hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Sunday, November 9, 2008

shooting on auto

the first time i learned how to drive a car i was 15 going on 16 and i had a mitsubishi lancer at my disposal. it had a manual transmission. the family driver was given the task of teaching me how to drive. the poor man would make the sign of the cross at the start of every lesson. he would take us to the 2nd steepest hill in our neighborhood, park the car half way up the hill using just the hand brake, make us switch places and then he'd say, ok, pull the brake down and go from here. as if! it was my first week!!!! i left A LOT of tread marks on that hill. my neighbors would count the tire squeals they heard and would name the 13th one either a success or my quitting point. he was convinced that if i could make it past that hardest task, then the rest would be easier. when it came time to teach my mom how to drive, the woman with the legendary temper, they gave her the car with the automatic transmission and sent her to driving school. the only difference in the lessons we got were the extra steps i had to take to accomplish the same goal.

recently i've been getting feedback from friends about this blog and how they are inspired to pick up the camera again. for some it's their first round with photography. i'm so humbled and so glad that i can inspire anyone! welcome to the obsession!

some of you have been asking for tips on camera stuff and i wanted to share some of the things i've picked up on the photo journey. i've been to a few photoshops with some really awesome and incredibly inspiring photographers and each one (quite naturally) has a different take on the art. jasmine star, one of my favorite wedding photographers, is a hardcore manual setting user. she knows her settings and nails it for the shot every time. she is incredible. she believes that photographers should take the time to work those manual settings as much as possible. i'm trying jasmine! and when i trip i go back to your blogs for inspiration.

david jay, another favorite, believes that the camera is pretty intelligent and will trust the camera's auto or half auto settings (like aperture priority or time value priority). his photos are full of life and awe inspiring. if i could be even a third as good as he is i would make a bigger dent in this industry.

i'm by no means an expert on the field but from my own experience i have come to believe that each person should know their strengths and use the tools available to help them thru the rest. be ok with using auto. especially if it's your first time. be proud of the pictures you took on that setting. the camera isn't the only one doing the work. it's your eye that frames the picture. i spent a lot of time on auto (and still do) and while on auto i worked on composition, story telling and creativity. when i was ready to venture out i set some goals to try the other settings. there are just some shots that i can't figure out and instead of getting frustrated i go back to the brilliant mind that invented auto, get my shot and figure out what i missed later. it's not often that i'm confident enough to pull a full manual shoot. to be honest, as far as comfort goes for full manual, that only extends to a studio environment where i have control over the lighting.

i wish i could say that i planned every shot i took and that all my favorites were intentional. the truth is, some of my best pictures were shot from the hip or taken by accident. i think you'll find that there's a world of awesome photographers out there that feel the same way.

here's some shots we took using the auto setting on my olympus sw 1030. i hope you find this post helpful. i'll try to post more tips in the future. also, we would love to see some of the pictures you've taken. use the comment box and send us a link to share what you've been up to.

p.s. click on that sunset shot and view it large. i absolutely love how it turned out. i used a fun tool on photoshop to stitch a bunch of shots together. if you ask nicely i just might share how i did it :D


  1. Wow... The shot that you stitched together is amazing! Thank you so much for the comments on my blog. You are the 1st to comment & I love you for it. Your tips are so inspirational too!

  2. thanks for returning the favor jessica :)

  3. I love the one next to the sunset! Is that you in the water? The muted colorations create an archived effect. Nice!

  4. david, you have seriously made my day. i promise you won't regret it!

  5. Michelle you won the Dane Sanders book....
    email me!!!


  6. holy shiznickle! hurry think of a number! i'm buying lotto tickets! i NEVER win! wow!!!!

  7. michelle--thanks for the blog love. I have been reading your now and I am getting sucked in! Now I have a new person to cyberstalk!

  8. OH joy....these underwater shots are fantabulous!