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Automation is a fact of life

Lighthouses are fully automated. Picture by Ivor Rackham.
Lighthouses are fully automated. Picture by Ivor Rackham.

Reader Martin Mears shared some excellent photos with me. He took them with a compact camera.

Martin has a good eye for composition, proving that the most important component of any photographic system is the one looking through the viewfinder.

Previously, I wrote about the advantages of shooting in raw. Martin’s message prompted me to think about the alternative – full automation.

Automation makes capturing photos more accessible. Photographers can concentrate on the most important aspect – composition.

As cameras become more sophisticated, they do a better job of achieving good automatic adjustments. Besides the quality of hardware, sophisticated, in-built software generates great looking JPEGs.

I once worked in electro-mechanical engineering, a field that became superseded by digital technology. I also used to maintain my cars, repair household goods and replace components in electronic items. None of that is possible now because technology has evolved.

Modern tractors driven by computers plough, sew and harvest. Computers navigate ships and aeroplanes. Soon, driving cars and lorries will become unnecessary.

As automation advances, that same redundancy is happening with photography. Mobile phones produced 90 per cent of photos taken last year. All were fully automated and in-built filters enhanced the images. Instant photography is part of modern culture.

Despite the number of photos increasing, interchangeable lens camera sales are dropping. From a worldwide peak in 2012 of 21 million units, last year they were about 9.5 million. Mirrorless camera sales increased by 10 per cent. In a couple of years they will outstrip DSLRs.

Most younger people use only phone cameras. They do have good cameras, some even having variable apertures and zoom lenses.

For me, manually adjusting a camera’s settings and developing an image to get it to look exactly how I envisaged are worthwhile skills. Creating photographic art by having as much control as possible is far more satisfying than automated photography.

Thankfully, plenty of folk who come for photography lessons think so too. But automation is a reality for most modern photography.

June brings a new theme of simplicity and busyness. Remove distractions from the image, get in close, reduce depth of field and isolate the subject. Also, take shots that are busy and full of detail. This week’s words are ‘Buzz’ and ‘Event’.