Experimenting with PASM

It’s great to play and I love playing with cameras.  I’ve spent many a happy hour working my way through menus trying to understand what each camera does. Or what each setting actually does or even means.

My first experiments were with PASM. It felt like I was getting to grips with a modern DSLR. Someone once told me it’s all about depth of field. Not so sure I agree with them now, but I was convinced at the time. So my initial default setting was A for Aperture mode. You can’t beat a bit of bokeh, unless you want everything sharp. It can really bring a subject to life.

My next stop was S or speed. I have kids and dogs and sometimes, you need to maintain high shutter speed to get them in the frame. The only way to can kind of guarantee that is to set the shutter speed.

This was great. I can take control of my camera and I’ve learnt two settings. I am a master.

But what on earth is P and M for? I read up, but then never really took to P or program mode. I skipped straight to M for Manual instead. I’d been using A and S for about a year (and Auto as well if I’m honest) and although it was good control over certain aspects when I needed them, it was a bit boring after a while. When M arrived on my radar, I was blown away. There seemed nothing I couldn’t do. It also made me realise there are lots of other controls or settings that can be used to make an individualised image. I was so blown away, I even wrote a letter about the discovery to one of the camera magazines and won letter of the month.

It takes a bit of discipline and lots of learning and practice to use M but it’s worth it. It gives you control of almost every part of the image making process.

What I found was this:

  • My losses went up dramatically to begin with
  • I was thinking (hard to begin with) about what I was doing and therefore learning how to use my camera at a vastly quicker rate than when using Auto, P, A or S.
  • I was enjoying my photography much more. I considered myself a key part of the image making process rather than a bystander
  • I felt more pride in what I was producing

It’s not easy going manual. It creates more work, and it’s even harder when under pressure to react quickly to changing conditions. But it is vastly more satisfying.

So much so, I considered buying a Leica and going as manual as I could get. I also started looking at cameras that had a plethora of manual controls (I hate using menus to change settings). I ended up changing from Canon to Fujifilm, mainly because I love the looks, the image quality but particularly the analogue controls.

I still occasionally go to Auto, when I know my reactions won’t be quick enough, or I’m feeling lazy, but it’s the exception. Going Manual has brought new life back into my photography. The award winning letter I wrote was entitled M for Mojo because I felt going Manual had given me my photographic mojo back.

You can see some of my photos on my website. But wear sun glasses because they are dazzling mhbphoto.uk

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