Aside from the fully automatic modes, DSLR and many point-and-shoot cameras feature Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual shooting modes. I’ve met more than a few rookie DSLR users at photography workshops over the past several years who, while struggling with the complexities of their new cameras, claimed that “professional photographers” told them that they needed to start shooting in Manual mode—choosing shutter speed and aperture for each shot—and that they should never use the automatic modes.
They were advised that they were “giving up all creative control” of their photography by not shooting in Manual mode. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
The new photographers suddenly became more intimidated by their DSLRs as they thought, in order to be like the “pros,” they needed to forgo the camera’s Automatic modes and shoot in manual mode only.
I disagree with this logic. Yes, you might be giving the camera control of shutter speed and aperture, but does this mean that you will not get a good photograph? Certainly not. How do I know? Well, first of all, there are many cameras in the world that do not allow the photographer to control shutter speed and/or aperture, and wonderful photographs have been taken with these tools.
Do professional photographers shoot in auto mode? Yes, many professional photographers do sometimes shoot in auto mode. There is a large number of photographers that use semi-auto modes like shutter priority or aperture priority. The scenarios in which they use it can vary greatly. For example, if there’s a lot of natural lighting, the auto mode can be used because setting up the perfect settings in the manual mode could take a lot of time
Why Professional Photographers Use the Manual Mode?
To see why professional photographers sometimes use the auto mode, we first need to see why they’re using the manual one. While using the manual mode, you get full control over your photos. For example, you can change your ISO, exposure, color temperature, and so forth.
More experienced photographers know the importance of this camera mode. After all, this is what separates the ’true’ photographers from those who just point the camera and shoot. But, even the manual mode has its advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s start with the advantages. The advantage is that the statics scenes can be tweaked to a higher extent. You can set up the scene, add some props, some lighting, people, animals or whatever. Now, you look through the lens and manually set ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and aperture settings.
Boom! The photo looks phenomenal if you know what you’re doing. Now, go outside, look up in the sky, and capture a flying bird in the manual mode. Go ahead, do it.
The results will probably be terrible. Why? Because moving subjects aren’t manual mode’s strong point. Also, if we’re talking about shifting scenes, it is the same case.
This is where we come to the disadvantages of using a manual mode. When you manually set the camera, you set it for THAT particular scene, and not for another. In the case of a flying bird, it’s easy to see why it works. As it flies through the sky, you move around trying to catch it.
In this process, the lighting changes, and with it, colours and white balance also shift. So, using a manual mode is a double-edged sword if you don’t know how to use it. Additionally, manual mode can be used for making certain effects in photos, such as milky waterfalls, etc. Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.
Why Do Professional Photographers Use Auto Mode?
Now, to the nitty-gritty of the articles. Why do many professional photographers use this mode? Here are the reasons:
Shooting in Auto Mode Works… In Most Cases
The main reason many photographers use an auto mode is that it works in most situations. Many times, the photo didn’t turn the way you wanted it to be. This issue, for example, can be fixed with a manual mode. But, if this is your new camera, you don’t know how good it is at certain things, so tweaking it takes a lot of time.
On the contrary, if you aren’t a top-grade photographer, you’ll probably like the photo quality you get in this mode.
If we take smartphones, for example, you’ll see what we’re talking about. How many people shoot in manual mode on their smartphones? Do you know someone? Because we don’t.
And yet, you see beautiful photos on Instagram, taken with smartphones. So, if the lighting conditions are perfect, photographers will often use an auto mode to capture the moment. Sure, the top-of-the-line photographers will probably spot the difference but you, in most cases, wouldn’t.
This doesn’t mean that they always use manual mode. It’s actually quite the opposite, especially when capturing moving subjects.
It Lets the Photographer Capture Perfect Opportunities
Photography is all about catching the perfect opportunity. There’s a term that many photographers call ’the decisive moment’.
It’s first described by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Basically, it’s used to describe the moment in which all factors came together, thus forming the perfect opportunity for a photo.
Now, imagine seeing it and having to tweak your aperture, shutter speed, and so forth. A moment like this can last a few seconds or a whole minute, which isn’t enough to set everything up. Instead, you can just use an auto mode, snap the photo, go home, and edit it how you want if you shoot in raw. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
It Makes Learning the Camera Much Easier
Photographers who just bought their cameras can learn more about it when shooting in auto mode. Now, you’ll probably ask – wait, isn’t it the opposite?
Well, not always. Taking photos in auto mode is great for learning what settings your camera used to capture the photos. You can find out about focal length, white balance, ISO, megapixels, etc.
Here’s how photographers do it. First of all, every picture that has been taken with a camera of any type (even a smartphone camera) has info embedded in its metadata. This is known as EXIF data.
Almost all of the image-editing software lets you peek inside and get info about your photo.
For example, a photographer can shoot in auto and get a fantastic photo in certain conditions. Now, he’s curious about which settings were used, thus he uses Flickr, Apple Photos or whatever picture editor to find out.
He opens the EXIF data and looks at those settings. For instance, ISO 100, f/2.8, and so forth.
Now that he knows the settings in which he took, let’s say, a snowy photo, he can use these settings as a reference for the next time.
It Allows the Photographer to Focus on Other Things
When there are a lot of things around you, you tend to lose focus and make mistakes. Professional photographers might not do that but have in mind that they’re still made of flesh and bones. That being said, we are all prone to making mistakes.
But, if we’re talking about an amateur photographer, he isn’t on a level that the professional one is. If he finds himself in a crowded event with lots of people, animals, music, kids or a combination of these, he’ll get confused and slightly intimidated.
And now, it’s his turn to take some photos of people or animals hanging there. Is he going to draw the camera and set the desired values? Probably not. People care only about getting the photo done and that’s it.
So, this is the perfect opportunity to use an auto mode. The photographer can just pull out his camera, point at the subjects, and snap a photo. Or if he’s going to use manual mode, he should anticipate the conditions in advance and tweak the settings. However, this is easier said than done. Looking for a Yarra Valley wedding photographer? Look no further! Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
Does Camera Auto Mode Have Downsides?
Yes, auto camera mode has many downsides. The older the camera, the worse is the auto mode features. Back in the days, the auto mode wasn’t as advanced.
Sure, it would hit a few photos here and there but that’s it. On the other side, now we have modern Canon, Sony, and Nikon cameras that would wipe the floor with the older models. These cameras have a rock-solid auto mode.
Still, relying too much on auto mode leads to some unsatisfying results. After all, this is a computer inside the camera regulating the settings on its own. It doesn’t have the logic and wisdom but only complex algorithms that make it do what it does.
Should you choose to shoot in the auto camera mode, you’ll get decent photos for the most part. But, what if the camera uses different ISO, aperture or shutter speed than you’d want?
Or perhaps, you’re shooting in low-light conditions and your flash activates? Well, that means that it’s time to learn more about the manual mode.
It may seem like rocket science but in reality, it’s not that hard. We suggest learning the basics of the exposure triangle for the start.
The exposure triangle consists of ISO, aperture settings, and shutter speed. These three factors play a crucial role in the photo’s exposure.
The Benefits for Using Auto Modes on Your Digital Camera
Adding to the fervour is the multitude of photo workshops that encourage and teach Manual-Mode photography with slogans like, “Reaching your full potential as a photographer,” “Truly have control over the outcome of your photographs,” “Taking your photography to the next level,” “Go manual or go home,” or “Capture more creative images.” These courses in manual photography, some of which are targeted at beginners, range from one-day outings to eight-week workshops.
When teaching the basics of DSLR photography to students, I’ve found that the most difficult thing for many students to grasp is manipulating the camera’s controls to take command of shutter speed or aperture. Shooting a DSLR is not extraordinarily complex, but when working with students who have been using point-and-shoot cameras and smartphone cameras for years, adding manual control is often confusing and intimidating. Add this to the fact that numbers and mathematics (f-stops, shutter speeds, and exposure values) are now involved in the process, and you have a recipe for confusion.
And now, the evangelists of “manual” photography are telling these rookies that they need to figure out their desired shutter speed and aperture each and every time they depress the shutter release, or they will not get good photographs. Oh, by the way, don’t forget to check your autofocus modes, exposure metering areas, ISO, and other variable settings on the camera before your child runs out of the frame, or the sun hides behind that next cloud.
I teach students how to use the semi-manual modes (Aperture and Shutter Priority) as well as the Manual mode, but I always emphasise that there is no harm in reverting to an automatic mode when shooting, especially if, in the naval aviation parlance, the new photographer’s “hair is on fire.” Even the “picture modes” (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, etc.) can be valuable tools to any photographer wishing to concentrate more on composition and the moment, instead of wrestling with the camera’s controls.
In the early days of photography, lenses and cameras come with fixed apertures, and photographers could only adjust the time of their exposures. Camera technology advanced, and soon photographers could control lens aperture and shutter speed easily. But, even then, the very best photographers came up with catchphrases and techniques that helped them focus on the composition and the moment, by allowing them to mentally separate themselves from the burden of setting shutter speed and aperture. “f/8 and be there” was the slogan of documentary photographers. The “Sunny f/16 rule” described a trick to help photographers get the shot, without having to turn aperture rings or shutter speed dials for every image.
“…the cameras are more capable than ever of delivering a wonderfully exposed image in the Automatic mode.”
Cameras continued to evolve, and then the digital revolution took over—not in the sense of digital sensors, but in the sense of computers that were now embedded in the camera bodies to electronically determine the brightness of a scene and the distance of a subject from the camera. Shutter speed dials and aperture rings were being replaced with multi-function command dials and buttons—in fact, to use automatic aperture control, photographers had to twist their lens’s aperture rings (on lenses that still had them) to a designated position and lock them in that spot. Light meter needles were being replaced with informative LCD readouts inside the viewfinders.
No longer were photographers required to manually dial-in shutter speed and aperture based on out-of-camera light-meter readings (or Mark I Eyeball guesses); a compact computer, living inside the camera, was doing all of the work for us. Nowadays, those computers are infinitely more sophisticated and evaluate more than just brightness—they evaluate a three-dimensional colour model of the image in the viewfinder to determine the optimal exposure.
In short, the cameras are more capable than ever of delivering a wonderfully exposed image in the Automatic mode. If you want to allow motion blur or freeze action, it is, of course, advantageous to use Shutter Priority. If you want to control the depth of field to blur or sharpen a background, Aperture Priority is your best bet.
Many professional photographers work with their cameras in the semi-automatic modes of Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority—modes that share some of the responsibility for exposure with the camera’s computer. They do this because they want the freedom to focus on their subjects and compositions and not spend time spinning command dials or aperture rings while capturing images.
Encouraging new photographers to control aperture and shutter speed to help achieve the desired result is by no means a bad thing, but scaring photographers into using Manual mode by telling them that their photos will be subpar is not a beneficial teaching technique. In some cases, it does much more harm than good, as manual adjustments greatly steepen the learning curve. It’s important for new photographers to know that there are many top-flight professional photographers in the world who shoot photographs using the camera’s computer to help them.
“…there are many top-flight professional photographers in the world who shoot photographs using the camera’s computer to help them.”
One benefit of manual adjustments is they may cause a new photographer to slow down and evaluate a photograph more, but when just learning your new camera and feeling your way through the complexity of DSLR photography, sometimes it’s better to just go with the flow and get a boost from the very smart brain inside the camera.
I personally shot my SLR and DSLR for years in Automatic Mode, and now use Aperture Priority almost exclusively—using Manual mode for night photography. I have years of images filling my portfolio from my days living in Automatic Mode.
If you are new to the world of photography and reading this, remember that there is no one proper way of getting to the photographic result that you want. If the automatic or semi-automatic modes of your camera are helping you achieve your desired results, then keep smiling, keep making photographs, and continue to enjoy photography. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.
When Full Manual Can Do More Harm than Good
The idea behind using fully manual camera mode is most often that we are smarter than our digital cameras and therefore we must have full control over the exposure. The camera’s light meter can be “fooled” causing either over or underexposed images.
The question though really becomes: Are we really smarter all the time?
Before jumping into my insight and thoughts let me ask you all a question – what makes an amazing photograph?
- Is it the emotion?
- Is it the perfect exposure?
- Is it the split-second capture that is forever gone?
All of those things can work together as well as individually to create a truly stunning photograph. Isn’t that what we are all going after anyways?
No One Size Fits All Approach
So it appears there isn’t and shouldn’t be any “one size fits all” type answer – there are some who only want to use manual, some who prefer aperture or shutter priority and even a big-time celebrity wedding photographer using program auto. 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.
As photographers we are artists and it is our eye that leads us to each and every one of our captures, the camera in itself is just the tool and learning which camera mode to use and when will only make the technical side of the job easier and let you focus on capturing those moments.