Shooting in P mode & Why photographers defend their methods

December 26, 2012  •  5 Comments



This  a short post I wrote for a popular photo site where there is a high percentage of relatively new photographers.  It incited 124 replies and >1900 views in the 5 days since it was first posted here.on Dec 21, 2012.

 The entire thread is worth reading and the vociferousness with which photographers defended, not their pictures, but their way of doing things, encouraged me to write the second little post appended to this on 


(this picture at left was taken in Florence Italy on P mode using an Olympus EP-3 and a 20 mm lens)



Shooting in P mode

[quote]As I think more about the ways to get comfortable first with one's ability to see images and second with the technical ability to achieve them, I begin to think that this overwhelming disdain for shooting in 'P' actually hurts the development of good photographers more than it helps. By 'good' I mean people who are creative and even, perish the thought, artistic.

When we encourage children to dance and jump around to be expressive, we, as parents and teachers, don't tell them it would be much better if they used the traditional balletic movements and positions because we know intuitively that huge obstacle would stifle not only their creativity but take away much of the spontaneous joy that is achieved from that expression.

The prime 'purpose' of (my kind of) photography is the visualization and the rendition of something meaningful, sometimes even beautiful. The ability to do that depends primarily on the ability to see that meaningfulness and then secondarily to learn to capture it. I don't need to be a great technician, I need only to be good enough to do what I want. 

The emphasis that we read so often here is on the mechanical. This is what to do, this is the best way to do it and if it isn't what you like, run get a flash. 

That's mechanics, that's not photography. And so we get an enormous volume of stuff, pictures that look essentially the same, and boring. Everyone cares about the f stop, the lens, the lighting - and they see that as the key. And so they turn from making images to running a camera and accessories.

Read any photo forum and the questions and concerns, even those involving actual images, are primarily about equipment and technique and f stops and lighting. This all to photographers who haven't even begun to be able to see even the technical inadequacies in their own images and correct them let alone the artistic ones.

So, if anyone asks me what to do, and they are serious about learning to create then maybe I will tell them just to shoot on P for a while and then we'll talk about their images. When they want to learn to control what their camera does in order to make the image better then its time to talk about the other issues. 

Let's not make everyone learn to build and fix a car before they can go for a ride in the country.[/quote]


Why Photographers Defend their Methods

[quote]I’ve been thinking about the way that people responded to this post at this location initially and some other ideas occurred to me. 

If someone can produce a beautiful/great/important image, why is it so important that it be done a certain way? That is, why must the person be controlling the camera by knowing all the technical issues that most responders have named as crucial. No one makes these kinds of procedural requirements on any other kind of art.
True, it may be better, more useful to know these things, just to be in control of the medium but why do people respond so vehemently, not as if I were just suggesting one method of getting to an endpoint but as if I was insulting the way they do things?
One of the endpoints of a skill based art, like photography, is a acceptable/good/great satisfying image. The other endpoint is the satisfaction one gets from performing a difficult task correctly, achieving a skill and exercising it. 
Acceptable/good/great satisfying images are difficult to achieve because any skill must have some degree of talent mixed in - and that is not under an individual’s control. So when I say that photography is OK, even beneficial, to start in a P or auto mode, then it seems that I am somehow discounting the skills that people work so hard to achieve and value. Skill is the one thing that anyone can be certain of getting out of photography with some effort; you can achieve some level of skill but you can’t teach artistic talent.
So after a day of shooting and the shots are all just well focused and exposed and framed, but ordinary, the only satisfaction available may only be from the exercise of skill. So when it was suggested that that development of skill isn’t the most important thing, people got defensive. [/quote]


As a professional I used mostly the M mode. As a hobbiest I more often use the P mode. The important thing is knowing what to do when the P mode isn't sufficient and unfortunately many photographers don't.
4.Lew Lorton Photography
what a great comment, about the GUI interface.
Excellent article Lew! I always recommend beginning photographers to start with the P-mode. Some are perfectly happy with it and will not get out of it, others do. "Take a few hundred, if not thousand, pictures first" is usually my reply when they ask about those kind of settings.

For those that tell us that it should really be M-mode all the way “because that's the way I learned it, and that's the way it should be learned,” I'd like to point out that they’re posting this on a GUI-driven web forum, and not on a text only usenet forum with a keyboard only interface, “as it should be, because that's the way *I* learned it.”

Those that scream at P-mode should get on with the program and embrace it as a tool with beginners, as it teaches us to enjoy photography and focus on content, not on technicalities. Shooting engaging content should come first, the technicalities later.
2.Andrew Molitor(non-registered)
I am pretty sure that most "enthusiasts" like cameras more than they like photographs. There's nothing wrong with this, cameras are fun, but trouble crops up when these people don't know that they don't like photographs. They think they like photographs, but what the really like are techniques, tricks, equipment, and a very very specific kind of photograph (which varies, everyone has their own pet genre which they confuse with "good photography").
1.Lew Lorton Photography
Now it is the 27th and the post has gotten 162 replies and 2450 views. Quite a few comments for just a suggestion on how to teach new photographers.
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