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:
- Manual – Full control. Every setting is in the photographers hands to control and manipulate how the final image looks and feels.
- Shutter Priority – The photographer controls the shutter speed. The photographer still has control of every setting, except the aperture. The photographer selects the shutter speed, the camera selects the appropriate aperture to go along with it.
- Aperture Priority – The photographer controls the aperture. Just like shutter priority mode except the photographer chooses the aperture and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed.
- Program – For the most part, the camera is in control. This mode varies depending on the camera you have. Typically, the photographer has control of ISO in program mode, but not much else.
- Auto – The camera is in full control. Depending on the camera, the photographer typically gives up all possible control leaving it up to the camera to decide what is best.
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…