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August 10, 2010


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Jim, what if we drop that "M" myth, does this mean we should adopt the "A" or "S" myth??? I oftenly use M, especially when A fails me and that's because when I want to combine opposing elements the A myth sticks to its scenario giving me no choice but to follow the "M" myth.

Peter K Burian

Well, Jim, I agree with you. I use Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority mode (with exposure compensation as required) for 90% of my images. Peter peterkburian.com


Whoooo Hooooo Jim! I shoot in AV o& TV all the time. Manuel? Think it's in my camera bag. LOL


What about the "Sunny day f16" myth? Lets break all the rules and see what we get!

Mick Burkey

Great little piece, Jim. And very good for other photographers to hear. I, too, use aperture priority most of the time because I start off knowing what kind of focus I want or how much light I need. Of course, there are times I'll need to adjust manually, but I start off with "A".


I keep my camera in Aperture Priority and change my ISO for the shutter speed range/light levels I am in. I use exposure compensation from there. Of course people have to learn manual to absorb the shutterspeed/aperture relationships, so when practicing do that. When you are out photographing, do what works for you!

carla saunders


Anne McKinnell

I only use M if my exposure compensation isn't giving me what I want. Setting my camera to f/8 125s makes me feel nostalgic and reminds me of my old canon AE1 :) But that is a rare occurrence, I always use shutter or aperture priority.

Glenn Sackett

Manual is good for learning what explicit control one can have. Beyond that I only use it when the settings I need are beyond the parameters of one of the other modes.

Being primarily a landscape photographer, I typically use Aperture priority mode, and often the much berated "P" mode, with my camera controls set so my thumbwheel can quickly adjust the aperture/speed relationship to what I want.

Before turning my camera off, whatever mode and settings I've been using, I always reset to "P" mode, ISO 200, Auto White Balance. I never know when a "Fleeting Moment" opportunity will occur, where I need may camera ready as fast as I can turn it on. After I catch the moment, if it lasts, I can then use the thumbwheel or switch modes to fine tune the shot. I can't count how many times that has given me a good shot I would have missed in the manual mode or in whatever setting I was using last.

Ken McFarlan

While almost no photographer I know shoots exclusively, or even often, in manual mode, I think you missed the point when it comes to photography students. Asking learning photo students to use manual mode forces them to think about the processes behind what they are doing and how certain effects are achieved. They must consider effects of lighting, dof, blur, motion, stop action etc instead of letting the camera do it for them. It comes down to learning the rules of photography before experimenting to break them effectively.

Matthew L Kees

I've been teaching photography for over twenty years, and I of course have my students learn in Manual (for both exposure and focus).

If later they want to switch to an Auto setting, that's fine by me. By then they know the camera's and lens's limits and WHY you might want to choose an Auto mode.

I also think it important to include how the meter works at different settings - Center Weighted, Partial or Spot and Evaluative or Matrix. Those all affect what the meter reading will be, and when and by how much to adjust from a zero setting.

Many of my film cameras, from 16mm miniatures to 8x10 inches are manual only. There is no Av, Tv or P to fall back on. And I hope anyone who graduates from my course could use any camera, old or new and be able to figure out the right settings.

I disagree you can (or should) learn in Auto (ex. Av). More than likely a new shooter will not even consider the ISO setting, take a shot indoors with an aperture of f/8 or so, and then wonder why the shutter took so long to open and close. They'll immediately go back to "portrait" mode and let the camera decide the settings (and watch the flash pop-up).

In short, to be good, you should know what the settings do, not just which ones work at certain times. Also what different focal lengths are used for, and a whole lot more about what makes a still image "sing".

Not that you can't take a good picture on the P setting, but knowing what the different settings do is a big part of being "creative" with your camera, and is what separates the amateurs from the pros.

Someone I knew online once said the D700 is a really good P&S camera. And for him it was, as he didn't know diddly about real photography (but he had expensive gear and pretended to).

Don't just fake it till you make it. Photography is a skill handed down from one generation to the next, and it includes way more than which aperture or shutter speed to use, or which Auto mode works best.

Matthew L Kees
Director of MLKstudios.com

Robyn Gwilt

Understand 'M' fully, then you can use AV or TV with confidence, because you then know what you're going for.... I use TV and AV most of the time, but when I need M, I know how to 'find' it! :)


I have to side with Jim here. I'm not a professional photographer, but I have "pro" equipment and consider myself a serious amateur. I am also primarily self-taught, having taken only one online class (at BP.com of course!), as well as attended a couple of BP photo summits. What has bothered me the most about being self-taught is all the fuss about learning to shoot in Manual. I always hear that you need to know "M" in order to understand how a camera "sees" different situations, and I don't argue with that. I could take two years of photography lessons at a community college and learn all the technical aspects I want. But aren't we missing the point of photography?

The point of photography is to capture a very specific moment in place and time that evokes an emotion, whether it be from you or your audience. It's called the "autonomy of art", and when you release a photo to the world it no longer belongs to you, it belongs to everyone who views it. At that point, who cares whether you took the photo in "M", "Av", or even "Auto"? If it evokes a response, you have succeeded as a photographer. To this day I can take a photo with my iPhone and my mother will gasp at it's beauty - assuming I've composed properly and the subject is interesting. Isn't that all that really matters?

Usman Bajwa

Well said, Jim. I am in total agreement. I also use Av mostly and only use M for special lighting situations.

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