Shooting modes aren’t often well understood by camera users, particularly after the purchase of their first SLR. Because of this, the quality of work can suffer.
There are a lot of misconceptions concerning which mode you should be using when, as well as a lot of bias towards people not using manual mode. When you understand what exactly each mode does, it becomes a lot clearer which one you should be using.
What the Camera Controls
This may seem like a silly point to talk about because we all know that the camera covers exposure, namely aperture, shutter speed and ISO. What we don’t often consider is that it also covers a lot more.
You have the ability to alter the way your camera looks at the scene with the metering modes and focus points; how it takes a photo with the burst mode, focus points and focus mode; and also how much light it lets in with the exposure compensation.
Different modes allow you different options, so it’s up to you to decide how much control you want.
Why You’d Use it
This mode is most commonly used by people who don’t know what they’re doing but simply want to take photos of what they see through the viewfinder.
I can understand the frustration but, unless you’ve just taken the camera out of the box, you need to learn how to use the camera to produce the best results. It’s a common misconception that, because it’s an intelligent camera, it will set things as you would have anyway… but this is far from true.
You’ll end up taking bright photos with harsh pop-up flash that look like you used your phone to take them.
Why You Wouldn’t Want to Use It
As I said above, it does a pretty lousy job of making your photos appear as you want them to. It’s still much better than using a pocket camera on full auto but won’t produce the best photos.
When you can’t control the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, the camera has to guess what you’re doing and will often get it wrong. Exposure is one thing but there’s a lot more to it than that.
Why You’d Use It
Manual gives you all the control you could possibly want over your camera; it leaves everything up to you. This is great if you know what you’re doing.
More often than not, if I’m using a flash, I set my camera to manual as I like to be able to control the amount of ambient light in my photos. Also, when it’s dark out and I’m using longer exposures on a tripod, the additional control allows you to decide exactly how you want your photos to expose.
The same is true when you’re shooting landscapes and have plenty of time to take the photo exactly as you want it.
There are many uses for manual mode, perhaps more than any other mode. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll see just how much your photos improve.
Why You Wouldn’t Want to Use It
There aren’t many reasons not to use it but there are reasons why other modes would work just as well.
If you’re shooting in sunny daylight, you know that your aperture is going to take priority over your shutter speed and can set it accordingly. If you’re using manual mode, you then set the shutter speed so that the exposure compensation meets in the middle.
This is basically doing exactly the same as aperture priority; in my opinion, you may as well use that instead.