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Auto Mode succes tips
Posted By: pacerr, 10-12-2014, 10:29 AM

I sometimes get involved in discussions similar to this:

>> ...ever get Auto Mode shots that look like you 'got' it, on the lcd? ... then on the computer screen ...
Sure, all the time when I'm not payin' attention to the basics. (As Pres. Reagan said: "Trust but verify".) Until you're sure what the auto modes SHOULD produce you can't really trust 'em.

- It's difficult to troubleshoot complaints without images. How 'bout some example shots of what you're dissatisfied with? You can knock 'em down to 100KB so long as the EXIF is with 'em -- that's where the solution lies. And consider that they may just need the same sort of PP tweaks that film would have gotten in the darkroom to be really good. The more difficult the scene, the more necessary a role PP plays in both film and digital format.

- Try some shots with the GREEN Button mode to see what the camera thinks and then compare that with what you expected. Learn when, where and how much difference there is between you and the Auto Modes. Try some of the Scene modes too - they just make the same exposure biases that a 'pro' would to the basic Auto settings adjusted for specific situations - see the FM to learn about specific adjustments; they're the same ones you might want to consider using . . . OR disregarding.

- The folks that designed the Scene modes are actually very knowledgeable about the subject and the equipment. Granted, the mode adjustments are generic and subject to individual tweaking (except for the Green Mode) but they offer free, self-paced tutorials (especially for beginners) in the use of exposure and color adjustments. Try them, and before you say you don't like them, be able to state WHY you don't agree with the results -- and make sure you're using them as intended.

- Do some Exposure Bracketing of typical scenes to get a feel for how much you may need, or prefer, to use the +/- EV exposure adjustment in various lighting situations. How do you know what a whole or 1/2- or 1/3-stop adjustment is worth if you don't compare the difference? *

- Are you usin' 'Blinkies' and/or histograms in the review mode? That's a good start in assessing the exposure.

- Usin' zoom on the review screen to check focus accuracy? It's not that AF is BAD, it just may not be focused on what you intend.

- Are Color and White Balance set appropriate to the scene? (I never failed to verify film type against the expected light when loading film but too often I still overlook those digital settings until a test shot smacks me up side'a the head.

- A lot of these mode and menu adjustments seem like fiddly interruptions to shooting but just remember it's a GREAT advantage to do this while shooting compared to the days of film when you couldn't swap modes from shot to shot. If you loaded a 36-shot roll of film for cloudy day WB and six shots later the sun came out or you wanted to go inside with artificial lighting it was a really big PITA (and often expensive, too) to swap films in mid roll.

- Most menu adjustments only have to be be set once per location or subject. Burn a coupl'a shots first for each scene and review the results before you 'shoot for score'. Takes patience (and discipline), but saves a LOT of time if your images are gonna turn out crappy later when ya don't.

- If you treat the test shots as an interesting project in its own right it can be very satisfying and educational. (Pros used to shoot Polaroid film to verify exposure and lighting before bangin' away with expensive large/medium format film. Today, they use digital cameras to proof the shots. You think they aren't tickled pink with instant review and tethering to lap tops?)

A large percentage of my shooting even today is just experimenting with exposure and technique rather than capturing topical subjects and I find that itself is interesting and a incentive to get out and shoot. Digital makes it easy and economical. It's sort'a like giving myself pop quizzes to see what I actually know; I still don't often get "A's".
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