Manual mode is great you have full creative freedom, you can make the camera take photos at the aperture you want, shutter speed and ISO so that your photo is correctly exposed, so why wouldn’t you want to use it all the time? The simple answer is because you don’t have to!
No matter what you read on the forums and hear from photographers on Youtube manual mode is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you are currently only shooting in manual mode and you are getting the exposures and effects you want then feel free to ignore what I am going to say and carry on with what you are doing but first, have a little think why you only use manual mode. Was it because someone told you that’s how you need to shoot, did someone tell you that you’re not a “proper” photographer if you don’t, or do you feel it makes your photography better.
If you answered yes to any of these questions then (you might want to sit down for this) your reason is utter bollocks! Still here? Good, let me explain why outside of my studio work or if I am working with flashes then I very rarely use manual mode because I don’t need to.
Let’s have a look at the reasons most people give for only shooting manual mode:
Someone told me that’s what I need to shoot in
Whether you read this in a forum or watched it on Youtube whoever told you is wrong, it could be that they just love manual mode so much that it ends up being a little creepy, they could have just been taught that way and it’s unfortunately stuck that that’s how they have to do it or in some cases they are just totally misinformed. I am not saying these people are wrong for shooting in manual mode, hell it’s their camera, they paid for it they can do whatever the hell they want with it but they tend to be stuck in their ways and this can sometimes stop them progressing as a photographer.
Someone told me I am not a “proper” photographer if I don’t use manual mode
This person is wrong, very wrong I can think of much stronger words for them but we will leave it as they are wrong. These type of people are usually keyboard warriors who have nothing to back up their claims and can usually be found berating new photographers in forums, they swing the I shoot manual mode badge around like they are extras in Magic Mike, you will probably find (not always though) that their photography is a bit shit too they just use the “I shoot manual” badge as a way of trying to make their uninspired rubbish appear better than it actually is.
You feel it will make your photography better
This one isn’t as bad but being a great technical photographer doesn’t make your photos better just correctly exposed. Photography isn’t about getting the setting right it is about capturing the scene in front of you, it is about making photos that please you not everyone else (unless you’re being paid for it then you need to please the client).
So Pete what should I shoot with? Whatever gets you the results if that’s manual mode then use it but take a second to check out aperture & shutter priority mode too they will probably get you the same results with half the hassle of setting up meaning you can take more time with your composition instead of messing about with settings. No aperture priority & shutter priority will not make you lazy unless you are lazy in the first place, you still have to pay attention, you still have to make sure that your settings will work but you won’t notice any difference between a photo taken with manual mode and aperture priority using the same settings.
I wouldn’t advise using full auto mode as your camera isn’t bright enough to get creative and will just take the shot however it can to make the exposure triangle work. But that said what is more important than the camera settings you have used is the end result, this is the one thing a lot of photographers forget, get better at taking well composed interesting photos and don’t get hung up about what mode you used to make it and your photography will improve! At the end of the day, it is your camera you can do what you want with it but don’t get in the mindset that manual mode is some sort of badge of honour because sorry but it’s not.