#781 Exposure Modes – Manual vs Priority vs Auto

Last week I asked on Facebook:

“When shooting do you shoot in auto, aperture or manual exposure mode?”

And the answers flowed! Everything from:

• “Manual all the way…”

• “Aperture for quick shooting. Manual for detailed stuff.”

“Only manual.”

“Aperture, usually open full.”

Even mid tones!

Even mid tones - fine for aperture priority

Manual Mode

Manual mode means the photographer has to determine all the settings that affect exposure – iso, shutter speed and aperture. Manual mode gives full control and creates better photos more often – especially in tricky lighting. But it takes time and practice to learn.

Aperture Mode

Aperture mode means the photographer has to choose iso and aperture. The camera chooses shutter speed. Aperture offers the ease of letting the camera do the work. In subjects that offer mid tones throughout the scene aperture priority will work well. In tricky lighting aperture priority can give poor exposures.


Your camera compares everything to mid tone grey. It also tries to make all photos mid tone grey on average – EVEN if the scene is a white wedding dress or white snow.

Who has seen photos of grey snow? That’s the result of the camera misreading the scene.

“Manual is too hard!”

Manual mode is harder to learn. Yep. Once learned it will help you produce better photos. Guaranteed.

Of all the facebook comments, working photographers were choosing manual mode more often. There’s a reason for that!

Tricky lighting - silhouetted and backlit Harry

Tricky lighting - silhouetted and backlit Harry

More Info

Want more info? Read this Exposed! Newsletter. Or this one.

Want some help? Consider our Creative Fundamentals Course. This weekend’s session is full – next group session is in the fall. Custom course is available anytime.

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