When manual mode is best
I’ve heard I should be working in manual to start getting more pro results. Do you think this is necessary for me to progress? Mandeep Sidhu, Hampshire
Tim says: Absolutely not! Any advice suggesting you can only get decent results in manual mode should be taken with a large fistful of salt – more often than not it will be nothing more than photographic snobbery. In the vast majority of shooting situations, you have all the control you need in either of your camera’s semi-automatic modes (aperture-priority or shutterpriority), and they’re both considerably faster to use than manual as you don’t need to worry about balancing your exposure. If you do need to tweak the brightness of your shot, you can always adjust exposure compensation by several stops either way. Personally, I work in aperture-priority mode for 95% of the time because it’s the quickest and easiest way for me to get the results I need.
All that said, there are a small number of situations where you have no choice but to switch to manual, as you’ll need to be in full control of all three variables that control exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) without input from the camera’s metering system. These might include conditions with very fast-changing or very contrasting light, or where the light when the shot fires is likely to be different to when the camera meters, such as when using flash. We check out three of these common situations below.
It’s also worth noting that some photography improvers choose to work in manual not for immediately better results but for a better understanding of the exposure triangle.