Why Photographers Shoot in Manual Mode?

Manual mode gives you total control. It is tempting to let the camera control all of the settings. Not only do you not learn anything, but the camera will also capture user settings it feels is right, not what you want. When we talk about settings, we are looking at the exposure triangle. We will look at this in greater depth later on in the article. The triangle consists of three camera settings. These directly influence how much light comes from your scene. They also add special techniques, such as differential focus and subject freezing. If you wanted to capture Bokeh, then you need to know about differential focus and a wide aperture. To capture motion blur, you need to know how to use a long or slow shutter speed. The triangle basically works out the correct light for any given scene, using ISO, aperture and shutter speed. It won’t be able to tell that you want to capture motion blur, so it will set your camera for any number of random settings.

Seasoned and professional photographs know when to rely on specific shooting modes such as Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority. These allow them to focus on one particular setting, letting the camera change the others. Manual mode lets you harness the power of the camera, allowing you to change the settings as the scenes and subjects change. It is a learning curve, but we all had to do it. And if I can do it, then a trained monkey will have no problem. 

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Two words: total control. There are no real surprises once you’ve truly mastered manual mode, as you’ll have full control of the three major points of the exposure triangle aperture, shutter speed and ISO. We’ll go into detail on each of these points later in this article, but for now, here’s a brief list of the situations where knowing manual mode is a big plus:

  • Bokeh – Those artistic photos with blurred backgrounds filled with circles of light.
  • To avoid unexpected flash when shooting in low light conditions.
  • Silhouettes
  • Incorporating motion blur for artistic reasons.
  • Anything that requires a creative angle, focal point or shot.

While you have total control over your images, it does take longer to prepare a shot with manual mode, as you have to specify each setting. The best photographers know when and where to rely on autofocus, pre-programmed settings, or preset modes. As a general rule, if you have time to take the shot, shoot in the manual. If you have a need for speed, another mode may have the settings you need ready at the press of a button.

What Is Manual Mode For On A Camera?

Why Photographers Shoot in Manual Mode?

Manual mode on a camera allows the photographer to determine an image’s exposure by letting them select an aperture value and a shutter speed value. This gives you ultimate control over the look of the photo, but you must have a deep understanding of exposure and how shutter speed and aperture affect it.

When most people start out with photography, they let the camera work out the correct exposure in a fully automatic mode. On a DSLR, this mode is often labelled with a P for “Program”. As knowledge of photography is increased, most people look towards the two semi-automatic exposure modes called aperture priority and shutter priority (AV, TV). These modes give the user control of either aperture or shutter speed while letting the camera determine the remaining setting for best exposure.

The manual mode takes it one step further and gives you control over both, but why would you want to use it? Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day. 

First off, I’d like to bust a myth about shooting in manual. It doesn’t make you a ‘pro’, and not all pros shoot in manual. In fact, the vast majority, myself included, do not shoot in manual. 90% of my photography is done in either shutter priority or aperture priority. The times when I switch to manual mode are simply when I think I can do a better job at judging the scene than my camera can. Typically, there is a very tough lighting situation, like a strong backlight, for example, or rapidly changing light due to weather conditions like passing clouds. The camera also struggles to correctly meter very bright scenes, like a snowy landscape, so this would be another time when I think I can do a better job at choosing the exposure.

How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Don’t we all want to know how to take good pictures? The best way to improve your photography is by learning how to shoot in manual mode. Check out 5 Reasons to Shoot in Manual Mode if you need more convincing. When learning how to shoot in manual mode, you need to know and understand the “exposure triangle”. This is made up of your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You use these three components to get your light meter to be at zero. To find your light meter look through your viewfinder. It should be that little line graph at the bottom that looks a little like this: – 2 . . . 1 . . . 0 . . .1 . . .2 + (there should be a little flashing vertical line or “ticker” underneath the graph, this is what you are adjusting) **Please make sure you check on your light meter which side the + and – signs are on.

Light Meter

You’ve probably noticed the little number line at the bottom of your field of view when you look through the viewfinder that looks something like this: -2…1…0…1…2+ (Canon) or +2…1…0…1…2- (Nikon). This is the light meter, and when aligned with 0, you know that your photo will come out properly exposed. Of course, if you are going for a certain effect, it may be necessary to be a little over or underexposed, and you can use the light meter to help you achieve the desired effect.


The aperture is the hole at the centre of your camera’s shutter or iris. If you’re aiming for professional blurred background or the artistic Bokeh, it helps to set your aperture (also known as f-stop) and can basically be thought of as a means of adjusting the amount of your picture that is in focus. The lower the f-number, the more light reaches your sensor, and the more of your background is blurred. The higher the f-number, the greater the field of focus and the more of your picture will be in focus. In other words, a low f-number gives more light with a blurrier background; a high f-number gives less light and a sharper background.

Shutter Speed

Your shutter speed can be thought of as the amount of time your camera’s shutter is open, allowing light to hit your camera’s light sensor. Typically denoted as a fraction of a second (e.g. 1/125), your shutter speed will have an effect on the sharpness of your subject. Lower shutter speeds let in more light but make your image susceptible to blur and require a steady hand or tripod. Faster shutter speeds let in less light but can give you a sharper subject and an image less susceptible to unsteady hands.


Why Photographers Shoot in Manual Mode?

ISO can be thought of as your camera’s sensitivity to light, with typical ranges on DSLR’s today being 200-1600. The lower the ISO number, the more light is required to get a good exposure on your photographs and the less noise you will see in your resulting images. Higher ISO numbers allow you to shoot better quality photos in lower light conditions, but the more noise you may see in your images’ background. DSLR’s can produce better quality images at higher ISOs because of the larger size of the pixels in their image sensors. They also often feature noise reduction to further assist in maintaining quality at higher ISO numbers. As a general guideline, shooting outside under the sun, ISO 100-200 is a safe bet, but if you’re shooting indoors under low lighting, you want to be in the ISO 800-1600 range. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day. 

Why You Need to Learn Manual Mode

Every single compact camera and DSLR on the market today is designed to be as simple as possible to use. You can take it out of the box, slide the battery in, and take a photograph within minutes. That’s not even mentioning the prolific smartphone use, meaning we can capture an image almost instantaneously at any time of the day.

To say that technology has progressed a lot over the past few decades would be an understatement of massive proportion. The ease with which we can do almost any task, including taking photographs, is unprecedented. But sometimes convenience can be our subtle enemy. 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.

Every single compact camera and DSLR on the market today is designed to be as simple as possible to use. You can take it out of the box, slide the battery in, and take a photograph within minutes. That’s not even mentioning the prolific smartphone use, meaning we can capture an image almost instantaneously at any time of the day.

Unfortunately, all this convenience can actually have a detrimental impact on our photography, especially in the earlier stages of your learning. We need to get out of this autopilot mode and start thinking about each and every one of our photographs.

When your camera is set to Automatic, the electronics inside the camera body decides everything for you. This includes aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and focus, all to try and guess an image that was inside your mind all along. Wouldn’t it make much more sense to simply set the controls yourself, knowing exactly what it is you’re aiming for?

We learned in The Exposure Triangle that three variables govern exposure and that these variables can have a massive effect on things other than just the brightness of some pixels on your sensor. Now that we know that, we may as well put it to good use.

Imagine the scene: You’re shooting the sun setting over a beautifully lit landscape. On Automatic, the camera selects a wide aperture and high ISO to combat the diminishing light, meaning you could come away with a noisy image with the foreground out of focus.

Imagine the same scene, but you’re controlling all the settings. You know that you need a narrow aperture to maintain a good depth of field and a low ISO to keep the image quality high, so you make sure to mount your camera on a tripod and simply lengthen the shutter speed to account for our narrow aperture and low ISO. You come away with a much better final image for a few seconds of extra work.

It makes sense that the camera works this way, but that automatic mode is aimed at those who just want some nice holiday snaps. We want you to take your photography to the next level here, and one of the first steps to doing this is to stop allowing the camera to make decisions for you. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.

How Does Shooting in Manual Help?

When we take control and set the camera to Manual mode, we’re taking every exposure setting into our own hands. This allows us to fine-tune our settings and get our image looking exactly how we envisaged it before pressing the shutter.

If you want those waves to be a little smoother, you can simply spin a dial and lengthen the shutter speed rather than battling with the auto mode decisions.

Are you photographing your daughter playing outside, but the photos keep coming out blurry? Widen the aperture and speed up your shutter to freeze the motion. It’s as simple as that! If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

This ability to fine-tune our photos is undoubtedly the biggest advantage to shooting Manual. Still, another big reason I encourage all newcomers to try it out is that it forces you to think about your image every time you press that shutter button. This steadily improves your photography composition, which is never a bad thing.