Should you trust your cameras auto intelligent mode

Photography as a discipline

In my late 20’s, early 30’s I used to be a professional wedding and portrait photographer.  At the height of the wedding season (May -Sept) we would shoot 300 weddings or more.

We used Bronica, Hasselblad and other medium format cameras. They were analogue cameras and did not have built in exposure meters. The cameras would take 12 shots and then we would need change the film, so we carried a number of spare film backs and plenty of film with us.

We also needed a handheld light meter, a standard, wide, and telephoto lens, flashguns and props such as: umbrellas, lead fishing weights (for holding the brides dress down), reflectors, pegs and filters.

I learnt a lot in those days about photography. There was no chimping, no checking histograms and no second chances. Your exposure, composition, posing, lighting, backgrounds all had to be right. We used to have a saying: “Meter it, frame it, focus it, forget it”. We always used tripods, that way, one you had metered, posed, framed and focused your subject, you could concentrate on getting the right expressions and capturing the right moment through communicating directly with your subject.

We would send our films in bulk to a professional lab for processing and printing. And then, we had to wait a week before seeing the results of our efforts.

These days though, things are different and the digital age is upon us. Most good digital cameras have: histograms, live view, auto white balance, auto iso, auto focus and a number of shooting options such as: aperture and shutter priority, programme mode, manual mode and more interestingly, intelligent auto modes, which differ from camera to camera. Images are captured digitally in either RAW or JPEG format, or RAW and JPEG format and we can switch to our cameras playback mode to instantly view our pictures.

The two pictures bellow were both shot on my Lumix FZ1000. Both are very different subjects but have one thing in common, they were captured using Panasonics iA mode plus technology.

For the picture of our cat (Pistache) the camera switched to portrait mode and focused on her nearest eye to the camera. For the street shot (Quimper, France) the camera’s iA mode switched to night scene adjusting settings accordingly.

I think that Panasonic’s iA mode works well. I will be spending Christmas at Disneyland Paris this year and will be using the iA mode. Why? Because I don’t want to be playing around with my camera settings. I trust the Panasonic iA mode to work in most everyday situations. I don’t want to be thinking about my camera settings, I want to enjoy Disneyland with my family. The iA mode scene recognition works by adjusting many of the camera settings automatically, ensuring that the scene being taken or recorded exploits the cameras technology and the hard work of the engineers and designers.

Would I use iA to shoot a wedding? Absolutely not! I’m going to get out my trusted hand-held incident light meter to pin my exposures, put my camera in manual mode and choose the appropriate shutter, aperture combination for shooting groups or the couple.


Our Wedding
Incident light reading taken close to subject and camera in manual mode


Could iA mode handle the shot above and the intricate lighting conditions? maybe, I’m not going to chance it though. I want to be 100% sure of my metering and my exposure settings.

For general photography I find myself using iA mode more and more. However, when I want to refine my picture taking or have more say in how the scene in front of me is interpreted, I know to switch to another mode to get the result I want.

For me the key to photography is in understanding and knowing the limitations of your camera and working with them in whatever mode you happen to be using.



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