Automatic exposure settings certainly make the photography experience easier, but for those looking to take more creative control, manual exposure is the way to go. Manual settings can be beneficial in a number of photography environments and situations where the goal is to create an image greater than the average assigned in auto.
With more and more camera brands and models offering advanced automatic settings for getting the “perfect” picture, some enthusiasts might argue that photography is losing it’s artistic vantage. Today’s cameras offer multiple settings to satisfy amateurs and veterans alike, but anyone can benefit from electing to use the manual modes. The manual setting (M) gives the photographer much more control over the finished product, while in comparison, an AV mode or semi-automatic mode uses a camera-selected aperture and shutter speed to produce a standard shot. While less likely to “mess up” the shot, letting the camera designate the aperture and shutter speed gives you a sort of stock image far that proves far less creative or personalized.
Learning to shoot with a manual exposure selection allows you to craft your own end goal for the photo. Taking control of the image yourself by using the manual mode means you can achieve one step further than the photo the camera is willing to risk, and can result in something much more artistic and individualized. A number of unique lighting and environmental situations can be aided by the use of manual exposure instead of an automatic mode.
The moon provides a neutral, white light for taking photos, but choosing to shoot in manual gives you more freedom over the final image. The reduced lighting of shooting in a manual setting after dark can work in your advantage to craft creative shadows and a more interesting impact. A photographer can use the moon in their favor to illuminate their subject.
Using flash while adjusting apertures and shutter speeds creates an entirely new amount of options for an image. Manual exposure gives you the opportunity to create a range of sharpness while utilizing different combination with the flash.
Manual settings can work wonders for shooting in high dynamic range. Playing with your settings in the manual function when shooting HDR makes these images pop even further with more three-dimensional definition and vivid detailing. Every line comes to life, every texture pulled from flat and one-dimensional to it’s true shape.
Panoramas combine multiple images into one larger picture, so to maintain the exposure through each, manual settings provide the most consistency across every snap. Manually locking in the white balance, aperture, shutter speed and focus is vital to properly stitching together the shots. If you let the camera automatically select these for each angle, they could end up varied and fail to produce a seamless result.
For artistic images where the photographer prefers a purposeful overexposed or underexposed image, manual settings are the only way to achieve it. Automatic settings aim to eliminate these “mistakes” in each and every changing setting, but manual mode puts the power to alter an image in either direction in the photographer’s own hands.