Set It and Forget It

Girl with nails. Texas.

Good way of living: automate the unimportant things in your life, to give focus to what is truly important in your life.

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Why I love program mode in photography

Selfie with Cindy in mirror with flash. Marseille, 2017, shot on Program mode, Ricoh gr ii

The theory:

Don’t worry too much about unimportant things. Automate the unimportant, to focus on what’s really important to you.

For example in photography, I just shoot in P (program) mode, ISO 800-1600, center point autofocus, so I don’t need to think about my settings. For my technical settings I just,

Set it and forget it!

It isn’t perfect, but good enough.

Marseille Cindy on stairs, shot on Ricoh gr ii and program mode

Using P mode in photography isn’t the 100% best, or 100% “optimal” strategy in photography. There are times that shooting fully manual will be better.

Yet, shooting in P mode is a good example of “satisficing”— (satisfy and sufficing). Rather than being a “maximizer” and trying to get the 100% ideal, perfect setup — you make it “good enough for 80% of situations”— and focus on what’s important (in photography, making photos).

This strategy of living with simple rules of thumb is also known as “herursitics” (championed by philosophers like Nassim Taleb, and psychologists like Gerd Gigerenzer.

Why set it and forget it in photography?

Sunset and red shades in marseille. Would have been too confusing to Exposure this all manually. Shot in program mode on Ricoh gr ii

The purpose of photography:

Make photos that bring us joy.


The more I shoot, the happier I am.

Often, I fall victim to “paralysis by analysis”— I try to get everything so perfect, that I end up doing nothing.

V composition street photograph with flash and wine bottles. Marseille 2017

For example in street photography, if I’m always switching my equipment and technical settings, I become distracted, and shoot less. I feel more frustrated, and feel less flexible.

What I want:

To achieve a zen-like state of focus, and to let my artistry just flow.

That means, in photography, to just forget yourself, forget your technical settings, become “one” with your camera, and to shoot uninhibited, with no delay, with no friction, and no resistance.

I like to call this getting into a “zen zone”.

Other says to “set it and forget it” in life

Texture of lettuce leaf. Marseille

I think this philosophy of “set it and forget it” works in many different ways in life.

For example, I wear the same all black outfit everyday. Why? I just set my wardrobe, and forget it — therefore I can use my precious brain processing power on what is truly important to me — making art, writing, reading, researching, and cooking up new ideas.

Close up of coffee filter

Another idea: I always have the same routine for making my coffee. I take an icy cold shower, and boil some water. I then grind my coffee beans, then make a pour over coffee with a “Clever” dripper. I have the same zen monk-like routine for my morning coffee, and I use this as an opportunity to think, and meditate. I also don’t eat breakfast, so that’s one less thing I need to worry about.

Use the same tools

Curved red curtain and shadow. Marseille, 2017. Shot in program mode on Ricoh gr ii

Setting it and forgetting it— this also applies to equipment or tools we use.

For example, I always write on the IA writer app. This allows me to have a meaningful “default” option, so I can focus on what’s really important — writing. Rather than juggling a dozen writing apps.

Cindy at work in apartment in marseille

With my camera, I just shoot with a RICOH GR II, with the integrated 28mm lens. I just set my equipment (camera) and forget it. There is a zen of one camera and one lens, because I’m not distracted about what camera to shoot with. I just shoot with the Ricoh, and don’t think about it.

Only automate the unimportant

Cindy chiaroscuro shadow. Lips, marseille 2017

To clarify, I’m not saying we should automate everything in our lives. I do think that true joy and growth in life comes from variation, randomness, and chaos.

But what I’m advocating for is this:

For unimportant things, set it and forget it.

Experiments to try out

Key and shadow. Marseille, 2017

As an experiment, try:

  1. Wear the same outfit everyday for a week
  2. Use the same one camera, one lens, for a month
  3. Keep the same morning routine for a month
  4. Listen to the same music album when writing or doing work, or even when shooting on the streets.
  5. Have the same default meal, to worry less about food, and more focus on enjoying time with your loved ones (the people you are eating with).
At work with our cat Callisto. Photo by Cindy. Marseille, 2017

See if by setting these things, you can have less “choice anxiety”— and more focus on what is truly important in your life — meaningful time with your loved ones, focus on your creative and artistic work, and more photographic output.

Selfie with Cindy in mirror, choosing spotify playlist. Marseille, 2017




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