Why Auto Mode is Ruining Your Shots

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Do you have the problem that you can only use your video camera in Auto mode?

One of the big problems with most small “handycams” is that they really are made to be used in Auto mode. It is by far the easiest way to use them. If you are still trying to learn to use the camera and also trying to learn how to shoot you will be tempted to always leave the camera set on Auto.

I can teach you how to think and shoot like a professional cameraman, but it is up to you to learn how to use your camera and to start practicing the skills that I show you.  Just understand that television cameramen and women shoot every day of the week, so the camera becomes second nature for them to use.

If you want to improve you need to start shooting as often as you can, so take every opportunity to shoot. Once you start shooting regularly though, you will become aware of the limitations of the Auto modes on your camera.

The Full Monty [Exposure]

I am talking about over exposure and under exposure and it will easily occur if you are in Auto mode and you have too much white or black in your frame. Your subject may be wearing white clothing, or there may be a large area of white in the background, or even a bright window behind them.

All of these scenarios can make the auto-exposure function darken your shot and make your subject too dark. This is unacceptable.

To take control of this, you need to learn where and how to switch your camera to manual exposure.

To learn how to go manual, go to the manual [little play on words there].  I say that because so many cameras are completely different and you need to work out how to do it with your camera.

It may be called the iris [auto/manual]. There could be a switch on the lens or the camera body or even in the menus somewhere. Once you work it out take the camera out and practice using it in manual iris [or exposure] mode so that if you need to override the auto iris you won’t have to keep going back to the manual.

You may find that you can still use your camera in auto a lot of the time, but the more comfortable you get with it the more you will see that a slight change of exposure in the manual mode can often improve your results.

Good Skin Tones

Quite often, you will notice this with faces in your shots. A little bit more exposure can improve the look of faces if the shot is a bit dull.

You will definitely need to take control of your exposure if you are shooting outdoors and you subject is backlit, but that is a whole new subject.

If there is a lot of black in your shot the camera will try to give it more exposure so if you have a subject that is light like a fair skinned person the skin tones will probably be overexposed. In that situation, the camera would have to be used in manual and you would have to darken the picture to get the right exposure on the skin.

Generally, overexposed skin looks like rubbish and is unacceptable.

By the way television cameramen rarely if ever use auto exposure for these very reasons.  Even though our cameras are easier to use in manual, they are still skills that we need to practice as well.

The other controls that you need to learn to use in manual mode are focus, white balance and audio levels. I will cover these in other blogs.

If you would like to fast track your learning check out The Online Video Camera Course.

Remember Learn it, Shoot it, Love it

For more free info check out the following articles

You May be Destroying the Story with Your Camera

The Power of Positive Thinking

To Video or to DSLR, That is the Question

The Curse of the Handycam

The Four Biggest Mistakes When Shooting Video

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