Manual shooting mode might offer photographers the ultimate level of control, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the right choice for every subject. Let’s look at when to shoot manual and when it’s best to stay in auto.
There is a common misconception among beginner photographers that advanced photographers always shoot in manual exposure mode. This is definitely not the case – most of the time even professional photographers rely on auto shooting modes to get the images they want. But manual mode does have its uses. The key to making the most of it is knowing when to use it, and when not to.
Manual mode is good when you want to take complete control over shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. You can even engage manual focusing, too, if you like. But this is only a successful strategy if you have the time to take that control in the first place. Let’s have a look at some of the reasons for using manual shooting mode, and some instances when you shouldn’t shoot manual.
Because It Slows You Down…
All photographers have found themselves in that situation where they’ve just shot too many pictures of the same subject! Digital photography makes it easy to blast away without really thinking about which aperture or shutter speed is being selected, but switching to manual mode slows you down and forces you to take a more considered approach to your picture taking.
The result is quality over quantity. By considering carefully which shutter speed best captures the movement in your scene, and which aperture gives you the right depth-of-field, you will end up with fewer pictures, but these pictures will look like you want them to.
When You Need Consistency
Small changes in composition or the position of objects in the frame can cause automatic exposure systems to make small adjustments in camera settings. Even a third of a stop change in aperture or shutter speed can make a noticeable difference to a picture’s brightness, which can be a problem if you need consistency between frames. You might be shooting a sequence of pictures that all need to look the same. Or you might be creating frames that will be merged together later as a composite or multiple exposure.
In this case, set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO using manual, so the values won’t change even if you slightly recompose.
When Using Studio Flash
If there is one time when you don’t want your camera to go changing shutter speed, aperture, or ISO without you noticing, it’s when you’re using studio flash. This is because the ambient light detected by the camera bears no resemblance to the light that will be produced by the flashes. It’s best to manually set a shutter speed, aperture, and ISO that suits the flash power you’ve set.
When Photographing Moving Subjects
This is one time when – generally speaking – you’re better off steering clear of manual mode. If the light changes as you’re following your subject, then you could end up with photos that are badly exposed. Leave the adjustments to your camera by choosing an automatic or semi-automatic mode instead.
When You Need to Concentrate on What’s Happening
Again, this is a situation when manual mode can be more of a curse then a blessing. You might be able to make adjustments to changing conditions yourself, but when doing so means you are paying less attention to your subject, you might be better off with a semi-automatic mode like shutter priority or aperture priority. A good example is portraiture, which relies more on interpersonal skills and forming a connection with your subject than being in full control of camera settings.
When You Need to Sharpen Your Skills
Every now and again it’s good to shoot something in manual mode, simply for the experience. Remind yourself of the purpose of apertures and shutter speeds by making a choice about them without assistance. It will make you a better photographer – even when you’ve switched back to automatic!
Your Next Steps
- CHALLENGE For the next week, shoot in manual mode only, tackling a range of subjects from portraits to landscapes. Post your results to social media with the hashtag #MyFujifilmLegacy. You can also submit your work here for a chance to be featured on our social media channels.