In this short video, I talk about why I often shoot in P mode and why it shouldn’t be considered a negative thing. After all, if it’s good enough for Martin Parr, Joe Buissink and Joe McNally amongst others ….
It’s been a hectic couple of months for me, wedding season is in full flow and my corporate work is picking up nicely also.
Recently, on the FujiCast Podcast –
It’s a weekly podcast that myself and Neale James are producing and its certainly not just for Fujifilm folks – we cover a whole load of topics and have amazing guests.
In fact, this weeks guest is Canon ambassador and a friend of both mine and Neale’s Sanjay Jogia – so do check out the podcast if you can.
Anyway – back to why I mentioned that. Recently on the podcast, I mentioned that I often shoot in the equivalent of P mode. That’s essentially putting the camera in fully automatic mode.
We had an email shortly after from Andrew Higgins who titled the email “Hooray for P mode”.
He goes on to say:
“Last week, Kevin saying he uses P mode. Hurrah!
I’ve used this for years, thinking it was the most useful, and flexible mode. Need a shutter speed? Flick that dial. Or need an aperture, just dial it in.
Otherwise just keep an eye on what the camera is up to, and if it’s all good, thats fine.
For the past year, I’ve been using shutter and aperture priority more often, depending on the job, but it seems such a faff compared to the simple effectiveness of P mode (and auto ISO, what a combo).
I came across a video interview with the mighty Martin Parr just last week, who also says he’s always set his camera on P mode too.
Vindication is suddenly out there for using the often derided P mode!!
Now, around the same time, I got another email from somebody who stated that:
P mode is for people who have no idea about photography. If people aren’t shooting fully manually, they shouldn’t be considered professional.
And this got me thinking.
Shooting in P Mode is NOT BAD. At least, I don’t think it is.
Because I often shoot in P mode, does that mean I’m not professional?
Does it mean I have no idea about photography?
And more importantly, does it matter?
So today, I’m going to talk openly about P mode.
Make of it what you will but essentially I feel if it’s good enough for the mighty Martin Parr, then its good enough for me.
Right at the end of the video, I’ll leave you with another full wedding photo film, photographed mostly in P mode.
So, P mode. Professional? Or Pants? Does it matter?
Are we failing our clients somehow if we shoot in P mode?
There is a wonderful quote by Yousuf Karsh and it goes something like this:
Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera
Now I’ve spoken many times on this website and at my conference talks about the power of humanity and humility in photography.
Sense of moment
For me, at least, the absolute most important thing is getting a sense of the moment, a sense of emotion, a sense of empathy and a sense of reality in my pictures.
How I try to achieve that, I don’t really care.
And ultimately, how I try to achieve that doesn’t really matter either.
What is P Mode?
So for those of you have got this far and are thinking “What the heck is this P mode this mad Welsman is talking about”?
Well, P mode is available in pretty much all modern cameras and many no so modern.
It’s effectively fully automatic. It’s Programme Mode in the true terminology and if you use a Canon DSLR and probably Nikon (though I’ve never used Nikon) you will see P as one of the options on the camera.
In essence, what you are doing is giving full control to the camera to look after shutter speed, ISO and Aperture. You are just responsible for clicking the button at the right time.
It’s possibly the simplest way to have the camera up and running and shooting as quickly as possible.
For those of us who use Fujifilm cameras, there is no setting for P as such.
Instead, to engage P mode on a Fujifilm camera, you just set all the dials to A. Auto ISO, Auto Aperture, Auto Shutter Speed. And away you go.
Some great photographers shoot in P Mode
As Andrew mentioned in his email to me, the great Martin Parr proclaims that he shoots in P mode. Now, if you’ve ever seen any of the Magnum documentaries or any of the footage on YouTube of Martin you’ll know he’s a very straight talking guy.
His images are very subjective, granted, though I adore his work, the principal fact here is that he is probably more successful than 99% of us ever will be.
An acclaimed magnum photographer with over 40 published books, exhibitions all over the world, his own foundation gallery in Bristol…..and a P mode shooter. Imagine that.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? The seeing of the moment?
What Martin is doing is concentrating on seeing. And that’s what I try to do with my own photography.
Whether that’s at weddings, commercial, personal or street. I want to become a better observer, not a better photographer.
I genuinely believe that anybody can be a photographer.
And by that, I mean anybody can understand the exposure triangle, can understand shutter speed, aperture and ISO and how they relate to each other – and of course, it IS important to understand that.
But really it’s the seeing that makes us all different.
I don’t for one moment think that everybody will like my type of photography, and not everybody will like Martins.
Much like not everybody will like Cartier-Bresson, or Ansell Adams or Brooklyn Beckham’s work.
But isn’t the beauty of all this in the subjectivity of it?
And the subjectivity is what drives our curiosity. It’s what makes us tick as observers and it’s what makes us want to create, to document and the pass on these little nuggets of history that we have snapped.
What is important when photographing?
Is the mechanics of how we make our pictures important? Or is it the pictures themselves?
I do need to know when to use aperture for depth of field or to allow more light in, I do need to know when to slow the shutter down to emphasise movement in an image, and of course, in many cases such as landscape photography, portraiture with lights etc it is often critical to take full control over the camera.
However, I believe for candid, documentary, storytelling images, many of us will miss moments because we are trying to set the camera up, or make the exposure perfect.
And boom, the moment passes.
Authentically candid moments can’t be restaged and I have no problem at all in allowing the camera to take the strain here.
It’s all about enjoying photography
This manifests itself as me having fun.
Fun with photography. That, my friends, is what it’s all about for me.
Now, of course, you can shoot manually and have fun, I’m not for one moment suggesting shooting manually or in one of the other modes means you won’t get your shots, you may, but my point, in essence, is that you don’t HAVE to.
There is no embarrassment in shooting in P mode. It does not make you less of a photographer.
It does not mean you are not creating great images. It’s just another, often quicker, way of shooting.
There is another great photographer, Joe Bussink who is primarily a high-end society wedding photographer. He’s an icon for me, and I very much look up to him.
And guess what, he shoots in P mode.
And in fact, he says he shoots in P mode excessively because speed and capturing the moment is his priority and I kind of subscribe to that mentality too.
Now I know for a fact that a vast majority of the cost of a modern camera is invested in the R&D.
The technology inside these cameras these days is incredible and the camera companies spend a lot of money on making that so. Yet in many cases we ignore it? A trip down memory lane
I remember once at a convention in London. This must have been ten years ago now.
Then, I had a Canon 1D camera. I was speaking to another photographer who also had the camera and we were comparing settings.
I had mine typically set to shoot JPEG and in Programme mode.
The other photographer said something like “I can’t believe you spent four thousand pounds on a camera and you set it in auto – I only shoot in manual mode”.
And my response was “I can’t believe you spent four thousand pounds on a camera and don’t trust it to do what it’s meant to do”.
Of course, that’s a general statement, and as I’ve mentioned, there are many reasons you may want to shoot outside of the auto modes, but essentially, the camera is capable of helping us out.
It can do the work for us.
And, once again, it’s not embarrassing to allow it to do so. It’s not a slight on your skills, and it’s certainly not an indication of your level of photographic skills.
When the moment is the most critical thing, as it often is when shooting weddings as a documentary photographer, I really want to be unshackled from the responsibility of being a photographer.
I want my responsibility to be that of the observer. I want to control what I see with my feet and angles and let the camera do the rest of the work.
As I said many times in the video, it’s not for everybody, and in some cases, people can shoot fully manually just as quickly. I can’t, but some can.
Should you be embarrassed to shoot in P Mode?
I guess the point of this video is to offer comfort and encouragement to you to shoot as YOU want. Not as the industry dictates, not as your peers dictate. As you want to shoot.
You don’t need to brave to shoot like this.
I think it’s easier to shoot this way. The key thing is it’s not wrong.
There is no right or wrong. It’s just another way and one, I feel, that has been much maligned over the years and seen as “not the proper way” to photograph.
For those of you who just want to see the wedding photo film at the end of the above video, here it is.
Much of which is shot in P Mode:
And finally….because there is always something, right…
Also, X-Weddings Conference #2 for 2019 will be in November (Bath, England). I’ll be announcing the schedule very soon. Please keep an eye on https://www.x-weddings.co.uk for more details.
And finally, I’ve added a couple more workshop dates to my photography workshops website.