Is Using ‘Auto’ Mode Cheating?

Camera DialOnce again, there is another hot topic being discussed in one of the photography groups on LinkedIn where Phillip Morris ask straight-up, “Do you think automatic modes on the camera is “cheating”?

Okay, first, for those that are not familiar, if you are using a SLR (digital or not, and possibly some smaller point and shoot cameras), there are several different ‘modes’ you can set the camera too.  You can find plenty of information on all of the different modes and when it is best to use each one, but, just to give a quick round-up, the basic and most popular modes on all SLR cameras are:

Of coarse, you might have a handful of other modes on your camera, but these are the basics.  So, coming back to the question…

Is using ‘Auto’ mode cheating in photography?

My quick answer, no.

Sure, the camera get’s to decide on some of the fun stuff, but in the end, it doesn’t matter what the camera did, it matters what the photographer did.  What’s the difference if the camera decided to capture the picture at an aperture of 5.6 and shutter speed of 1/80 of a second?  Sure, the photographer could have increased their depth of field by increasing the aperture to 8.0 and decreasing the shutter speed, but it’s the end result that matters.  I don’t care what camera you are using or what you know about photography, if you can capture an image, process it and produce a stunning final result, you’ll get my attention.

Going off an example given by John Harris within the group, let’s say the photographer got up at 1am, drove 220+ miles to a location, got out and hiked in near blizzard, pre-dawn conditions, found the perfect spot, set-up the tripod, waited for light, shot brackets through dawn during changing weather, packed up, drove home, off-loaded, edited, fine tuned and finally printed the final image.  Does it matter if the final image was captured in ‘Auto’ or ‘Manual’ mode?  Would you criticize the final image, no matter how wonderful it was based on the the mode the photographer used?

Me, I’d think the above photographer was absolutely crazy to go through all that trouble just to let the camera decide what was best.  That said, if the final image speaks to me, that is all that matters.  After all, photography is the act of capturing an image with light.

So, what is your take?  Is using ‘Auto’ mode cheating?

On a side note, for those wondering, I shoot the majority of the time in aperture priority mode.  When I’m not there, I’m typically using manual mode.

Till next time…

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  • http://www.dahlstroms.com Håkan Dahlström

    My answer is no. It’s only the final result that matters.

  • http://bryanvillarin.com Bryan Villarin

    I agree with you, Justin. I don’t think it’s cheating.

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  • Mike

    If you are shooting pictures and you are squeezed for time or are trying to cover a lot of ground shooting in Auto Mode is great. I typically try to light meter an area that is bright to lessen the chance of blowing out an area of the image when shooting in Auto Mode. If you have the time to setup your tripod and shoot in TV, AV, or Manual mode I would definitely fire off a few in Auto Mode as well. Sometimes when you are shooting the same scene or subject in Manual, TV, or AV mode as you are in Auto Mode, Auto Mode may come out the winner, but it is good to have a wide spectrum of settings/choices than placing only one egg in the basket. I personally love Auto Mode and have acheived excellent end results after processing in the digi darkroom.