Do professional photographers shoot in auto mode?

Have you been told that you should only shoot in manual mode? If yes, you need to read this article. Every modes on the camera is there for a reason, and photographers can take advantage of these modes and work efficiently using the right shooting mode for each scenario. This article will look at why aperture priority is the most preferred shooting mode by photographers. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

Of course, manual mode lets you take full control of the entire shooting process. However, sometimes you need to be quick not to miss a shot, and that is where the other modes. 

Photographers have their shooting preferences. Some like using flash, some don’t; some love to play around with field depth, while others want motion blur and freeze motion effects. Take the time to understand the use of the top dial of your cameras (you’ll see the letters M A S P, or M Av Tv P). These dials all have something to do with controlling the principal settings of your camera. Primarily these refer to shutter speed and aperture combinations. And like any other technical setting, we all have a preferred shooting mode.

Photographers are always looking for the most efficient ways to make images, ensuring that these methods lead to high-quality images. Among the many settings and other techniques that need to be taken care of, exposure is one of the most critical factors. To get the correct exposure every time, you need to choose the shooting mode based on your shooting situation wisely.

Moreover, beginners in photography who find manual mode overwhelming can switch to the other methods. That is until they are comfortable with the essential functions and are skilled enough to jump to manual mode.

When you first get into photography, it can be a confusing endeavour. It can be not very clear for people that have been doing it for a while. Understanding exposure takes some time. Developing your creative eye does too. When you pick up your first camera and see all those buttons, modes, and dials, that can be overwhelming as well.

But amongst all the unfamiliar symbols and letters, there’s a saving grace – that little green box for auto mode. Now, We’ll be the first to say that learning how to use the other shooting modes like aperture priority, shutter priority, program, and manual mode should be on your to-do list.

Each of those modes gives you more control over what the camera does, and by that, more control over how your images turn out. But the easiest way to start navigating the sometimes murky waters of beginner photography, auto mode, is just fine.

Why Shooting in Full Auto Isn’t a Bad Thing.

Do professional photographers shoot in auto mode?

The truth, like most things in life, isn’t so black and white. While often derided by online commenters and famous YouTube photographers, auto mode is not the scourge upon modern photography that some people claim. While it might not be the best way to get exactly the picture you want, and learning to shoot in a manual is, of course, a rewarding and hugely beneficial way to increase your skills as a photographer, there is nothing inherently wrong with using Auto.

There are some clear benefits to using Auto. So, I’d like to explore some of its advantages and offer a few reasons why you shouldn’t feel so bad if you set your expensive DSLR camera on that familiar green Auto setting. Our exclusive range of Melbourne wedding photography will help you not miss a thing on your wedding day.

The Benefits of Shooting in Auto Mode

It just works – usually.

It is undoubtedly true that you have a much better idea of the picture you are trying to take than your camera does. However, it’s also true that you may not know how to (or care) make your camera do what you want it to do to get the picture you want. Photographers sometimes talk about

Photographers sometimes talk about the decisive moment, which was a term used by Henri Cartier-Bresson to describe that instant in which all the elements within the frame come together to form the perfect photographic opportunity. Unfortunately, many amateur photographers will wistfully watch that moment pass by because they are fiddling with aperture controls and thinking about shutter speeds.

I’m all for learning more about how to use your camera (I write for DPS, and that’s what we do!), but sometimes it’s nice just to put your camera in Auto mode and let it do all the grunt work for you.

The trade-off

Modern cameras are filled to the brim with all sorts of high-tech enhancements compared to their counterparts from days gone by, and along with this has been a string of steady improvements to their built-in Auto mode. For the most part, shooting in Auto will give you a well-exposed picture that will probably suit your needs. The downside is that your camera might make different choices than you prefer when selecting an aperture, shutter speed, or ISO value, and if there is not enough light, you will likely see the pop-up flash rear its ugly head.

This is when you may start thinking about learning to use some of the other modes on your camera. But, if you don’t mind the creative decisions your camera makes or don’t feel like learning the complexities of the Exposure Triangle, then, by all means, go ahead and shoot in Auto Mude. After all, it’s about the picture, and if you’re happy with the results, then why not keep using it?

Auto lets you focus on other things too.

When you take your camera out to record a moment, memory, or special event, there is usually a lot going on around you and that little black box in your hand. There may be people, kids, music, animals, wind, rain, or a combination of all that, plus much more.

An experienced photographer will know exactly how to set her camera to get the kind of pictures she is looking for and know just what settings to tweak and change to get the right images. However, even experienced photographers can get a bit overwhelmed when there is so much going on, and for casual photographers, it is even worse. It’s times like these when Auto mode can be your best friend. You should not feel embarrassed about using it, but my advice is to embrace that comfortable little green setting openly.

Missing the shot due to not knowing the settings

One of the worst times for a photographer is that sinking feeling when you realise you just missed the shot. Even photographic veterans have been known to leave the lens cap on from time to time. Suppose you are just getting started with photography or trying to improve your skills.

In that case, fiddling with aperture controls or trying to figure out the right metering mode for a particular scene is enough to make you want to toss your camera out the window in frustration. Many photographers have missed the opportunity to take a picture because they were wrestling with camera settings and trying to get things just right before clicking the shutter.

By contrast, using Auto can free you up to take pictures while also taking in the rest of the experience around you. Instead of worrying about the ISO, trying to figure out what shutter speed to use, or wondering if you need to use the flash, the Auto mode will take care of these for you.

The trade-off is that the results might not be exactly what you wanted (maybe you were going for a shallower depth of field or would have preferred not to use the flash). But at least you’ll walk away with some pictures while also having the freedom to talk to other people, take in the scene, and be present in the moment. That is unless you accidentally leave your lens cap on! We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.

You Can Focus on Composition

Another massive benefit of working in auto mode is that it allows you to be unencumbered by making decisions about what camera settings to make, which frees you up to focus on the shot’s composition, just like understanding how your camera works will take some time and practice to does develop your creative eye.

Auto mode gives you the chance to get into the nitty-gritty of composition because you can focus your attention on things like framing, including foreground interest, watching your corners, using the rule of thirds, and so on. And when it comes down to it, the composition can’t be fixed in post-processing – but exposure can be.

By that, if you are so caught up in adjusting the manual controls to get the exposure just right, but you neglect the composition of the shot, you have little recourse to fix it. Conversely, if you shoot in full Auto, nail the design, but need to lighten or darken the image, you can easily do that in post. When you’re just starting, focusing your attention on photography’s artistic elements first and then tackling the technical aspects of photography can prove beneficial to you in the long run.

The auto can help you understand your camera.

One of the most significant barriers to entry for people who want to learn more about cameras and photography is all the art form’s technical details. Understanding the essential elements of exposure is enough to make your head swim. On top of that, there are other considerations like white balance, focal length, megapixels, etc. The list goes on, and it often seems like a cruel and unforgiving proposition that is more alienating than inviting.

Fortunately, shooting in Auto mode is a great way to dip your toes into the more complex aspects of photography, provided you don’t mind doing a little bit of legwork on your own. 

You, Will, Get More Comfortable With Your Camera

Even though you have no input regarding auto mode settings, shooting in Auto still gives you a chance for some good one-on-one time with your camera, and that’s a good thing.

Having a new camera is like having a new car – you need to spend some time using it to figure out how quickly things work, what eccentricities it might have, and only how it feels.

Not only will this help you get familiar with your camera’s performance and how it feels in your hand, but you’ll also get a feel for the layout of its buttons and dials. You will develop an understanding of how the lens works and performs in different lighting situations. You can explore your camera’s menus and see what kinds of settings you can change too.

The point is that auto mode is like kindergarten – it’s the basic introduction and the foundation upon which everything else you learn after that is built. Auto mode is also a confidence builder that makes all that subsequent learning possible. That means the more you shoot in Auto to start with, the better off you’ll be! Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

You Can Learn About Technical Stuff

As you get more experience behind the lens, you can use auto mode to explore photography’s technicalities like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Though you can’t control those settings in auto mode, you can still see what sets your camera has chosen for every shot you take.

This information is stored in the image’s EXIF data. It can be accessed in post-processing programs like Photoshop and Lightroom and even in online platforms like our galleries, Flickr, and Google Photos.

Looking at that data will tell you everything from the lens’s focal length to the aperture to the white balance setting. And though you might not have an intimate familiarity with all those terms, by inspecting the EXIF data of a photo, you can start to get a sense of how different camera settings change the image’s look.

For example, let’s say you look at the image above and notice how the woman appears to be frozen – she’s utterly sharp without any indication of movement in her arms or legs. Then let’s say you look at the image below, noting how the women in the shot are both blurry, with a lot of indicated movement in their arms and legs. By looking at the EXIF data, you can see one reason why these differences appear – shutter speed. Embedded in the metadata of every single picture, whether taken on an iPhone or a high-end DSLR, is a whole slew of information known as EXIF data. Most image editing programs, even basic ones like Apple Photos or online solutions like Flickr and Google Photos, let you peek inside the EXIF data to find out more about the technical underpinnings.

When Is Aperture Priority The Most Preferred Shooting Mode?

Do professional photographers shoot in auto mode?

Aperture Priority initiates the best exposure, which is not always the case with Shutter Priority which is evident in low light situations. It also offers versatility with camera techniques that are not common in Program mode. And it offers a shooting speed faster than Manual, which is the reason why it is beneficial.

Many photographers use depth of field to tell the story in their images. Using a shallow depth of field helps with drawing the viewer’s attention towards the subject. This is most applicable to portraits, macro, still, life, etc., photography. In contrast, a greater depth of field lets the viewers explore all areas of the frame, as in the case of landscape, seascape, architecture, etc., photography.

In Aperture Priority, if you want the best exposure with the fastest shutter speed, you need to set your dial to the widest aperture. You can do this even without looking at the settings. Remember, a more significant gap means more light coming in. If you have a kit lens, it’s usually at f/3.5 you have the widest aperture. It may seem that having an f/3.5 gap is limiting, but this limit is the most significant advantage of Aperture Priority over Shutter Priority.

Remember that you have three options to increase exposure – A wider aperture, a more sensitive sensor, or a slow shutter. 

  • A wider aperture allows more light to fall on the camera’s sensor.
  • A sensitive sensor means a high ISO setting or value, which also means more image noise. 
  • Slow shutter speed can mean a lot of motion blur, which isn’t ideal for general shooting purposes. Therefore, unless you are doing some long exposure photography, a wider aperture is the way to go.

With Aperture Priority, when you reach the maximum aperture limit, the camera will stop at that setting. It is like the camera saying, “this is the best I can do; this is as far as I can go”. Even if the shutter speed can still go faster, the camera limits you because your aperture can’t go wider. You will appreciate this limit as we compare it with Shutter Priority. Starting to think about hiring a wedding photographer? Check out our range of Mornington Peninsula wedding photography here.

When Should You Use Aperture Priority Mode?

In situations where you have a scene with changing light, Aperture Priority is helpful. Once you get the settings right, you can keep shooting without thinking about changing any of the values to get the correct exposure. This is especially useful when shooting events, weddings, wildlife, sports, etc.

Aperture Priority Compared With Manual Mode

Manual is an excellent mode because you have precise control of your camera settings. However, having everything in the full manual also means you need to think and adjust everything – exposure, camera technique, shutter and aperture settings, metering, among others. Continually thinking about changes can result in a delay in shooting. Manual is best when the light or the scene is not changing quickly. It is most useful when you have time to make adjustments to your camera settings, mainly when you shoot with a tripod.

With Aperture Priority, you only need to focus on a couple of things. First, since the shutter speed automatically matches with the aperture combination, you are already assured of getting the right exposure combination based on the camera’s metering system. Therefore you only need to mind your meter controls and preference in technique.

Manual has the advantage of precision settings and is also perfect for flash photography, while Aperture Priority has speed. However, there is an instance where Manual may have the edge in speed over either Aperture, Shutter, or Program mode. It is when light is too unbalanced, and metering becomes a little off. The manual shooter, in this case, with the right knowledge of exposure values, will only have to compensate by adjusting shutter speed or aperture values to adjust exposure. The semi-auto shooter will have to change exposure compensation, metering mode, or both to do so.

What Auto mode can show you

If you take pictures using Auto mode, all the details such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are saved in the EXIF data along with a slew of additional information like your camera model, whether the flash fired, what type of metering mode was used, even the location of the picture if your camera has GPS capability. Looking at the EXIF data of your photos and other photos you see online is a fantastic way to learn about the technical aspects of photography so you can get a better sense of how the picture was taken. It’s almost like getting a movie on DVD or Blu-Ray and watching the behind-the-scenes bonus features or listening to the director’s commentary, in that you can get a good idea of what creative decisions were made to get the final result.

If you have ever wanted to get more serious about shooting in Manual or one of the semi-automatic modes on your camera, try plugging in Auto and then using the EXIF data to replicate that same shot in Manual mode. Then tweak the settings like aperture or shutter speed, and you will start to see how changing these values affects the final image. But be careful – doing this can open you up to a much larger world of photography by helping you learn to creatively control your camera in ways you might have never thought possible!


There’s some stigma attached to Auto mode, where people sometimes think you are less of a photographer if that’s all you use. I liken this to people who get into arguments about Ford versus Chevy, Android versus iPhone, or any of the other sorts of silly things over which people tend to clash.

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If you use Auto Mode and you like it, then, by all means, keep using it! Indeed, it’s nice to have more control over your camera, but some people find that by giving up control and just using Auto, they are free to focus on other things that matter more to them. If that sounds like you, then by golly (as my dad would say), put your camera mode dial to the green square and click away.