You see something that catches your eye and an impulse overcomes you.

You pick up a camera, compose the scene, press a button and just like that, a photograph is born.

Digital or film, smartphone or interchangeable, the basics of photography don’t change.

If you are in the fully automatic mode, the camera will analyze the scene and create an exposure formula that will balance the light sensitivity, light duration and light strength so that we get a final photograph which is pleasing to the eye. 

Most of the time, things come out okay. Sometimes, they don’t.

My friend, photography is all about light.

Here are 15 photographs, they all have the same tonal balance, meaning one isn't any brighter than another, except for changes which come from shooting in natural light. 

Which one do you prefer?

ISO 200  |  1/100  |  f/4.5

ISO 200 | 1/100 | f/4.5

For whatever reason, out of all these different photographs, only ONE will stand out as being better than all the others. Sometimes it's only slightly  better, while other times it wins by a country mile.

This means there is only a 1-in-15 chance the camera will deliver the kind of photograph that we want, the one we have already created in that wonderful, vivid human imagination of ours. (In fact, it can really be much higher than 1-in-15 on a sunny day)

Generally, I prefer the "angel-hair" effect of blurred water, as this conveys action in an image. There's something about water-motion that I enjoy.

A camera's automatic programming has other ideas though.

Since it is designed to avoid giving me a blurry photograph, it will set the properties of light-sensitivity (ISO), light-duration (Shutter-Speed) and light-strength (Aperture) to prevent blur.

This is just one reason why people learn and practice photography. To create an image which matches (or even exceeds) what we already have in our imagination.

Once we understand the nature of how these 3 properties (ISO, Shutter-Speed and Aperture) interact and play a role in a photograph, we can manipulate them to give us great photographs in any situation.

Automatic is good and it’s convenient, but manual is often better…

Look, WE know what we are photographing and how we want it to be, the camera doesn’t.

A few dials allow me access to all the camera functions I need. On smartphones, free (and paid) apps allow me at least some measure of control, and things are getting better all the time, too.

"Load a roll of film in your camera. Confine yourself to your property and shoot that entire roll. If at all possible, do this in manual mode. Just go out... relax... look around... and wait until you see something of interest. Trust me, you will..."

Every new student (like myself) of 35mm film photography got a similar instruction when first starting out. This simple exercise teaches us to not just see the world at a glance, but to look beyond that, to seeeee the world with new eyes.

Photography is NOT  hard to learn, it just takes a basic understanding of some things, time and practice. Plenty of practice.

So relax, you're in good company here.

Yes, you will make mistakes. We all did and we still do, but it's the thrill of the chase... the hunt and the moment of capture which holds the greatest reward for us.

The camera is a tool we use to capture a moment, so we can look back on it later on. Add a good, basic smartphone app and you can extend your creative range, and maybe discover a side of yourself you never knew existed... 

"Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow."

Imogen Cunningham

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