Do You Shoot in Manual Mode? for photographers

The short answer? Yes, I do shoot in manual mode, and here are three reasons why you should too.


But first, let me hit pause and explain what manual mode is:

  • On any given DSLR camera, there are multiple “modes” that you can enter your camera into.  For some of the consumer-grade bodies, there are modes like the “sports” mode that your mom used to use when she photographed you as a kid, or the “night” mode you tried to capture the stars at.  In the higher-end consumer models and beginning professional grade cameras, there are just a few modes: aperture priority, shutter-speed priority, automatic, and manual mode.
  • Essentially, the difference between these modes are:
    • Aperture priority means that all of your other settings are being regulated by the camera based off of what you set your aperture to.
    • Shutter-speed mode means that your camera is regulating all of the other settings based off of what you set your shutter speed at.
    • Manual Mode means that you are in complete control of all of those settings!


Phew, are you still with me? Good, let’s keep going! I’ll try to quit getting so tech-y on you ;)


So the biggest reason that I shoot in manual mode is because it gives me complete control over all of my settings! To me, if I’m going to be a professional, that’s just a part of the job description – but control ultimately allows you to do these other things too:

Create an Artistic Touch


If you ever took an art class in school, chances are that your teacher said something along the lines of: “You have to know the basic rules and techniques before you can go making up your own!”  Well I believe that the same is true of photography.  Knowing the basics of how your camera works, enables you to push your limits as an artist.  It means that you understand the effect that shooting at a low aperture and a higher ISO can have on an image.  It also means that you know what would happen on the opposite end of that spectrum – all of which is how you start to create and develop your own signature imagery.

Inn at Willow Grove Wedding by Fine Art Virginia and DC Wedding Photographer Lauren R Swann

Handle Tricky Lighting Situations


If your hope is to be a wedding photographer specifically, you have to know how to handle tricky lighting situations.  Dark old churches and ballrooms without windows are a normal part of the rotation when it comes to weddings, and knowing how to shoot in manual mode will help you handle those tungsten lights, and lack of window lighting like a champ!


Like this beautiful church wedding that had limitations on flash-usage, a pretty dark ceiling, and very little natural light coming in!  I could only capture this because it was in manual mode!


Create Consistency


Have you ever shot in automatic mode and then quickly realized when you flipped through your final product that there were two images back to back that looked completely different from one another?  That’s happens when there’s even just a small change of focus or exposure and can make your post-processing (editing and culling) incredibly difficult!

Instead using manual mode ensures that two images photographed at almost the same space, with only a small change in vantage point for the photographer, have the same exposure, coloring, depth, and shutter speed! Check, check, and check!

A springtime Anniversary Celebration in Downtown Annapolis, Maryland, by Fine Art Wedding Photographer Lauren R Swann

Now please know, that I am in full recognition that actually learning how to shoot in manual mode is definitely tricky and takes time and practice to master!  However, I promise that it is totally worth it and is the key to having unique and beautiful imagery!


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May 26, 2017

comments +

  1. Great suggestions and information, Lauren!

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Wife, mama, wielder of light & joy, and capturer of moments.  I thrive off of conversation and genuine connection.  In between wrangling our kiddos, and hanging my husband, you'll find me dreaming up my next idea or creative endeavour.  It's these things that culminate to give my imagery a warmth and joy to them - the greatest compliment I could receive.







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