Manual Mode - the holly grail

 An old lady looking out in the night taken with an old Nikon 24 mm wide angle

An old lady looking out in the night taken with an old Nikon 24 mm wide angle

A friend of mine lately asked me what kind of shooting mode I would prefer as there are quite some on each of our gadgets. Looking up the internet or photo books from popular photographer you might have found yourself rotating on the dials and asking  the same question. there are many quite scared and confused about the different information and tips as to be overloaded by information.  Everyone has been there…

There will be always the one who tells you that the only way to take a decent photo is in this or that mode and if they take themselves seriously most will refer to manual mode. To be frank I think there is no real true path to photographic enlightenment which mode to choose. 

My approach is to use the mode that helps you to capture the image you want.

But for my friends just let’s dive in into the different plus and minuses you might expect.

Auto Mode

I already hear some photographers cry out: “That’s not a mode for a real photographer” but nevertheless I think it is sometimes the most overlooked mode. In Auto, your camera does nearly everything and takes all the decisions related to exposure according to the light your camera’s sensor picks up. It selects shutter speed, aperture as well as ISO. You point your camera, have time to compose and don’t be bothered by any thinking of the above mentioned settings and click. Done.

Auto Mode can be a good “snapshot” mode. Perfect if you have no time or no inclination to delve into the potential of your camera. Apart from being less than precise for every situation there are reasons to look more in-depth to the other settings.

Aperture Priority Mode

This mode should be used when you want a certain depth of field.  Either shooting wide open to get separation between the desired subject and the background. You can choose your desired aperture and in this the depth of field and compensate for lighting conditions in adjusting the ISO ifor example in low light situations.

Shutter Priority Mode

Sport, moving, action that’s the idea behind using mostly this mode. This is the simplest way to control shutter speed on your camera. You will be able to “freeze” motion. Just increase your shutter speed.Want to get streaking lights at night for example just reduce your shutter speed to a low setting.

As a fast shutter speed will decrease the amount of light you are able to capture an adjustment of ISO will give you the possibility to get the image you’ll like to get. Vice versa for slower shots like flowing waterfalls in daylight where it might be so much light that you even need a natural density filter

 The time for the band is not come yet

The time for the band is not come yet

And now the holy grail for some the Manual Mode

It gives you for sure the ultimate in control over the functions of your camera. You are the boss in choosing aperture, shutter speed, and ISO on your whim.  

Yes it is like this but on the other hand “Manual Mode” is simply another tool to get the shot that you are looking for. It’s not a magic mode.  Your photographic brilliance will not skyrocket in going manual - sorry. But you should take time to get acquainted with this mode and become as proficient as possible.

Ultimately, there are tons of options and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed when trying to determine which is best for you. The most important thing to remember is to get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot!

I am often shooting in manual mode myself but out of necessity. It allows me to use all the different third party lenses with adaptors on my mirrorless camera because the adaptors doesn’t give me the automatic settings. Another reason to get a grip on manual.

 Behind bars

Behind bars

 Under a pool of light

Under a pool of light


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