I started out in photography using my father’s Olympus OM-1. Every time I loaded a roll of film I had to set the ISO and for every exposure I had to manually decide which aperture and shutter speed I had to use. How I longed for a newer camera with autofocus and auto exposure! Yet, this was the greatest way to learn photography because I had to slow down and make deliberate choices on how I wanted my image to look.
Every modern digital camera comes with a [P]-mode (professional). This mode takes all the decisions out of the photographer’s hands and leaves it up to the camera to make all the artistic choices about your image. The problem is that you are smarter than your camera.
Your camera has no idea the mood or aesthetic that you want to achieve with your image. Only you do. What shutter speed do you need to freeze a race car? What if you want to pan to show movement? What aperture do you use to shoot a portrait so only the eyes are in focus? The answer is simple, your camera has no idea.
It doesn’t know which of these choices is the most important to you and it only strives for an accurate exposure which is currently in focus. If you haven’t already, take your camera off the [P]-mode and instead shoot in [M]-mode (manual).
Sure you will miss some shots, but what you’ll learn will vastly improve your future shots. John Shaw talks about a discipline in photography that “for every single one of your shots you should be able to say why you chose the particular lens, ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, framing etc.” Learn how all of those variables affect your image, practice that principle and see how your photography improves.