Why Shoot in Manual? (Part 2)

Why Shoot in Manual? (Part 2)


This past Tuesday I published a blog talking about the benefits of shooting in auto mode and when and why you might want to switch your camera to auto (if you missed that blog, here's the link – "Why Shoot in Auto?").

And here's the thing – auto mode can be great. If you need to quickly capture a photo without taking the time to dial in settings or if you need to be more focused on the environment around you than on the camera in your hands, shooting automatic can be a lifesaver. But shooting in automatic has serious drawbacks and nothing can match the amount of control and creative expression you'll get from telling the camera exactly what you want it to do.

So if you're on the fence about shooting manual or are simply wondering why you'd need that level of control in the photos you take...


1. You have a better eye than your camera does.

As amazingly technical as cameras are today, nothing can come close to the astonishing quality of the human eye. While a camera has to work hard to evaluate true colors in harsh enviornments or to differentiate between the foreground and background in complicated, fast-moving situations, the human eye does all of this automatically and effortlessly. Switching your camera to manual allows you to tell the camera exactly what you want it to do without forcing it to guess (and get it wrong). You choose what to focus on, you select the proper exposure, and you decide the color pallet – shooting in manual puts you in the drivers seat and makes your gear subservient to your eye, rather than the other way around.

2. Sometimes you'll want an effect that breaks the rules.

Here's the thing – humans are creative...cameras are not. And more often than not, you'll find yourself in a situation where the effect you're shooting for (ha, no pun intended) will break the rules of "proper" exposure, "correct" shutter speeds, or "acceptable" ISO. When you shoot in manual, you decide exactly what elements you want to push and how far you're willing to go – even though the algorithms in your camera might protest. Very rarely will your camera automatically capture that dark, moody photo you want or overexpose to give a fairy-tale, airy effect. So when you truly want to start expressing your creativity, switch things over to manual and start breaking rules.

3. To fully utilize the power of your camera.

I use some of the best cameras on the market today. But when you shoot in automatic mode, your camera more-or-less averages out all of your available settings and, in so doing, cuts off some of the most powerful aspects of your camera. If you have an entry-level camera with the kit lens, auto might be for you – but if you have some quality f/2.8 or f/1.4 glass and a higher-end body (talking about the camera here, not your physique =P), manual mode will allow you to truly utilize the extremes of your setup and accomplish some truly remarkable shots.

Photographing a quiet landscape or snagging an on-the-go moment on a family hike? Sure – auto can be great. But if you're looking for precise control and want to seriously start flexing your creative muscles to utilize your camera to the fullest extent – rotate that little dial over to "M" and start exploring the reaches of your creative possibility.


Want me to cover something on this blog or have a question you'd like answered? Leave me a comment or click the "Ask a Question" button to contact me directly. Talk to you soon!