The Benefits of Shooting in Auto Mode


I can still hear the words I was told when I bought my first DSLR ringing in my ears just as clearly as if I heard them this morning. “You have to learn to shoot in manual mode.” When I started to get serious about photography I had no idea what aperture, shutter, or ISO meant, and thought P meant Professional. I didn’t know what I was doing at all and because everyone seemed to say so, I dove right into YouTube tutorials and online articles about how to get away from the dreaded Auto Mode setting on my camera. After all, no serious photographer would be caught dead using Automatic…right?

The Benefits of Shooting in Auto Mode

Auto Mode – don’t knock it until you try it. And even then, maybe give it a second chance.

The truth, like most things in life, isn’t so black and white. Auto mode, while often derided by online commenters and popular YouTube photographers, is not the scourge upon modern photography that some people claim. While it might not be the best way to get exactly the picture you want, and learning to shoot in manual is, of course, a rewarding and hugely beneficial way to increase your skills as a photographer, there is nothing inherently wrong with using Auto.

In fact, there are some clear benefits to using Auto. So, I’d like to explore some of its advantages and offer a few reasons why you shouldn’t feel so bad if you set your expensive DSLR camera on that familiar green Auto setting.

It just works – usually

It is certainly true that you have a much better idea of the picture you are trying to take than your camera does. However, it’s also true that you may not know how to (or care) make your camera do what you want it to do, in order to get the picture you want. Photographers sometimes talk about


Photographers sometimes talk about the decisive moment, which was a term used by Henri Cartier-Bresson to describe that instant in which all the elements within the frame come together to form the perfect photographic opportunity. Unfortunately, many amateur photographers will wistfully watch that moment pass by because they are fiddling with aperture controls and thinking about shutter speeds.

I’m all for learning more about how to use your camera (I write for DPS and that’s what we do!) but sometimes it’s nice to just put your camera in Auto mode and let it do all the grunt work for you.

The trade-off

Modern cameras are filled to the brim with all sorts of high-tech enhancements compared to their counterparts from days gone by, and along with this has been a string of steady improvements to their built-in Auto mode. For the most part, shooting in Auto will give you a well-exposed picture that will probably suit your needs. The downside is that your camera might make different choices than you prefer when it comes to selecting an aperture, shutter speed, or ISO value, and if there is not enough light you will likely see the pop-up flash rear its ugly head.


This is when you may start thinking about learning to use some of the other modes on your camera. But, if you don’t mind the creative decisions your camera makes or just don’t feel like learning the complexities of the Exposure Triangle, then, by all means, go ahead and shoot in Auto Mude. After all, it’s about the picture, and if you’re happy with the results then why not keep using it?

Auto lets you focus on other things too

When you take your camera out to record a moment, memory, or special event, there is usually a lot going on around you and that little black box in your hand. There may be people, kids, music, animals, wind, rain, or a combination of all that, plus much more.

An experienced photographer will know exactly how to set her camera to get the kind of pictures she is looking for and will know just what settings to tweak and change in order to get the right images. However, even experienced photographers can get a bit overwhelmed when there is so much going on, and for casual photographers, it is even worse. It’s times like these when Auto mode can be your best friend. You should not only not feel embarrassed about using it, but my advice is to openly embrace that comfortable little green setting.

The Benefits of Shooting in Auto Mode

Missing the shot due to not knowing the settings

One of the worst times for a photographer is that sinking feeling when you realize you just missed the shot. Even photographic veterans have been known to leave the lens cap on from time to time. If you are just getting started with photography or trying to improve your skills, then fiddling with aperture controls or trying to figure out the right metering mode for a particular scene is enough to make you want to toss your camera out the window in frustration. Many a photographer has missed the opportunity to take a picture because they were wrestling with camera settings and trying to get things just right before clicking the shutter.

By contrast, using Auto can free you up to take pictures while also taking in the rest of the experience around you. Instead of worrying about the ISO, trying to figure out what shutter speed to use, or wondering if you need to use the flash, Auto mode will just take care of these for you. The trade-off is that the results might not be exactly what you wanted (maybe you were going for a shallower depth of field, or would have preferred to not use the flash). But at least you’ll walk away with some pictures while also having the freedom to talk to other people, take in the scene, and be present in the moment. That is unless you accidentally leave your lens cap on!

The Benefits of Shooting in Auto Mode

Auto can help you understand your camera

One of the biggest barriers to entry for people who want to learn more about cameras and photography is all the technical details inherent in the art form. Understanding the basic elements of exposure is enough to make your head swim. On top of that, there are all sorts of other considerations like white balance, focal length, megapixels, etc. The list goes on and it often seems like a cruel and unforgiving proposition that is more alienating than inviting.

Fortunately shooting in Auto mode is a great way to dip your toes into the more complex aspects of photography, provided you don’t mind doing a little bit of legwork on your own.

The Benefits of Shooting in Auto Mode

Embedded in the metadata of every single picture, whether taken on an iPhone or a high-end DSLR, is a whole slew of information known as EXIF data. Most image editing programs, even basic ones like Apple Photos or online solutions like Flickr and Google Photos, let you peek inside the EXIF data to find out more about the technical underpinnings of a photo.

What Auto mode can show you

If you take pictures using Auto mode all the details such aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are saved in the EXIF data along with a slew of additional information like your camera model, whether the flash fired, what type of metering mode was used, even the location of the picture if your camera has GPS capability. Looking at the EXIF data of your photos, and other photos you see online is a fantastic way to learn about the technical aspects of photography so you can get a better sense of how the picture was taken. It’s almost like getting a movie on DVD or Blu-Ray and watching the behind-the-scenes bonus features or listening to the director’s commentary, in that you can get a good idea of what creative decisions were made in order to get the final result.

If you have ever wanted to get more serious about shooting in Manual or one of the semi-automatic modes on your camera, try shooting in Auto and then using the EXIF data to replicate that same shot in Manual mode. Then tweak the settings like aperture or shutter speed and you will start to see how changing these values affects the final image. But be careful – doing this can open you up to a much larger world of photography by helping you learn to creatively control your camera in ways you might have never thought possible!

The Benefits of Shooting in Auto Mode


There’s some kind of a stigma attached to Auto mode, where people sometimes think you are less of a photographer if that’s all you use. I liken this to people who get into arguments about Ford versus Chevy, Android versus iPhone, or any of the other sorts of silly things over which people tend to squabble. If you use Auto and you like it,

If you use Auto Mode and you like it, then by all means, keep using it! Certainly, it’s nice to have more control over your camera, but some people find that by giving up control and just using Auto they are free to focus on other things that matter more to them. If that sounds like you, then by golly (as my dad would say) put your camera mode dial to the green square and click away.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Simon Ringsmuth is an educational technology specialist at Oklahoma State University and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for photography on his website and podcast at Weekly Fifty. He and his brother host a monthly podcast called Camera Dads where they discuss photography and fatherhood, and Simon also posts regularly to Instagram where you can follow him as @sringsmuth.

  • Lovely tips. Thanks for sharing. All quality images in auto mode. Great!

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  • Thank you Annie!

  • Michael

    Simon, you really have shocked me! Auto mode? You are kidding, aren’t you? I guess this article you created just for beginners. That’s a whole idea to get away from this camera-brain auto mode. If you are a beginner and want to learn the photography science, you should try to use the manual or at least semi-automatic mode like aperture priority or shutter priority. So far all the photography gurus use either aperture priority or manual modes and for the sport photography they use shutter-priority mode. Personally, all my outdoor shooting I do using my Canon Pv (aperture-priority ) mode and for indoor with modified flash, I use manual mode with flash set for ETTL or even to Manual modes.

  • Bobby Stubblefield

    I am speechless. This is the biggest load of crap I have read on a so-called photography site.

  • Ian Browne

    Come on Micheal and Bobby; remember when you were starting out in photography ? And you knew it all!!
    I thought it was a great article and quite frankly I don’t really understand the full manual thing . Yes ; knowing full manual is part of “knowing the tools” but it’s not a have to use all the time thing any more. I can not remember when I last used full manual but then I mostly use part manual ; aperture priority and exposure compensation for MY subjects…. I thought the Nikon “auto camera” was great after using fully manual nikon FM2 film camera (and 120s) but the “lighting fast” AF Nikon F4s was a godsend back in the day.
    Why make photography harder than it is or needs to be ? . I would hate to be starting out today.
    Learners are learners; and they expect good photos from the new toy and the best way to get ‘good’ photos is have the sun over the shoulder and the camera set to P IMO.

    So if you are new to photography ; have a new camera ; there is nothing wrong with using “P” for now.. Light and composition are still the more important parts of photography . I have a few pics on FB / Flickr and I’m always happy to help out a newbie where I can

  • Michael

    If any new photographer wants to learn the principals of photography, they must understand the exposure triangle clearly, the effects of aperture values, the metering and focusing principles, exposure compensation and how and when to use it. Using only P mode will keep them as amateur photographer for the rest of their life. Yes, I started with P mode but just for year or so and never was really satisfied with the end results, however, after reading some digital photography books of renown authors and experts in photography, I had learned quickly to get away from this camera-brain mode and started to use my brain to control my camera. You should know that even latest advanced DSLRs still and never will know what you really want to achieve in your photographs. You are probably one of these amateur photographers who will never advance himself because you are afraid to experiment and to try to use the manual mode while learning the relationship between ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. I use manual about 50% of the time especially when I use my Speedlite flash with my Canon DSLR.
    However, 90% of the time I am on Pv (aperture priority mode for Canon DSLRs) when I shoot outdoor so I can control the DOF (depth of field) while keeping my eye on the camera calculated Shutter Speed and thinking if it’s fast enough to avoid camera-shake. If it’s too low (less than 1/focal length), I raise my ISO. You see, all these actions due to the clear understanding of the science and the art of digital photography that you never will know if we keep shooting using P mode.

  • Ian Browne

    all very true Micheal; however the article as you said seemed to be written for the beginners who need to learn to walk before trying to run . I have seen many beginners falling over because the more experience are yelling ‘run run / use raw only / use manual / you need LR and another says use PS / you need a better and faster lens . The www and youtube are great learning tools however there comes a time when too much info is worse than not enough information, and imo nothing beats a good printed book to learn in one’s own time the basics of photography and the tools used . Photography is a very long never ending learning journey so why rush it and make it harder than it is.
    I have also come to realise that the real enthusiasts like us are very much in the minority and the majority with a camera just want recording photos and full auto or part auto is all they need

  • Ranch Wife

    Thank you, I enjoyed your article immensely. I imagine that I am a rare bird in photography circles as I love the auto mode on my camera. I shoot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 that I love. I don’t have the money for a high dollar camera and this one has been wonderful. The majority of my photos are taken of a cowboy crew working cattle. I am often in a small pen with 4-6 men, a few of them on horseback and probably 50 head cattle at a time. We all know how easy it is to lose oneself behind the lens and if I do not pay close attention every second, I run the chance of being run over by cattle or horses. Staying out of the way of the men working is my first goal, capturing the shot I am after, the second. I don’t have time to change camera settings, and the branding pen is a busy spot.
    I enjoy learning something from each article shared here, but it’s nice to read one that I can really relate to when it comes to how I capture the day to day workings of a cattle ranch.

  • I’m glad you liked the article, and the things you are saying are right in line with what I was trying to convey in the post. I rarely use Auto but there seems to be some kind of stigma associated with it–if you use Auto you aren’t a real photographer, or don’t care about learning Manual, etc. But if Auto gets you the photos you want, then who am I to say you shouldn’t use it? And in fact it can be nice sometimes to put your camera in Auto and let it take care of getting the shot while you think about other things…like wrangling cattle! 🙂

  • CeceLeBeaux

    You should have stayed speechless. Did you even read the article? Go back and pay attention to what it’s actually saying. Or are you more troll than so-called photographer?

    The biggest problem with trying to put new ideas into peoples’ heads is that everyone thinks they already know everything. Don’t waste your time on sites where your views might be challenged and your pride might be jangled if you’re just going to stroke your ego and coddle your narrow mindset.

    The article CLEARLY says nothing more than auto is not always only ever evil. And it’s true. I use full manual mostly, but I will use different auto settings from time to time, and I’ve been known to use full auto in situations where I just need to capture a wide dynamic range because I’m moving in and out of many lighting situations. As long as I have a good white balance and the focus is on my subject, the shots often turn out just fine.

    Artists use all the tools at their disposal. That sometimes includes the tiny computer brain in your camera. That’s all.

  • Bobby Stubblefield

    You’re a blithering idiot who doesn’t know squat about me or photography.

  • Yes it is for beginners. Did you read it?

  • Please keep your comments about the topic of the article and not bashing your fellow dPS readers. We do not allow name calling here. This is a warning to keep it friendly. Any name calling or otherwise offensive language will not be tolerated and the writer may be banned if it continues.

  • I agree with Ian’s comments and there is one huge thing you are missing here Michael. Not everyone WANTS to be anything other than amateur. Not everyone wants to learn those things. Not everyone wants to do it at the same pace or method you did because everyone is different. You cannot assume that because you did it and wanted to do so that everyone else feels the same.

  • Michael

    Yes I did. However, any beginner should keep advancing in photography craft and art in order to learn and to become more advanced otherwise any one who keep using P mode would never know the huge amount of possibilities to creating really stunning photos the way they really want. Darlene, when the last time did you use full auto mode?

  • Michael

    It’s interesting, my wife says exactly the same thing too when I am trying to justify my passionate approach to photography. Well, in general I totally agree with you both, however, why these people do spend like $1,200 and more for a new advanced DSLR and never intended to learn as how to utilize all the capabilities of their new camera? I thought DPS community was for passionate and advanced hobbyists and professionals but not for just somebody who can use their cell phones or point and shoot cheap cameras just to record a snapshot. I guess I was wrong. Anyway, thank you for your corresponds.

  • Stereo Reverb

    If you are advising the use of “Auto”- might as well advise those people just buy point and shoot cameras instead of a dslr. Telling them to use the Auto setting only causes them to become reliant on it and they in turn, only use it as a crutch.

    If you buy a dslr and want to learn how to take better photos and be in control of it, throwing yourself into manual and forcing yourself to use it is the only way you’ll ever learn. When i first got my dslr, i used auto and looked at the iso/shutter/aperture settings- ah, nice numbers- and kept on using Auto, feeling like an idiot and not learning a thing. I took a course, read a lot of books, and watched even more videos on youtube, and experimented with my camera settings until i understood how everything worked together and became proficient in making my images look exactly the way i want them to. Throwing yourself into the fire is really the only way you’re going to learn, not letting your camera tell you what it thinks it should do for you.

  • Stereo Reverb

    The problem i have with this article is, he talks about “experienced photographers” knowing more than beginners, who may be “overwhelmed”, by so many things going on… instead of suggesting that the best way to learn is to dive feet first into it and force yourself to experiment master it, versus becoming reliant on an automatic setting. If being overwhelmed is the issue, buying a simple point and shoot is what should be advised instead? (Yes, I was a beginner once, but i would be off put if i were told that it’s ok to use auto on my dslr- i did that, and never learned a single thing about photography, nor any of the settings on my camera :/ )

    I`n real world terms- would you want your kids to have a teacher that pushes them to always think for themselves and be greater at everything they do, or would you want your kids to have a teacher that teaches them that it’s ok in life to always strive for the bare minimum?

  • Paddy

    Some people have all the knowledge of how the camera works but fail at producing a pleasing picture because of poor composition. I shoot in all modes, especially when on the street.

  • Eileen Thompson

    One question – if auto is such a no-no , why do dslr cameras incorporate it? I can’t help thinking it’s just a snob issue …. I found the article refreshing and truthful and much needed. It’s the photographers’ artistic vision that is most important.

  • jmwlasvegas

    I am learning to use priority mode, but I still revert to auto when I want a picture that would be lost while I try to get a good setting. Not all subjects stand still and wait while a beginner tries to figure out which setting will be best. I’d rather get the shot in auto than not get it at all. It’s a learning curve that I think some of you have forgotten about. If I am shooting a still subject, like a building or tree I don’t mind taking the time to figure out my settings because my subject isn’t going to wander off. An animal in the woods isn’t going to wait for me. This article was very helpful to me in the sense that it didn’t tell me I’m horrible for still using auto sometimes.

  • “I’d rather get the shot in auto than not get it at all.”

    I heartily agree! I rarely use Auto anymore, but I don’t see anything wrong with using it if it helps you get the picture you want 🙂

  • Eileen Thompson

    A much needed and refreshing article and about time too! I think there is a huge snobbery thing going on in the photography world. Can it be that they feel threatened by the great results that can be had by simply using auto, while they themselves have been through the ‘always use manual’ mode of learning? Maybe there’s a tiny bit of resentment?
    As someone who used to paint a lot but had to give up for age-related reasons, I took up photography and love it. I’ve forced myself to get out of auto mainly – yes – in order to be taken seriously ( as the article indicates), but at my age it can get very stressful. And I am simply an amateur with no money-making ambitions ….
    By coincidence it very recently ocurred to me that I could save myself a lot of bother by going into auto mode more! It’s the resulting artistic work that matters more I think than getting everything technically ‘correct’. Ooh – I sense a whiff of freedom – lovely -I don’t need to feel ashamed !
    The discussion is similar to the post-processing one isn’t it …. oh my!

  • Mark Stanley-Adams

    Having read the article, I find I have mixed feelings about it – as do many of those who have commented on it, it seems. I agree with some of the sentiments expressed by those who seem affronted by it, as well as some by those who are defending it. As someone who’s been shooting for a while and does like to take control of my images, my knee-jerk reaction was to leap in and vehemently argue for getting out of auto mode.
    But here’s what I’m going to do instead – upon consideration, I’m going to hold of on putting in my 2 cents-worth, and I’m going to stick my camera into auto for a couple of weeks and try it out. Who knows, it might yield something different from the ‘considered’ images that we ‘serious’ photographers have got into the habit of producing. Might be a lot of fun. Thanks Simon, for a very different kind of challenge. I’m still not entirely convinced by the article, but it’s certainly going to take me down a road I haven’t traveled in a long time, and a breath of fresh air is never a bad thing, is it?

  • DSLR incorporate Auto mode for the same reason Budweiser is the most popular “beer” in the world – majority’s ignorance. They want your money and won’t tell you to not waste it on a DSLR and buy a point-and-shoot if you want to stay an amateur and shoot in Auto. I only see 2 legitimate reasons to use Auto:
    1. Emergency shooting, when you don’t have time to think which settings you need.
    2. Giving your camera to someone to take a picture of you.

  • I admire you saying that, Mark. I rarely shoot in Auto but I made a point to use it for the purposes of writing this article, and honestly even though I still prefer taking full control over my camera I do think there’s something to be said for just using Auto mode and letting the camera figure things out on its own. Not all the time, but I don’t think it’s the plague on modern photography that some might suggest. I’m curious how your experiment goes!

  • Mark Stanley-Adams

    I too am curious… I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂

  • Todd

    Agree 100%. I shoot full manual 85% of the time, occasionally in Aperture, seldom in Shutter and very rarely in Auto.
    But yes sometimes I have no time to adjust all my manual settings and don’t want to as I can quickly spin the dial to Auto and just as quickly spin it back to manual where my previous settings are still intact. Most common time for this is while doing sports photography, when I want to take a quick sideline shot then back to the action.
    And then whenever I hand the camera to someone else I usually spin it to auto.
    And yeah, Budweiser? Beer from rice? What were they thinking? Great commercials can sell anything I guess.

  • Dave Bloggs

    I learnt a great deal in the early years from an old chap who had an old Russian camera and an amazing knowledge of time and aperture, etc he knew as soon as he clicked the shutter he had a great shot, all illford fp4 back then , however I have also learnt alot from using auto and monitoring the settings, increasing aperture or slowing time settings to tweak my shots, all information is helpful , education is key to any subject no one is born an expert so where ever you learn from absorb and digest and above all have fun behind the lens , that is what it’s all about

  • Joel

    Some really good photos started out as “snapshots” in Auto mode because the moment was right. Not every photo is some mystical “image” that was crafted from the light of the gods. Get over yourselves before you criticize people for being novices or for just wanting a good clean photo of something or someone they found interesting. I didn’t see any of your work hanging in the Louvre.

  • waledro

    I’ve taught basic photography and would suggest that newbies start in Auto mode to learn how their camera decides to take photos. If they’re happy with the results and that’s all they want to learn, so be it. If they want to freeze action, or create blur, then they will need to learn how to control the settings. If they want to find out why they’re not getting the results they’d like then they’ll be ready to learn the Exposure Triangle and how the camera decides these. Generally, the camera is smarter than the user, and only if we want to control the settings, do we need to get out of Auto. I drive a standard shift car so that I can decide when to shift the gears. Should I be berating those who prefer to drive a car with automatic transmission? It’s a matter of choice and preference. Plus, cameras with smaller sensors have a longer depth of field, so setting the camera to Aperture Priority is seldom needed. I have a 1″ sensor in my main camera and use the P setting 90% of the time. I can scroll the wheel to change settings quickly if the situation calls for it, in order to change the f/stop or shutter speed. I’ve learned why and how that will produce the effects that I desire. But, the camera is ready to shoot quickly when something catches my eye in the meantime. To each our own, I say. That’s the beauty of photography.

  • Jeffrey Cruz

    Aperture, Shutter and P mode are all a form of Auto. If you are making money with your photography use whatever you need. Joe Buissink admits to using P mode for most of his natural light wedding work and none of his clients seem to complain or care. You can be a boss in P-mode if you know how and when to use it. You still have control like any of the other two modes Auto (Aperture, Shutter) modes as long as the ISO is set to allow adjustments. On a Nikon body Easy ISO can be turned ON and assigned to one of the dials allowing for ISO adjustments, for me the it’s set to the Shutter speed dial. Note: Auto ISO must be deactivated for this to work. When you want to start using OCF (studio or speedlites) in a artistic or flattering way you’ll soon find out that Manual is the best way but this all depends on the type of work you shoot. Learn your gear but not while you are getting paid by the client, it’s not the time for it and it’s a disservice to your client. Practice and get the shot any way you want, if the shot is to the client’s liking they don’t care how you got it. Pick a mode and master it, then move onto another mode and master it. Have some fun too.

  • Wendy Nieves

    i love this article! i’ve always owned some sort of camera, but i’ve been shooting seriously for only about 2 years. i have just started using mostly manual mode the last 4 months. not because i “should”, but because i am learning how to more precisely control for the results i want.i’m not a huge post process fan beyond very small tweaks. i can use manual BECAUSE i practiced with auto, A, S, P, sports, etc and then went through each days shooting looking at the data compared to the photo. did the camera shoot the photo i saw in my head? what would i do differently? what would i not do? it can be the best learning tool ever to use presets and then see what happened. when i started manual shooting i would shoot the scene in auto, look at the settings and histogram, change to manual and tweak what i wanted, then recheck. the technical and creative aspects of photography are so much easier to learn than in the days of film, when you had to get photos developed, but it cost money and if you didn’t like (or did like) a photo technically, you had no idea what you had done unless you kept a huge notebook.
    your camera has a bunch of settings so you can use it any way you want to. so, use it any way that makes you happy!

  • I think the key word here is “always”. He’s not suggesting you always use Auto just that it’s okay sometimes. Here’s the thing – I teach photography in a classroom about once a month to varying skills levels. In my classes, I give them permission to use Auto sometimes if they need to and the overwhelming response I get it is similar to this, “THANK YOU! – All my other teachers told me I need to use Manual or other less auto setting and it scares me and I’m overwhelmed and wanted to throw my camera away”

    I kid you not. I’ve had people ready to give up because they felt like a failure because they weren’t able to just jump in and shoot manual. I think it’s really unfair to put your abilities and expectations on everyone else reading this. I also think that if I had a kid that was struggling in school and the teacher told him that if he didn’t do it perfectly he shouldn’t do it at all – I’d be really mad at the teacher for not supporting my child at his level and encouraging him to do the best he can.

    Honestly, I’m not sure why this needs to be an argument.

  • ” I thought DPS community was for passionate and advanced hobbyists and professionals but not for just somebody who can use their cell phones or point and shoot cheap cameras just to record a snapshot.”

    We didn’t say that. dPS is for photographers of all levels from absolute beginners who just bought a camera – to pros trying to run a business. So it’s not just for advanced amateurs but all levels. It’s also for people who shoot with a point and shoot now and maybe want to upgrade but slowly. See my reply to Steven.

  • Rarely – but I’ve been a pro for 28 years I’m hardly the dPS “normal” reader. I’m the editor.

    We also didn’t say to always use Auto – just that it’s okay sometimes. Again see my reply to Stereo above. Some people are genuinely afraid and overwhelmed by their camera. They need to go slow or they risk wanting to quit altogether because it’s not fun anymore. Why would you want to rob someone of something they enjoy doing because they aren’t doing it good enough or the way you think they should be doing it? Is that fair?

  • Steve

    I’ve never quite understood why people think they are shooting in manual simply by switching the dial to ‘M’. They go on to state they use the meter indicator to help them set the correct exposure. This is no different to using aperture or shutter priority and riding the exposure compensation dial, a more time-efficient and less error-prone method. I accept that manual mode is useful when you need to lock the exposure, eg, when using flash, shooting multi-frame panoramas, or perhaps when you have to freeze action and achieve a wanted depth of field, then using ISO or auto-ISO to get the right exposure. True manual control takes me back fifty years to my first camera with no meter, just eyeball and brain to compute the exposure.

  • John Colborne

    I agree with the writer of this article. There seems to be a great deal of snobbery and stigma attached to the use of “auto.” I am a long retired wedding and portrait photographer from when “real photographers” used large format cameras and any 35mm including Nikon/Canon SLRs were considered amateur. My gear included a Hasselblad and Mamiya C330 with changeable lenses an Lunix light meter amongst a plethora of other kit.

    Lugging that gear to weddings was a logistical nightmare with inter changeable lenses (zooms didn’t exist and when they did – well no self respecting photographer used them – prime lenses only) and only a limited number of shots per roll. Then the “fun” of developing, processing, dodging and burning to correct photos.

    Ever wonder why old time photos looked so”stiff?” Because the photographer had to fiddle and adjust and pose the subjects to get them “just right”. No options to take multiple bracketed shots!

    Today modern cameras with their zoom lens (I still don’t really like them) offer photographer great flexibility to catch candid shots, to consider the elements of the photograph such as framing background etc and get great results even in dodgy lighting situations. We had none of this.

    My point is this, yes we got good/great photos and more so with static subjects but our “creativity” was greatly cramped by the constraints of what we had to work with.

    The auto mode on cameras has freed up photographers to get shots which might otherwise not have been possible because of missed moments, misjudgements, errors. It is a tool. No more, no less and a valuable and under-rated one at that..

    Creativity goes beyond technicality. Craftsmen and artists use all the tools at their disposal to create pleasing works. Conversely, just because a person knows how to mix colours on a paint pallet does no mean they will be a great painter.

    So lets get real here. Use the tools to create. Where appropriate probably more often than not, auto today will get you shots otherwise missed. Be creative, be an artist and use all the tools at your disposal.

    I always carry a very small pocketable camera (Fuji F70EXR) on me set on program so I can disable the flash. I can at least then grab an image if one presents. After that I will look at other aspects of creativity but many are fleeting, do not repeat and would otherwise have been lost.

    I might add I won’t use the term denigrative term “point and shoot”. It is an inaccurate representation of the genre as they all offer varying degrees of control and for that matter DSLRs are also P & S!

    All you “real photographers” should be able to get mind blowing photos with anything. Test your skills, take a basic small camera and take up the challenge. Learn how to really “see” and use it to get your image. I’ll guarantee it will make you a much better photographer.

  • Stereo Reverb

    Manual is included because it’s an all purpose standard setting that will just work if needed, much like an emergency brake. Pro’s won’t use it, but beginners will. And if you exclude a simple feature like that, you’re going to lose sales from beginners who want that camera, so it’s a very important business decision to factor in.

  • Stereo Reverb

    I totally agree with your points, but the author seems to be saying, it’s not a bad thing to use Auto. If you want simple shots and prefer not to control the output of the shot the way *you* want it to look like, sure, Auto is fine. But if you don’t make mistakes or explore, you’ll never learn and become better. I have a problem with him not encouraging people, no matter what skill level they are, to try manual. If it doesn’t work for you, definitely stay with Auto, but it becomes a crutch and limits a person’s creativity.

  • Sure – and we can each have our own opinions and thoughts which is what makes it all great. Have a great day.

  • Mark Stanley-Adams

    OK… I’ve been shooting in auto for a few days and now it’s feedback time.
    To be frank, I’m reverting to my usual exposure modes – manual and aperture priority. While shooting in auto, the majority of images didn’t quite yield the results I was aiming for, but that’s not the camera’s fault.. I’m just used to dialing in things like exposure compensation and depth of field to suit my taste, choosing my point of focus, etc. That said, I fully appreciate the article was aimed at beginners, and one thing that the auto mode ensures is that, if nothing else, you always get a usable exposure.
    However, shooting in auto forced me in a way into more of a ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ mindset which I have to admit that I found myself rather enjoying. So while it’s still not going to be a mode I’ll use much, I certainly derived some pleasure from taking a fresh approach.
    As I mentioned earlier, while most of the pictured I shot weren’t exactly keepers, here’s one that I probably wouldn’t have done very differently if I’d shot it in manual.
    The verdict? Though I’m going back to being ‘the boss’, auto certainly isn’t nearly as dirty a word that we seasoned photographers think it is.

  • Charles G. Haacker

    I have long been surprised at the amount of vitriol directed by what I call “purists” at any use of auto-anything on a modern camera. I joined a photo site some time ago and as a newbie (to the site, not to photography) innocently asked the question, why not auto? I was blasted, blasted! By members figuratively screaming at me that it is *impossible* to be “creative” in auto! I thought, What utter nonsense! Creativity has little to do with knowing how to set a camera. Of course it counts, but I tend to think the creativity is in the composition and the framing; settings are about getting the exposure right. Most folks picking up a camera for the first time, especially a DSLR, are very apt to be overwhelmed. A big scary DSLR is like a 747. Exposure triad? F/stops? Shutter speeds? Fractions? 18% gray? Luminance? EV?

    I came up almost 50 years ago when there was no automation. Everything was manual. I was trained as a commercial photographer. We were taught that we needed to be so familiar with the camera that it became an extension of hand and eye. And we did, but it was hard. Very, very hard. I started with a class of 50. Two of us graduated. When covering weddings (just for one example) we had to be constantly checking and rechecking settings as we moved from situation to situation, indoors, outdoors, sunny, open shade, cloudy… We prided ourselves on nailing the exposures every time, and we’d have killed for automation. I lost my studio (poor businessman) and got out of the racket well before automation, never mind digital. I didn’t pick up a tiny digital P&S until 2007. I still use only compacts because I did my time schlepping big cases long ago. I am deeeelighted to put the camera in aperture priority (control of depth of field) and let the ISO “float.” I get exactly what I want without fuss and feathers, never having to think about settings. I shoot raw so I keep the white balance on auto, making any necessary corrections in Lightroom. I pay attention. If you don’t you still blow pictures, and knowing what you are doing goes a long way toward getting what you think you are getting. So sure, it’s important at some point in the journey to at least get a grasp of manual, but telling everybody they HAVE to shoot manual? Bushwah.

    The thing is, I have nothing to prove. If you took away my automation I could easily morph back into fully manual everything mode (yes, even manual focus, but at my age it gets harder). I know how to work a camera, so my take is, why should I if I don’t have to? Now, before you jump me, I agree that having a clear understanding of the exposure triad is necessary for full control of action stopping, depth of field, low noise and so forth. I am deeply grateful that that knowledge has been so ingrained in me that I literally do not think about it, and mindful that a rank beginner needs to learn that stuff. But I also know that a person who cannot for the life of them get a clear, well exposed picture from a $2,000+ camera is more likely than not to put the thing on EBay and forget it. Let ’em use auto, and as Simon clearly said, learn from it. ??

  • elle

    You mean AUTO is included…

  • Stereo Reverb

    Yes, thanks for the sharp eye!

  • Paddy

    It’s the photograph that counts, how you took it doesn’t matter. I see cell phone pics that are wonderful because that’s what the photographer had at the time. Look at street shots, they are usually done in auto and in JPEG.

  • Sinead O

    Thank you. Heading out with my camera is therapeutic for me but I’ve been almost in tears being lectured to about manual mode. I hate numbers and couldn’t bear to have it turned into math. I tried to explain that my brain can’t cope with things like that and people love my photos right now…plus there’s always editing afterwards when you’re sitting at home. I am not going to let manual mode make me hate photography. This is the first and only article I’ve found on my side

  • I know what you mean about being lectured about manual mode! I know there are certainly benefits to taking control of your camera (and I’m definitely one of those who prefers to have more control instead of letting the camera make decisions for me) but there’s a reason that even a $2000 DSLR has a green Auto setting. Sometimes you just want to forget about dealing with all the settings and enjoy taking photos! Sinead, I say that if using Auto is what you like and gets you the pictures you want, then by all means go for it 🙂

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