Photography in Auto Mode – Tips for Improving Photos

Photography in Auto Mode: Tips for Improving Photos on Falcondale Life blog. Tips to help you take better photos while using auto mode on a DSLR or any camera or phone. Take steps to improve your shots and leave off learning manual mode until a bit later. Photograpy in auto mode explained in this blog series for beginners. Image description: tea on garden table and DSLR plus blog title.I’ve had some people get in touch with me recently to say they are shooting photos in auto but would like to know how to use more of their camera functions to get the most from it. Some people have DSLRs, others have bridge cameras or similar. All of these have an auto mode. Also phone photography is 99% shot on auto as well. There’s a lot of photography on auto mode going on.

If you one of these “stuck on auto” photographers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are taking bad photos. It is possible to shoot great photos on auto. Perhaps you understand the limitations of your camera and work well within those. Or you might just be lucky.

Auto mode is designed to make you lucky. Somewhere in the world there are labs full of software engineers busting a gut to make your camera really damn lucky!

Is Learning Manual Mode Important?

A lot of people find that learning manual mode is a bit of a slog. It’s not a quick win; it does take quite a bit of time to get to grips. There are three things to control at once, which are the “exposure triangle” of ISO, shutter speed and aperture. On top of that you’re thinking about your composition and focus. By the time you’ve done all that the butterfly has flown away or your child is tired of smiling and you have missed the shot.

Photography in Auto Mode: Tips for Improving Photos on Falcondale Life blog. Tips to help you take better photos while using auto mode on a DSLR or any camera or phone. Take steps to improve your shots and leave off learning manual mode until a bit later. Photograpy in auto mode explained in this blog series for beginners. Image description:: Nikon DSLR and flashgunIf you’ve got an expensive DSLR then I think you really should plan to learn how it works. Don’t squander your investment. If you have a cheaper camera or even just use a phone, it’s worth learning this too. Once you have this knowledge it will serve you well when you’re using any camera in any mode, because you will understand how light is captured. You can have lots of insight into all the modes on your camera, and also better understand how your camera is “guessing” in auto mode.

Starting with Auto Mode and Improving from there

While learning all about your DSLR is on your “to do” list, there are plenty of ways to improve your auto mode photography. I’m going to share a few of my favourite tips over the course of the next few weeks.

Today I have some tips on how to hold your camera right. This is really worth thinking about.

Get a level photo.

If your horizon is wonky, your photo immediately looks faulty. It’s off-putting to the viewer. I do this all the time and I joke that I have right-hand dropsy disease. In fact it’s really easy to fix. Every half decent editing programme has a rotate function. Often it’s within the crop function, like on Lightroom. On my phone I have Snapseed, and it’s under Tools->Rotate.

Photography in Auto Mode: Tips for Improving Photos on Falcondale Life blog. Tips to help you take better photos while using auto mode on a DSLR or any camera or phone. Take steps to improve your shots and leave off learning manual mode until a bit later. Photograpy in auto mode explained in this blog series for beginners. Image description: screenshot of photo being rotated in snapseed.Get a steady photo

Hold your camera as still as you can. Keep your feet firmly planted, your elbows close to your body. It could still be blurry if there is not enough light. In auto mode when it’s gloomy, the camera will leave the shutter open for long enough to pick up tiny shakes from your body. So make sure there’s good light.

Camera shake happens at a different point for different people and situations. Some people just have steady hands. Also if you use zoom then you will risk more camera shake. A wide angle shot – such as you get with your phone – is less likely to have camera shake. I’ll write more about using shutter speed for sharpness in future. For now the first step to solve this in auto mode is to use plenty of light.

Hold your camera lower

Your waist can really transform your shots! Chest or waist level is usually a better place to hold your camera than at eye level. It makes for a more interesting perspective, and it also eliminates some strange diagonal effects that come from looking down on subjects.

A lower angle will give you a more interesting composition. Test this out next time you’re taking a photo of a table laid with food. Take one shot from eye level and another from your waist.

Photography in Auto Mode: Tips for Improving Photos on Falcondale Life blog. Tips to help you take better photos while using auto mode on a DSLR or any camera or phone. Take steps to improve your shots and leave off learning manual mode until a bit later. Photograpy in auto mode explained in this blog series for beginners. Image description: Looking down on a tea set on garden table.Photography in Auto Mode: Tips for Improving Photos on Falcondale Life blog. Tips to help you take better photos while using auto mode on a DSLR or any camera or phone. Take steps to improve your shots and leave off learning manual mode until a bit later. Photograpy in auto mode explained in this blog series for beginners. Image description: Tea set on garden table shot from low angle.Next week I’ll have some more tips for better photography with auto modes. Keep following for more tips in this series.

Previous photography series on this blog: Judging a Photograph and Reasons to Shoot Black and White.

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8 Comments

  1. 27th April 2018 / 1:37 pm

    I really need to brush up on my photography skills especially since I have invested money into a good camera & should really invest more time in taking better pictures! Thank you for all the tips I’ll be sure to use them!

    http://www.nmdiaries.com

    • 8th May 2018 / 11:09 pm

      This is what I’m talking about – what steps to take to improve for a person like yourself. Thanks for commenting!

  2. 24th April 2018 / 2:27 pm

    I am trying to learn the ins and outs of my camera & really get to know its functions and setting! I do play around with them a little bit but there is so much more I need to learn!

    http://www.nmdiaries.com

    • 8th May 2018 / 11:13 pm

      That’s great Nazrin, I hope I can continue to be of help to you.

  3. 24th April 2018 / 12:55 am

    I am a photographer myself. Indoors or when it is overcast I use manual. If I am out in the sun or using a prime, I use Aperture Priority. I learned a long time ago, that if I wanted to improve my photography, I had learn all other priorities settings and experiment. Fast forward a few years, I am now on a Nikon Full frame doing more of landscapes and doing portraits where possible.

    Always you have shared great tips. I can always learn from other photographers.

    John M

    • 8th May 2018 / 11:12 pm

      You have obviously got plenty of camera knowledge already. I agree that to move forward in photography it is necessary to put some effort in. I hope that photographers who are starting from auto will find my tips useful. Thanks for your support, I hope you enjoy reading more.

    • 8th May 2018 / 11:10 pm

      Well auto mode is where everyone starts, so that’s what I’m writing about! Thanks.

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