Auto-pilot often comes at a cost: It puts a layer between you and what you’re building.

In “Creating Short Films for the Web,” Hillman Curtis writes about shooting in manual:

Another goal I set for myself was to become comfortable enough with the camera to shoot in manual. This meant switching everything “auto” on the camera off: auto focus, auto zoom, auto iris and shutter speed, an auto white balance. This can be risky when you are new to using a camera: you might misfocus or forget to check your white balance as the light changes. But with manual you can dial in a much richer shot, and it forces you to stay connected with your camera throughout the shoot.

For similar reasons, we often choose to pull out the machete and chop our own path in software development. Programmers write code in text editors, instead of integrated development environments, so they can better feel the pulse of the code. Designers code HTML/CSS by hand too. Also, we answer every support email ourselves because farming support out would put us that much further away from our customers.

Every time you outsource something, put something on automatic, or get software to do it for you, you put up another layer. After a while, these layers add up. They blur your vision. You lose touch with the core of what you’re doing. Like Hillman says, shooting in manual lets you dial in a much richer shot.