Shooting Manual or Auto-unhijacking the other thread


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Oct 27, 2008
Reaction score
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Continuing our discussion on the merits of shooting in Auto:

gotta right back, but feel free to wage your arguments for or against.


Continuing our discussion on the merits of shooting in Auto:

What it sounds like to me, and I'm not trying to be an a-hole, but what it honestly sounds like to me is people who took the time to study photography, took some courses, likely started back in the day when photography actually took skill to get a decent shot, saying, "Dammit, I took the time to learn how to set my camera up to take pictures in manual then you come along and take a picture in lazy auto mode and want to call that a good picture?" Then, without even looking at the picture feel they've won the argument and the auto picture is declared bad by default because you're insulted that you think auto mode can hold a candle to your years of knowledge and dedication.. Hate to be the one to break it, but new cameras are tracking faces, they're detecting smiles, they're getting smarter every day, so I think you're going to see more and more quality Auto shots..

And you know what else? My camera won't even allow me to take a bad picture in auto mode! If I don't have the focus or the exposure isn't right if I've got the flash disabled, it won't beep to signal ready. That will save many shots that would be killed in Manual mode..

Now, i love learning. I'm learning more and more every day-I've bought the Understanding Exposure book recommended to me here and two books on lighting, and I've learned an immense amount. But I'm not too proud to go to Auto in a pinch, and I've yet to have a picture under exposed or black, as I have in manual while learning. I like manual because it's neat to know that you set the shot up, but it is in no way a badge of honor, nor would I ever look down on someone who shoots in auto because having an eye for what will make a good shot and then composing that shot are just as much a part of photography as learning to set up your camera by yourself.. Seems to me that getting good at manual simply means figuring out how your camera would have set up the shot in auto and achieving that shot-until it gets artsy.

The rabid anti-Auto rhetoric here is astounding.. Almost like you'd be offended if you loaned someone your camera and they actually took picture though your lens in Auto mode.. How DARE they do that.. Tarnished my damn shutter. It's really an arrogant argument to belittle someone for not shooting manual, I have to be honest. I'm not trying to piss you guys off because I have learned something from each and every one of you, but I'd argue that for more people than not, Auto mode is better than pictures they could take in manual. Obviously not most of you because you're enthusiasts, but I'll bet that if we took a worldwide poll-if there was such a thing, and put pictures up from all over the world taken in auto we'd find award winning photos taken in Auto and that many people love not having to think. And the number of bad shots-not the ones taken on accident, but actually on purpose shots that turned out with bad exposure or ISO would be few.

While I'm steering away from auto more and more, I'm just really amazed by this pervasive attitude.
Last edited:
Auto mode can take good pictures in most of the situations. I agree. However, in some situation, it will not work. And that is the time you can use manual mode.

Personally, I strongly believe it is nothing wrong using Auto mode as long as you get the result you want. However, if the auto mode cannot achieve the desire result, then of course, you need to use manual.
I've been shooting since I got my first Brownie in 1974, I worked my way up through a string of manual cameras, many with no light meters. I know how to set a camera to get a good photograph, I can look at a scene, decide what I want exposed correctly and set the camera for that area first go.

But - right now my camera is set on P (not full Auto - I want to decide on when to use the flash), the vast majority of my shots are snapshot type, they are memories, they are meant to record an object or an event - for that P mode is perfect.

But - when I go hunting for photographs I use A or M modes, ISO is set where I want it and the lens is quite often on manual focus.

My camera is a tool, it has settings suitable for various tasks, P mode is one of those settings, if it suits my needs I will use it, and if anyone else uses it I won't disparage them, it has its uses.
Be careful that you don't paint your adversaries as angry and irrational when they're really not. That's known as the strawman fallacy and it hurts your argument.

Yes, some people who truly understand the concepts of photography look down on the people who shoot in Green mode and then claim it's just as good or better than real knowledge or experience. Why? Because no matter how smart a camera gets, no matter how many faces it can detect, it will never understand the context of the scene.

If someone claims that they get a better shot in green mode than they can in any other mode, that's a revealing statement about the photographer. It says nothing of the value of the feature.
Auto mode will result in good pictures in situations. But I don't use it because it doesn't know what DOF I am trying to capture.
The simple fact is that it doesn't matter what mode the camera dial is set to...F8, 1/125 and ISO 100 is the same in any mode and will give you the same results.

These days, some digital cameras do funny things when you are in some of the auto modes but for the actual exposure it doesn't matter.
And let's be clear here. There's Full-auto(green) mode and there's full manual (M), but there are modes in between too, like aperture and shutter priority. About 90% of photographers use these pseudo-automatic modes anyway.
I'm sorry, stsinner, I don't mean to be so combative, but here's a challenge for you.

Do you see these photos:
warmth of winter on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Half a million views today... on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Ah, felicità su quale treno della notte viaggerà... on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Knob on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
S-Bend (ii) on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
(None of these are by me)

Show me one photo taken in green mode that compares to these. Just one photograph from anywhere by anyone. I'll bet you can't find one. Do you know why this is? Because anyone who knows how to use their camera does not use green mode.
I shoot a lot in Manual Mode. I started doing this so I would completely understand what it takes to get the image I want. It's the only practical way I personally will learn.

Now it's second nature, I have to force myself to shoot in a creative mode. I never use any of the completely auto-modes, ever. My camera almost always wants to fire the on-board flash when I do, and I could live without that flash even being on my camera. That's one reason I really want to migrate to a 5D... gets rid of the useless (to me) auto-modes, leaves the creative modes, deletes the flash and gives me FF. But I digress.

When I was at the Chicago Auto Show I had to force myself to put my camera in P, Av and Tv mode. But I did. This allowed me to get quicker shots that I wouldn't have been able to get in M. The images turned out ok, so I'm happy. But after leaving I went right back to M mode.

I would be PO'ed if I loaned my camera to you and it came back in Portrait, Macro, Landscape, etc. mode. I do believe that would be the end of our friendship and I would likely sue you in small claims court for destroying my camera.
Because anyone who knows how to use their camera does not use green mode.

Read my post above, I use green mode, it has its place, it also has its limitations. The trick is to know those limitations and know when to switch from green mode.

My D40 has a nice feature in green mode, you can roll the thumb wheel and that will roll the exposure settings up and down the scale, this allows for A with a little control, I can increase depth of field or shutter speed without ever leaving A.

Now, I am in no way saying A will ever produce a better photo than M, I know that is not true, what I am saying is that A does have its uses and A users should not be looked down upon.
f5.6, ISO 200, 1/125sec

Those settings will give you a shot - in manual, aperture priority, shutter prioirty, green auto mode - no matter which one you pick the end result will be exactly the same shot.
What is important is how you arrive at those settings and why you arrive at them.

In green auto mode the camera is making all the choices, it meters the scene and then places settings for that scene - usually trying to keep things like shutter speed above a base value (that of 1/60sec I belive since this is the slowest relibable handhold able speed for shooting without camera shake).

In aperture priority mode you pick the aperture - this is normally based on your understanding of depth of field the lens you have, the range to subject, the subject itself and what sort of image you want to create from the scene. Based on your choice the camera picks the shutter speed for you (within the allowable limits of the camera)

In shutter priority mode its similar to the above, only times time its the speed of the camera that you are understandiing and setting - so that means understanding the speed of your subject as well as the end effect you are after. Based on your choice the camera auto meters the aperture for you (or the best it can within the limits of the lens)

Full manual - here you are choosing shutter and aperture to get a shot - you have to decide which is the more important setting for the scene and also have to meter off the other setting. The difference is that now you can push the settings beyond what the camera things - this migh very well cause under or over exposure - but sometimes that is what we are after (or have to suffer) for the shot we want.

I don't look down on those that use the auto modes, but I do encourage them to get an understanding of the less automatic modes - to start to understand the camera as a creative tool and to be able to see what it can create. Even the semi auto modes unlock a lot of diversity and creativity - oh and shooting the moon in auto just does not work = nor does using flash support either (f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec + flash is my macro shooting area - without using manual mode the camera will never give me those settings so manual is the mode I have to shoot in)

Sometimes we do just want a record shot of something - a shot where we don't want to be artistic - or maybe we just don't know how to present the scene before us - so we let the camera do the thinking - and sometimes it gets it right ;)

Now, I am in no way saying A will ever produce a better photo than M, I know that is not true,

Are you kidding me? So you actually believe that you could never take a better photo in A than you can in M? You can't possibly believe such a broad statement. You would have to quantify that statement greatly and narrow down the situation, but you most certainly could take better shots in A than M if the conditions were right. The only reason I use A mode is to control my DOF, while having the computer determine my shutter speed..
I would be PO'ed if I loaned my camera to you and it came back in Portrait, Macro, Landscape, etc. mode. I do believe that would be the end of our friendship and I would likely sue you in small claims court for destroying my camera.

The first camera I shot with was a fully manual film camera, so I didn't really have the choice of auto mode. By the time I got a DSLR with all the fancy program modes and stuff, I was just really used to shooting in manual. I feel like if I switched to auto mode now, I would lose all the artistic control that makes photography really fun for me.

I can definitely understand the modes like aperture or shutter priority, because sometimes you may not have time to tweak every setting. Since I don't shoot sports or news or anything important, I stick to manual mode and manual focus, just because it gives me the control I like.

I don't have anything against people shooting in auto mode, but I have more respect for shots taken in manual, as they require a deeper understanding of what's going on with the camera and the subject.

Most reactions