Have you ever wondered where an expression came from? Like “my makeup is melting” (as a poor example!). At one time, many years ago makeup was mostly made from wax and when the ladies sat too close to the hearth, their makeup would literally melt. An expression that had literal meaning at one time becomes an inherited phrase over time but loses meaning to future generations. I often think of my hypothetical future children and wonder what sorts of ‘expressions’ will lose meaning to them but still have meaning for me. Like “roll down the window” or ‘hang up the phone’. In all liklihood, children of the next generation will never see a car window with a rolling crank, or a phone that requires more than a tap to end a call.
Another expression I have been thinking about recently is the ‘Kodak moment’. A Kodak moment (for those of you who maybe aren’t familiar with it) was the catchphrase of the mostly now defunct Kodak company and is used in everyday conversation to refer to those special moments that happen every day that you want to capture forever.
Capturing Kodak moments are hard with a DSLR, not just because of its size and bulkiness (it’s not like I bring it everywhere with me), but also because the quickest way to grab a shot is with the auto feature. I’ve been told and have read in detail about how the auto feature on most DSLRs just doesn’t produce the kind of quality photo you’re hoping for from this level of camera. This is much better handled by a point and shoot or cell phone camera, especially if what you’re capturing is something that can’t be repeated or held for a few moments!
Recently I enjoyed a girls night with a couple good friends and brought along my camera to capture some of the expected Kodak moments of our mini celebration (Mo’s 31!). I used only manual mode as I always do, but found it was hard to grab the Kodak moment while we were still in it. Instead I found myself asking them “wait, hold it there for one second!”. Nothing pulls you out of a funny or special moment like that sentence! But as the light changed over the course of the evening and the setting changed from kitchen to dining room to living room, I needed to adjust my settings so often that it would have meant taking my attention away from my friends and fun, which I wasn’t willing to do! And of course, Ralphie, the Jack Russell Terrier was not one for holding still for a pic. Even when bribes were involved! So, for this weekend I opted to miss most of the Kodak moments and settle for a few quickly taken photos instead! Only partly staged ;).
I’ve had my camera now for about 3 months and have to date never touched the auto. I made it a goal from the very beginning to master the manual mode and shoot quality controlled photos. BUT, as I learned that weekend, it means often compromising those Kodak moments and missing out on a keepsake of a special memory because it would have taken too long to set up the shot. So I thought perhaps I would do some experimenting over this week and shoot a few everyday shots in both modes to really see how auto mode fairs compared to manual set up.
You’ll see the auto shot on the left hand side and it’s manual counterpart on the right. (Kudos to the husband for putting up with it :)).
In the first set of photos of my husband, the auto mode settings were as follows: shutter speed 1/60th of a second, an F stop of 1.8, and the ISO at 2000. Note – I was using my portrait lens for all three of these images, for no reason other than it was already on the camera! When I re-took the photo under manual mode I chose spots not too far off from the auto with the same shutter speed, a widened F stop at 2, and a lower ISO at 1600 (I’m not a fan of too much ‘noise’).
For the second photo of the flowers, the auto mode reset to 1/100th of a second (so less light than the one before it), an F stop of 5 letting in even less light and showing more unnecessary background details, and an ISO of 800. When I retook it in manual, I upped the shutter speed to 1/250, but lowered the F stop to 1.8 (for both light and focus), and increased my ISO to 1600 (the highest I like to set it if possible).
And lastly, for the image of Stark (which would have been better taken with the zoom lens), the auto mode set the camera to 1/250th of a second for shutter speed, an F stop of 8, and a reasonably low ISO of 320. When I retook it I chose to up the shutter speed to 1/800 because I didn’t trust him not to move, brought my F stop way down to 2, and lowered the ISO as well to 200.
For each of these photos the auto setting also automatically used the flash, a very little used feature under manual mode. When first looking through the display screen at the two images of my husband I thought that the auto may have made for a better shot as it looked crisper, however once I got it up on the computer I realized how washed out the colours were, especially the wall behind him. What you see in the manual photo is the actual colour of the wall as my eye sees it. Overall, all of the photos lacked vibrancy in their colours, and focus on their subjects. The aperture was often set too high (for my taste) and the flash really did wash out the scene. So, while it is a handy feature when you know you wont have time for adjusting your settings and capturing the moment outweighs quality of the image, but I think I’ll stick to manual whenever possible! Another handy feature set that I haven’t tested out yet is the shutter priority or aperture priority settings. Where you can select some pieces while the camera automatically chooses others. Not a bad compromise in a pinch or for some variety. We’ll have to give that one a go next.
So tell me, what do you do to capture Kodak moments in your life?