Francis Bacon) and "experience is an arch to build upon"(Henry B. Adams).

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