Kevin Landwer-Johan with DSLR Camera - Why I Believe Using Manual Mode Is The Best Option

Why I Believe Using Manual Mode Is The Best Option

by
Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

This is the first article in a series on learning how to use manual mode on your camera.

When you have no option, it’s easy to learn manual mode on your camera. The problem is, all modern cameras present photographers with way too many choices.

I’ve read that using the auto modes will teach you how to use your camera. I don’t believe that.

Gain a good understanding of how the basic functions of your camera work. Learn how to control them. Get to know your camera so well you don’t have to concentrate on it so much. These things will help you learn photography.

DSLR Photographer Why I Believe Using Manual Mode Is The Best Option
Camera: Nikon D7100, Lens: 105mm, Settings: f8, 1/250 sec, ISO 400

With your camera set to any of the auto exposure modes, its artificial intelligence chooses the settings. This typically results in very generic results. Your photos end up looking like everyone else’s who’s stuck on auto.

Many people have the notion learning manual mode is too complicated. It’s not. Some study and commitment is necessary to learn the process, but once you have, it’s like riding a bicycle. You will not forget how to do it.

I believe controlling your exposure manually is the first step towards becoming a more creative photographer. When you have practiced this method enough it is fast and effective.

The Simplicity of Manual Exposure

Essential functionality of cameras has never changed since they were first invented. They’ve only become more complicated.

Why I Believe Using Manual Mode Is The Best Option Nikkormat FTN
My first camera – Nikkormat FTN

I started with an old, second hand Nikon when I was a teenager. This camera has not auto-anything. I had to learn manual mode because there was no other option. The only help the camera gave me was via its rudimentary exposure meter.

As a teenager my great grandfather, Frederick Cooper, took his camera with him to photograph Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. This was in 1889 and we believe he was the first person to photograph this mountain.

He carried with him a large wooden camera, a heavy tripod and around 50 eight by ten inch glass plates that were his film stock. He had no exposure meter. Choice of aperture and shutter speed was all by calculated guess and intuition.

Why I Believe Using Manual Mode Is The Best Option Fred Cooper
Frederick Cooper

His camera, my old camera and your camera are fundamentally the same. An exposure is made when we open the shutter and light enters the lens to leave an impression on a light sensitive surface. This is either a digital sensor, film, or in Fred Cooper’s early experience, glass plates coated with a chemical emulsion.

For a good exposure the right amount of light must be allowed to enter the camera. Too much light will result in an overexposed photo. Too little light will result in an underexposed photo.

How much light is up to you to decide, not the camera. On any auto mode the camera controls the amount of light. In manual mode, you are in control. The right amount of light is a creative choice. Your camera is not creative, you are.

Grasping the Basics of Manual Mode

Why I Believe Using Manual Mode Is The Best Option Silhouettes in a Passageway
Camera: Nikon D700, Lens: 20mm, Settings: f2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO 2000

Learning to read light and set your camera intuitively, with no assistance from an exposure meter, is beyond most people. All modern cameras have a built in exposure meter, so you don’t have to worry. This, along with other help your camera provides, makes manual photography easier than ever.

Most cameras now also let you make use of the monitor to guide your exposure choices. This means you see in real time the effect your settings are making. Using this method can teach you expose your photos well far more than the auto settings will.

Learning How To Control Your Camera’s Exposure Settings

The internet gives us access to learn anything and everything. Educating yourself how to use your camera is not only accessible, but cheap and easy.

You can learn a lot from Youtube videos.

You will need to commit to gaining the knowledge and put it into practice. Doing so will make you a competatant, confident photographer.

My initial learning experience was mostly through books and magazines. I had a couple of friends mentor me in my early days, but after that, it came down to experience. A lot of it. The more you use your camera, the better photographer you can become.

Now I teach. In person, and online. My most popular online course, Master Your Camera, Master Your Creativity, teaches you what’s essential. This course provides foundational teaching on how to use your camera in manual mode. It also has other lessons pushing further into how to develop your creative expression.

Take a look at this video to find out more about Master Your Camera, Master Your Creativity.

Read the next article in this series.

Kevin Landwer-Johan photographer
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Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post you will also enjoy 5 Tips That Will Improve Your Photography in 2019 and Five Key Things All The Best Photos Have In Common.

Equipment I used to make these photos.

Nikon full frame camera body. I use an older model D800. This link will take you to view the Nikon D850 which is the upgrade model.

Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G 

Nikon Nikkor 20mm f/2.8

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