Why You Need to Leave Auto Mode in the Dust and Switch to Manual
Chances are, when you first picked up your camera, you had it set to Auto. Auto does the heavy lifting, it decides the exposure, focus and white balance, and you just get your shot, right? It’s simple, and easy.
You actually could keep shooting like that, if you prefer. There’s no rule saying you have to do anything other than what you want to do (despite the title of my post).
BUT if you want to take it to the next level, you need to start shooting manual. Let me explain why.
Above is a comparison of a photo shot on auto when I first was getting into photography, and a photo shot last year on manual. In auto settings, the camera guesses at what you’re taking a photo of, guesses what kind of light you’re shooting in to decide white balance, and decides what settings will give the photo what it thinks is a proper exposure. This guessing game from the camera means your photos might not look how you envision them.
When you shoot on manual, you tell the camera exactly how you want the photo to look. Want a blurry background? Drop your F-stop. Want to freeze action? Raise your shutter speed. Need more overall brightness? Raise the ISO.
Using these settings will take your photos from “maybe it’ll look good,” to “I know exactly what this will look like,” (or pretty close to it anyway!)
Not ready yet? Let me see if I can push you further…here are the reasons you need to switch to manual.
- More control over your images. When you shoot in auto mode, your camera is making all the decisions about exposure, focus, and white balance. This can be limiting, especially if you want to create specific effects in your photos. Manual mode gives you complete control over these settings, so you can create the exact look you want.
- Better photos in low light. Auto mode often struggles to take good photos in low light. This is because it has to choose between a fast shutter speed to avoid blur, or a wide aperture to let in more light. This can result in grainy or blurry photos. Manual mode gives you the freedom to choose the shutter speed and aperture independently, so you can get a well-exposed photo even in low light.
- More creative possibilities. When you shoot in auto mode, you’re limited to the creative options that your camera’s presets offer. Manual mode gives you the freedom to experiment with different settings and create unique photos. For example, you can use a slow shutter speed to create motion blur, or a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field.
- A better understanding of photography. Learning how to use manual mode will give you a better understanding of how your camera works. This will help you take better photos in any situation, even if you’re not using manual mode.
Convinced yet? I hope you are, because it will take your photography to the next level. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are a few tips:
- Start with a simple scene and experiment with changing the settings. Change the aperture, the shutter and the ISO to see what each one does. Learn the exposure triangle to understand how these settings all work together.
- Use your camera’s light meter to make sure you have a good exposure (another post on that coming soon!)
- Don’t be afraid of mistakes, just keep practicing, take note of your settings, and you’ll get there.
Manual mode can be intimidating, but it opens up a world of incredible photos. Keep practicing, know you’re going to make mistakes, and just learn from each one. You can do it!