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Thread: Manual versus other modes

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    Manual versus other modes

    I have been working my way through the 'New to photography' book (fabulous by the way), and I want to understand a bit more about the prevalence of the different camera modes.

    I say that I 'switched to manual' a few months ago, by which I mean that I stopped using the auto feature and started using the other modes. For me I wanted to throw myself in the deep end so I did switch to manual and have never changed modes since. I had an interesting morning a few days ago in which I took photos of my daughters in constantly changing light conditions (in a paddling pool partly under the shade of some fruit trees). The results were completely unusable, even as snapshots for the fridge, but I enjoyed the experience of having to constantly change the shutter speed and aperture in order to take the photos I want... it was a good exercise.

    The books says this:
    In practice most photography is done using Av or Tv mode; manual is usually only used for special reasons.
    Some photographers use manual all the time (and usually made a big noise about this fact) but it is not necessary.
    I have become a bit afraid of using those modes, as if doing so will plunge me back in the direction of the auto button. I guess what I am asking is ... is this true? Is Av and Tv the modes that I should most often be using? It would certainly make taking photos of my children easier. But is there any benefit to sticking with Manual while I am learning (I am starting to think it would be better from a learning perspective to use the semi-automatic so I can take better shots without having to focus so much on the triangle).
    Last edited by alsocass; 10-01-2013 at 10:11pm.
    Cass
    I switched my camera off auto in November 2012, and I have been busy reading and learning and practicing ever since.
    My kit is basic: Canon 1000D (two kit lenses) + 50mm f/1.8 + a tripod/monopod + Lightroom4

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    My view is that you should use the exposure mode(s) most appropriate for your comfort level, experience and the shooting conditions.

    Personally, I use manual exposure mode 99.9% of the time. Before I explain why, I'm only mentioning this fact because it's pertinent to the topic. Unlike what the author of your book asserts, I don't need to make a song and dance about it, and personally I don't care what exposure mode, gear or whatever else people use; to me, the image is what matters.

    I use manual exposure mode because I am very familiar with it, well used to using it, and because I want absolute control over what the camera does. The subjects I shoot do not require rapid adjustments due to changing light conditions or moving subjects; I predominantly shoot seascapes, landscapes, cityscapes, portraits and still-life. These forms of photography allow you to slow down and get it right without having to quickly react for fear of missing the critical moment.

    If you shoot events, sports, wildlife and theatrical/music performances, manual exposure mode is probably not the most appropriate mode, as your keeper rate will potentially be lower. For movement, Tv mode would generally be the most appropriate, as in most situations you need a shutter speed sufficiently fast to freeze movement.

    From a technical perspective, another reason why I use manual exposure mode is because I bracket. I tend to shoot multiple exposures of the same composition, sometimes from -4EV to +4EV. The semi-automatic modes do not allow this, and even if I'm shooting only one exposure, the light meter doesn't always get it right, so I may deliberately under- or over-expose by a third or two thirds of a stop.

    If you're shooting silhouettes, you might want to under-expose in order to ensure the subject is black and to intensify the colours of the sky. Semi-automatic modes don't allow you to do that. You can dial in some exposure compensation, but that's a feature I've never used or bothered to investigate. I really prefer to keep it simple and control my ISO rating, shutter speed and aperture independently of one another.

    My advice to you is to learn to use manual exposure mode, but recognise when it is more appropriate, convenient or even necessary to use one of the semi-automatic modes.

    I also recommend you forget the fully-automatic mode, as you'll have the least control, and such a mode defeats one of the main benefits of SLR cameras.

    Practice with manual mode and increase your competency; but if you're shooting something dynamic and cannot really afford to miss the shot, use the most appropriate semi-automatic exposure mode. When the stakes are not high, you can work with manual mode and not risk disappointment if you don't land the shot.

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    if you have trouble with determining the right settings for a given situation using full manual, the semi manual modes can come in very handy. Say you are using full manual and your priority is to get a shallow depth of field, so you are using aperture 2.8 or 4 etc, but the photos are over-exposing. Swap to Av mode (aperture mode) set your camera to f2/8 or f4 (the one you want to use) and take a photo. Let the camera determine the shutter speed etc. Then use the LCD to review that photo and see what settings the camera chose to get a 'good exposure'. Now go back to full manual and with your aperture set to your chosen one fr2.8, f4 etc, set your shutter speed based on what the camera chose in the semi-auto mode. That way you use the camera as a learning tool, to help you with choosing the right settings when in a full manual mode.

    Hope that makes sense.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    Thank you. Both those responses made excellent sense.

    I will keep on using manual while I learn, but I will not be afraid to use semi-auto when I need to.

    I also love the idea of using semi-auto to learn what settings would work well.

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    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    There is absolutely nothing wrong with using the so-called "auto" modes because, in reality, they are no more "Auto" than the "Manual" mode. Why, I hear you ask? Simple, the camera's meter in manual mode still advises which is the "correct" exposure for a particular scene when you choose a certain aperture, shutter (and ISO) combination. This is indicated by the meter in your camera's viewfinder where it will show on a bar graph, or some other depiction of correct exposure according to the camera's meter. The thing is, if you are using Aperture priority, then the camera will automatically select the suppsed correct shutter speed according to this very same meter, so whether you select it, as in Manual mode, or the camera selects it, as in Aperture Priority mode, is actually a moot point as the result will be exactly the same.

    The beauty of auto modes is that it can save time as you only need to select one aspect of the triangle of exposure which is shutter, aperture and ISO (however, if we are to be strict there are only two aspects of exposure, shutter and aperture, but to achieve "correct" exposure, we need to think about ISO as well). I have probably taken close to 100,000 images in the last 8 years of digital photography and I can tell you I use mainly Aperture Priority in 99,000 of those shots! However, to adjust what the camera thinks is correct exposure, I do not resort to using the Manual Exposure option, but use "Exposure Compensation" method as I find this quicker and easier. I set the Aperture and then the camera sets the shutter speed automatically, but if I judge that the scene requires more or less exposure, I then use the "Exposure Compensation" dial to adjust the exposure accordingly to what I think is correct.

    You can, of course, use Shutter Priority and then the camera will automatically set the Aperture to what it thinks is correct exposure, but this can be adjusted by using the "Exposure Compensation" dial just the same as in Aperture Priority mode.

    The point is, in every "mode", you have complete control of the exposure you want just as if it were Manual mode. To recap, if you have set your ISO to a fixed ISO "speed":

    * "Manual" mode, you select both Aperture and Shutter Speed, to gain correct exposure according to the camera's metering. If you need to alter exposure according to the lighting conditions, then you alter either the shutter speed or aperture.

    * In "Aperture Priority" mode, you select the Aperture and to gain correct exposure the camera according to the camera's metering, automatically selects the Shutter speed. However, this is just tha same as if you selected it if you were in "Manual" mode because the camera's meter is still being used to obtain "correct" exposure. It's no different, it is just two ways to get to the same result. To adjust the exposure to suit the lighting conditions, you can then use "Exposure Compenstion" dial. You use Aperture Priority when you want to control Depth Of Field and the Shutter Speed is automatically adjusted to suit and I find it the most useful mode. When you adjust the Exposure Compensation dial, the Shutter Speed is further altered to suit the adjusted exposure and the Aperture stays as selected (within the range of the Apertures available on the lens) I rarely use "Manual" mode as I find it too cumbersome.

    * In "Shutter Priority" mode, you select the Shutter Speed and to gain correct exposure the camera according to the camera's metering, automatically selects the Aperture. However, this is just tha same as if you selected it if you were in "Manual" mode because the camera's meter is still being used to obtain "correct" exposure. It's no different, it is just two ways to get to the same result. To adjust the exposure to suit the lighting conditions, you can then use "Exposure Compenstion" dial. You use Shutter Speed Priority when you need a certain shutter speed for freezing action or whatever. When you use the Exposure Compensation dial to alter exposure whilst in Shutter Priority mode, the Aperture is further alterd to suit your altered exposure and the Shutter Speed stays as selected (within the range of shutter speeds of the camera).

    * There are other modes, like "Program", which selects both the Aperture and Shutter Speed according to the lighting level. However, you can alter one of these and the camera will automatically alter the other so as to keep correct exposure according to the camera's meter. So, you may have and aperture of f5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/200sec (at ISO100)as the Program default exposure, but may want to have more Depth of Field, so you alter the aperture to f8 and the camera willl then automatically change the shutter speed to 1/100sec.

    * Some camera's even have another mode and that is "ISO" priority. You select the ISO and the camera sets the aperture and shutter accordingly. Same applies with the other modes, ie to alter what the camera belieces is correct exposure, just use "Exposure Compensation" to adjust exposure according to what you feel is correct.

    Whatever mode you choose, you need to be comfortable with how it works and this generally comes down to how the buttons and dials are laid out in order for you to be able to alter then quickly and easily. I used to own Pentax cameras and now Nikon cameras, and for me, they are both easiest to use in Aperture Priority mode and use Exposure Compensation to alter the exposure to what I think is correct.

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    There is another option that few talk about. Say for instance you want to take shots of the kids playing under the sprinkler in the backyard and clouds are causing constant changes to the light. You want to set the f-stop at, lets say, f4 to keep the ugly fence in the background out of focus. You also want to have the shutter speed at 1/1000 to freeze the water drops as they bounce off the kids faces. Set the last point of the light triangle to auto. That is your ISO. If the ISO stays fairly low (less than ISO1600) the quality of the images will still be good as long as the shots aren't under exposed and you can reduce the noise on the computer later anyway. The important thing is that you get the shutter speed you want and the depth of field you want. A little bit of noise is always better than blurred images or images with too narrow or too deep a depth of field. I have used this when taking shots of the kids playing sport on days when the light is constantly changing. Night games with constant light I use full manual. I am learning also and find that having one less thing to consider before taking the shot invaluable, particularly when the subjects are in constant motion.
    Cheers Kieran

    Tamron 90 macro, Sigma 70-200 f2.8, Tokina 11-16 f2.8, Cannon 50 f1.8, Cannon 18-55. Cannon 550D

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    I think your experience here is fairly common Cass. Generally speaking, it seems to me that beginners often move to manual mode (as "serious" photographers don't use auto ) - which is fine, but I think many see shooting in "M" mode as an end in itself rather than what it really is which is just a means to an end. The modes themselves don't really matter that much, it's the values (aperture, shutter-speed, ISO) that are important. So for example if your scene calls for 1/250 and f/8 at ISO 100, it doesn't really matter which mode you use to get those values. The point of modes is that in specific shooting situations a certain mode will make it simpler to get your desired values.

    I think people often get hung up on the exposure modes whereas I think what's more important is understanding metering. If you understand:
    - how the camera's meter works (in general terms)
    - how each of your camera's metering modes (evaluative/matrix, centre-weighted average, spot) works
    - and (related to the previous point) what is actually being metered in each mode
    then you'll never hit a situation that you won't be able to deal with (exposure wise). For example if you are taking a portrait in strongly backlit conditions it's more important to understand that you could take a spot reading off the subject's skin (and increase that reading by a stop) than which mode you are shooting in.

    In certain situations I use auto ("P") mode, although most of my shots are taken in Av/aperture-priority. I sometimes use M/manual mostly for still-life type stuff, rarely for anything moving (unless it's light trails). Don't think I've ever used Tv/shutter-priority.

    Some of this stuff can be quite confusing initially so don't be too concerned if that's how you are finding it. It will fall into place.


    Cheers.
    Phil.

    Some Nikon stuff. I shoot Mirrorless and Mirrorlessless.


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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fillum View Post
    I think people often get hung up on the exposure modes whereas I think what's more important is understanding metering. If you understand:
    - how the camera's meter works (in general terms)
    - how each of your camera's metering modes (evaluative/matrix, centre-weighted average, spot) works
    - and (related to the previous point) what is actually being metered in each mode
    then you'll never hit a situation that you won't be able to deal with (exposure wise). For example if you are taking a portrait in strongly backlit conditions it's more important to understand that you could take a spot reading off the subject's skin (and increase that reading by a stop) than which mode you are shooting in.
    Extremely well put.

    There is a time and a place for all modes ( possible exception of full auto ) and I would look upon the choice of the appropriate mode as being heavily subject and light condition dependent but as Phil wrote above, in order to know which mode to use you really must have a good understanding of of how your camera works and which metering mode is going to give you the results that you seek.
    Andrew
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    Also to add. Using the 'modes' is good as you are learning as it helps you understand how the exposure triangle works (Aperture, iso, shutterspeed), because using the auto modes, even semi auto, gets you a 'correct' exposure. However, creative and good photography is often not about a correct exposure and the very fact the photographer has deviated from a 'correct' (as per what the camera thinks is correct) exposure is the very reason the resultant photo gets the WOW factor.

    Understanding the exposure triangle is necessary, but learning how and when to deviate from it, is when you start to get wonderfully creative photographic results. So do not be afraid to use the modes to learn, but also do not be afraid to ignore the settings that the auto-modes give and once you feel comfortable start deviating from them. To do this effectively you still need to understand how the exposure triangle works and what changing the values for each does, so that when you want to get creative, you know how and which one to alter to get the result you have planned in your head.

    As a beginner, soak up all the knowledge you can get, and then one day soon, it will click, and then you will be ready to think 'ok the camera says I need a shutter speed of 1/200th second, but I want a shutter speed of 1/1000th second, and you will know what is needed to compensate with the other settings to get the result.

    Don't try and learn everything at once, learn one thing, get a good understanding of it, then learn something new and add the two together, then learn a third and combine that with the knowledge you have of the first two. Slowly build up your knowledge and skills and you will be taking better photos sooner, rather than later.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fillum View Post
    I think your experience here is fairly common Cass. Generally speaking, it seems to me that beginners often move to manual mode (as "serious" photographers don't use auto ) - which is fine, but I think many see shooting in "M" mode as an end in itself rather than what it really is which is just a means to an end. The modes themselves don't really matter that much, it's the values (aperture, shutter-speed, ISO) that are important. So for example if your scene calls for 1/250 and f/8 at ISO 100, it doesn't really matter which mode you use to get those values. The point of modes is that in specific shooting situations a certain mode will make it simpler to get your desired values.
    Cheers.
    This makes a whole heap of sense. Thank you for the explanation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fillum View Post
    I think people often get hung up on the exposure modes whereas I think what's more important is understanding metering. If you understand:
    - how the camera's meter works (in general terms)
    - how each of your camera's metering modes (evaluative/matrix, centre-weighted average, spot) works
    - and (related to the previous point) what is actually being metered in each mode
    then you'll never hit a situation that you won't be able to deal with (exposure wise).
    +2.
    I agree 100%

    ***

    Also - (shooting in available light), understand that the Photographer has just as much control over the exposure if the Camera Mode is: 'P Mode'; 'Tv Mode' or 'Av Mode', as if the Camera were in 'M Mode' - it is just with those three automatic modes, the camera's TTL Meter makes the first choice of the exposure - but the Photographer can always manually over ride that choice.

    So, it is my view, that once one fully understands the TTL metering of the camera - and then firstly selects the best METERING MODE - then the choice of CAMERA MODE (i.e.: Av; Tv; P or M.) is predicated upon what is the EASIEST and MOST SUITABLE to:

    • capture the shot(s) quickly and efficiently
    • make any exposure adjustment(s) quickly and efficiently


    WW

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    well said by all above. Plenty of advice Cass. I bought `Understanding Expodure` by Bryan Petersen. A good informative read. Not expensive either.
    Graeme
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    Yes I found him on YouTube last year and ended up buying two of his books via kindle. (field guide and understanding exposure). I finished the first and am about a third of the way through the second.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Cass. I don't want to add anything to this already good info, but somewhere up above there was mention of "The Exposure Triangle".
    Here is the link for that, in the Library:
    http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...SO_Sensitivity

    I will now just give a mild opinion: Manual Mode, as such, is not all that hard at all.

    Am.
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    Member Kaktus's Avatar
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    alsocass - I would like to thank you for posing this question as I would not have been able to articulated it so clearly .

    The answers/solutions that where provided are excellent reading material for me, so I have bookmarked this thread for future easy reference.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Here's some more reading for you Cass (courtesy of AP) ...http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...o-you-use-most
    Though, click on view result (or whatever it is) for the poll at the start of the thread to get quick idea of what we use.
    "Enjoy what you can do rather than being frustrated at what you can't." bobt
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    I agree with William. Choose the mode that suits you and the situation and then 'overide' the camera to what you want. An easy example is to us AV mode to control depth of field for a protrait, then use +/- EV to lighten / darken the image to your preference. AV is a 'manual' mode just as much as M is.

    Have fun playing.

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    +3 on fillums reply.

    Understanding the metering system is the initial priority, and once this is understood properly, then your choice of exposure mode will become more clear to you, and you'll also find that you will choose the correct mode for the right situation ... as opposed to manual mode for the sake of getting out of Auto!


    Also be aware that some camera's metering systems operate differently to other brands.
    So, if a Nikon owner tells you to learn to use spot metering for greater accuracy and consistency of exposure in certain situations, be aware that the experience they have with their gear could differ from how your gear may operate.

    Also note that as you move up the camera model tree in a particular brand(in your case Canon), you may find that the upper end models may also differ in the way their metering systems operate compared with the lower end more consumer orientated models.

    In fact, some metering modes operate differently based upon the lens mounted on the camera .. the same camera, just using a different lens!

    The point being, as already said, you should get to know how the metering system operates on YOUR camera. Understand it's limitations and take it from there.
    Once you have worked out what the meter indicator is telling you about the scene, and once you've figured out how to set the camera up to expose a scene .. the exposure mode you choose to set will come more naturally.


    On the topic of exposure compensation:
    I'm not sure on how your camera works, but some cameras have a feature called easy exposure compensation.
    One thing I hate using is the exposure compensation button to set exposure compensation, and I prefer to use easy compensation.
    Basically, this is what makes the semi auto exposure modes more manual than auto.
    Easy compensation is the situation where your camera will have two separate controls for shutter and aperture values.
    If set to a mode that controls one of those two variables, easy compensation will allow you to alter the other variable to set the exposure required for a given moment.
    The advantage is that this is a quicker method for setting of exposure using a single control, rather than the need to use two controls to set exposure compensation which may take a few seconds to set .. where you may miss a particular moment.


    even tho you allow the camera to determine the exposure automatically, you are the one making the decision as to exactly how the bright or dark exposure is to be set.


    the metering mode(spot/evaluative/centre weighted), the use of exposure compensation(+-Ev) and the exposure mode(Tv/Av/M/P) all work hand in hand to allow you to speed up your reaction time to adjust for variability.
    In a situation where light is rapidly changing, being fluent with these primary operations will significantly increase your success rate.

    FWIW: I use Aperture Priority 99.999% of the time, Manual mode a few times, Shutter priority two or three times ...... and Program mode once!
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
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  19. #19
    It's all about the Light!
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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    FWIW: I use Aperture Priority 99.999% of the time, Manual mode a few times, Shutter priority two or three times ...... and Program mode once!
    A long running poll will help.... http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...o-you-use-most

    I use Av for most situations (~95%), I use Manual for night work (long exposure), and most tripod set shots.
    regards, Kym Gallery Honest & Direct Constructive Critique Appreciated! ©
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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    An interesting(and slightly left field) point about using manual.

    I generally use aperture priority for most of my landscape shots(as they're usually taken in variable light conditions, and I spot meter on a specific point that I want exposed in a particular manner, but in some instances I use to set the camera up in Manual mode because I couldn't cover up the eyepiece.
    If you use a semi auto exposure mode and don't cover the viewfinder to stop stray light from entering it affects the meter's reading, and hence the exposure required. In general more(or unwanted) light would enter through the viewfinder, and affect the exposure to the point that the image turned out darker than expected. But this effect wasn't consistent and some images would expose brighter, or darker again .... the impact of an unprotected viewfinder was unpredictable on the final exposure. The general idea is that as the camera type(being a DSLR) implies that you have your eye at the viewfinder, which stops stray light from entering through the viewfinder piece.
    Note that using Live View mode doesn't produce the same effect.

    Since getting the D800 tho, I've used manual even less now than I used to (in percentage terms) than with the D300. D800 has a fantastic, quick and easy to use viewfinder shutter. D300 doesn't.
    With the D300, my various methods of covering the viewfinder could have been simply holding my hand over the eye piece, using a cloth over it, or the supplied plastic cover ... of which I've now lost two.
    If that wouldn't work, I'd then revert to using manual mode as my last resort. But this viewfinder shutter is one of my favourite and most used features of this camera body

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