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My Way Is the ONLY Way . . . I Think . . .

Aperture Priority, Flash on TTL

Have you ever wondered about the veracity of people purporting to teach photography? I have. 

I have lost track of the number of photography "teachers" who claim that a person can’t call themselves a photographer until they’ve mastered manual mode.

What they really mean is you can’t be a photographer if you use anything but manual mode. I could write an encyclopedia about why I don’t use manual mode (except in very specific circumstances) and why I tell newbies to go ahead and use Aperture Priority. But we’ll save that for another time.

How about the photographer who writes an article, “5000 things to avoid when editing your photos.” 4999 of which the writer really needs to do himself to add some life to his own photos, which are all boring, flat, poorly composed, and lifeless. (Yes, I’ll agree that there are some people who get carried away with HDR. I’ll give you that.)

I just saw another of that last kind of article the other day. Every example the writer included was boring, flat, poorly composed, and lifeless.

Someone once told me that if you are going to show off your work, make it your BEST work. I would think that would apply to articles one writes, as well. If one is going to write an article about photography, and intends to include photos, it’s not enough to write the article and include any old photo. One needs to include one’s very best photos.

“But I can’t include my best photos in an article on what not to do!” someone might say. Of course you can. Unless you were shooting transparencies (slides), your “best” photo didn’t come out of the camera that way, and everyone knows it. RAW files usually look pretty terrible straight out of the camera (SOOC). Which is why you were reading that article on “5000 things to avoid when editing your photos.” to begin with -- to get better at editing / processing your RAW files.

I read another article recently where the writer postulated that photographers who think they are good are, in actuality, pretty poor, and if that’s not bad enough, the better a photographer thinks he/she is, the worse they really are. 

If that’s the case, and if it holds that the inverse is also true, then my photos must be spectacular because, frankly, I think I stink as a photographer (the protestations of my clients, family, friends, and most importantly, my wife, to the contrary notwithstanding).

All of this is why, when asked to critique a photo or a competition, I seldom say, “always do this,” or “never do that.” But rather, “try this,” or “try that,” or, "I'd like to see . . ." 

And I emphasize that EVERYTHING I say in the critique is my opinion, and only my opinion. Because ultimately, I have no idea what I'm talking about and everyone has to please themselves. No one reading this has to please me, or the person who wrote the article “5000 things to avoid when editing your photos.”

Manual Exposure Mode, Flash on TTL

So this is the advice I give people, especially those new to photography — You paid a lot of money for all that technology, use it. Use Aperture Priority. You won’t get nearly as discouraged when you first start out capturing images. When you get comfortable, and want (key word there — “want”) to learn more, then we’ll teach you how to use manual mode. After that, we’ll teach you how to apply what you learn about manual mode to Aperture Priority, so you can go back to using something infinitely easier to use, but with the same amount of control manual mode gives.

Here’s another subject for a future installment — TTL vs manual mode on flashes. Really? You paid $2000.00 (or more) for a camera and another $300.00 to $500.00 (or more) for a speedlight, which when paired are great at TTL, and you’re using them in manual mode only? Why are you beating your head against the wall? Use the technology you paid for. 

To hear the gurus of photography instruction tell it, if I use Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or (heaven forbid) Program mode, if I use my flash in TTL mode, if I shoot Auto WB, then I'm not a photographer, right?

Have you ever noticed that all these same pundits use autofocus without blinking an eye? If we're telling newbies that we aren't photographers unless we are using manual exposure and manual flash, if we're telling them one isn’t a photographer until one masters manual exposure and TTL is not worth bothering with, why is one who uses autofocus still considered a photographer? We cannot have our cake and eat it, too. We cannot tell someone that one piece of technology is good to use, while the adjacent technology isn't.

My point in all of this is that we should all take classes, attend workshops, read articles and watch videos, and learn from them. But we also need to take everything being said with a grain of salt the size of Texas. Just because someone has an article published on some website doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about. Look at their photos. Decide if that’s the style you like and want for yours. 

Decide for yourself how you like your photos to look. Trying to please any so-called pundit — including me — is a waste of time. 

Please yourself.

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