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February 02, 2012


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I agree, Jim. Even with a lot of my nightlife photography photos, I get great results using Av mode. If I used manual mode, I would miss a lot of great shots.

Nancy de Flon

Hi Jim,
Well done; I can relate to this. Personally, I tend to prefer Aperture Priority and then switch to Manual to correct the exposure if the camera got it wrong. And I do always shoot in RAW as well as jpg to give myself the widest possible latitude in post-processing correction of these basic points.


Just a thought...
While learning Photography, I don't think it's a bad thing to use the "P" mode if you are in a tricky situation. It's better than missing out on something spectacular. I also found it helpful to see what the camera thinks is correct and then learn from that what I thought was a better exposure.

Ken Ferguson

Thank you Jim for putting my mind at rest. I thought I had gotten myself into a bit of a rut with my photo taking process, but after reading the above I think I must be doing okay. I too shoot 99.9% of the time in "AV" mode. I find it really keeps me out of trouble and there is limited time spent in photo editing.
I use a Pentax K5 for most of my work with various lenses mainly for shooting Nature.
I have also been administering and enjoying BP Club, "Friends For Finer Photography" since 2007.
I also run www.tincanbayphotographytours.com


THANK YOU! You made my day!

Lori Keller

Thanks! Your insight and experience remind those of us who have invested in photography and been unhappy with the results to relax a little and have fun.

Brian Anderson


That was soo needed. Too many people agonizing over manual exposure and not concentrating on expressing themselves through photography. I have yet to see anyone improve on metering for typical pictures by using manual exposure.

Dennis Bukantis

Yeah Jim, I'm learning that too...I went out the other night and shot a rock band..great stage lighting, no flash required...relaxed and got into the moment and captured some decent images. I swore that I would never move away from film, but here I am today 100% digital!

Faith Naber

Thanks Jim for your down to earth HELP :) The technical aspects of photography truthfully do scare me!I'm just an amateur photographer, who loves to be behind the camera!!! Again, thank you for this info... it is much appreciated. I will do my best now to apply it.
Have a great day!
Sincerely, Faith Naber

Steve Schaefer

You hit the nail on the head. AV is how I go. I spend more time taking good photographs and less time trying to figure out how to take a photograph.

A Facebook User

Thank you for relieving me of the guilt in using AP (Nikon shooter) with exposure comp 99.99% of the time. These new wonderful cameras are better than I am in determining exposure. And now, instead of apologizing to an excellent photographer who thinks everyone should only shoot in manual, I'm going to say " other excellent photographers trust their cameras and spend their time working the subject, rather than exposure, which incidentally can change in a heartbeat, and then you are not prepared".

Thanks again, Jim!!

Ken Wilson

When I first saw the title, I thought about the death of the operating Manual that accompanies all new cameras. Lots of folks do not read the Manual and assume the new one in their hand is just like the old one!
I learned photography by using the Manual setting; what autofocus was available was beyound my budget.
Today the top manuafacturers seem to be listening to the consumer. Cameras are easier to operate and easier to understand. I find myself going back to the manual to identify what function would provide better results. I use Av mostly, Tv ocasionally.
I'm with you; its time to acknowledge the presence of better, easier and more sophisticated camera systems!

Joe Ullrich

I use M mode mostly with studio lighting (no TTL) and for some indoor sport situations when the lighting is really shifty. The Av and S mode is utilized the other 60% of the time, depending on the situation. The gimmick mode for which I have none on my Nikon gear are basically useless as you stated, and P is a good all around mode to capture most situations in as well. Good article, enjoyed the read!

Brenda B

Yay - verification that shooting in AV mode is ok! I love AV mode and use it the most. I'm still learning about M and figured out that it's best for me when using strobes. I love hearing your words of encouragement and sharing these basics.

And, "the old lions" mentally applies to all sorts of things not just photography :-)

Thanks Jim!




I could not agree more. I also use Aperture Priority over 90% of the time and the rest is Manual for when I am using an old non-auto anything Nikkor lens for macros. Or night shots, where I need to experiment with exposures and consult the histograms.

I began with the old 70's Nikon FTN which did have on on-camera light meter. That was considered scandalous by diehards then too.

Magdalene Teo

Thanks Jim for your reminder of the mantra that was given by my very first photography teacher who said "Photography is fun so make sure you have fun!"


Thank you, was lamenting my inability to take great pictures in the M mode. I do much better in the AV mode


A few years ago when you wrote about "killing the Manual exposure mode" I took it to heart and after two years I can say , I am very happy to be free of the "M" mode need. Though I must say there are times I have moments of insecurity and revert back to my old ways. But when I compare the "M" mode to the AV mode 9 times out of 10 I am happier with the results from the AV mode. Thank for the website, I share it with everyone I see with an interest in photography.

Thanks again.
Pamela Koch

Bunny Snow

I've been shooting in manual mode since 1960 when I bought my first twin lens reflex for photography classes in college. It's second nature for me.

But with my Canon 20D and 50D, sometimes it's manual, but often it's Av, if I'm on a tripod.

I'm afraid I'll miss shots in I use Tv and find myself too slow when capturing expressions on birds, so I prefer to be where I know what I'm doing.

However, I've also had blurry images from movement that would have been better taken using shutter priority. Next time that I'm that situation, I'll experiment with shutter priority.

But, to me, manual is just an extension of my brain because it is so natural after all these years.

Mike Sanservino


It's been several years since I met you (I used to live in North Bend, now near Ocala, FL) and generally I totally agree with your philosophy on photography (and life, lol). I have to "slightly" disagree here. I've been shooting for 39 years and these days, my standard setting is the P mode for 70% of my shots, and then Av and Tv for the rest. M gets used MAYBE 1% of the time. Here's why: My style of photography is usually more action based and carrying a camera almost everywhere I go, the P mode allows me to get the camera up and on target (with options to over-ride at my fingertip if need be) instantly. This allows me to at least get a decent shot if I need to snap up and shoot. If I am in a situation where I am concerned primarily with depth of field, then I will go to the Av mode. If I am concerned primarily with stopping action or illustrating motion, then I will go to the Tv mode. All of my shots are with the lowest ISO that I can get away with in those circumstances, and with a white balance set for the environment in which I'm shooting. Exposure compensation is likewise set according to the environment of my shot. If I am designing a shot, and have plenty of time to consider all aspects of the shot, then P takes a backseat to other modes.

P mode has served my style of shooting well and permits me to get shots "in the can" faster than having to switch through options to begin with and THEN shoot.

I don't care what so called "purists" think, I've got over 3/4 of a million shots under my belt and would rather have the shot then lament over missing it because I needed an extra 2 seconds to adjust.... I'm currently writing a book on creating self portraits. Love to hear from you.





I use aperture mode all the time and I agree 100 % with only one reservation.

When I got my first DSLR I also got the advice to shoot in manual mode just a while - just a month or so - and I did.

And this was so very fine to get the understanding what happens when you dial the shutter OR the aperture and see the result in the viewfinder (minus or plus), and after understanding that I went to aperture mode and have been there for 7 years

Barbara Dixon

Thanks so much, it is great to get clarification on shooting in AV mode. That is where I find myself shooting majority of the time. I just get better results.

Amy Oakes

Very very true. I live in Av mode on my Nikon and Raw has become my friend over the years. I still struggle with exposure to some extent because I'm shooting low light action (plays, dance, and choirs using choreography) where even with my ISO bumped up (and Neat Image has become one of my best tools for dealing with that) and low DOF, I still end up with under exposed in RAW where even pulling exposure up becomes so grainy I can't stand the images. I'm wondering if I have my metering set wrong for these conditions? I'm using spot metering.
Thanks for taking the time to do this. I always enjoy my BP tips and classes.

rajha tahir

very true :)


Thank you for that very useful information. I shoot in M only as I feel confused when trying other modes (and never use automatic modes). I will definitely try AV with a new perspective now.
Thanks Jim!


I shoot almost exclusively in Av auto and only need to worry about my depth of field unless its long exposure in low light and I shift to Shutter priority. I also shoot everything in Raw mode in order to give myself the extra room to adjust how I want it. I did a morning shoot on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in manual earlier this year, thought it would be fun to force myself to go back to manual for the day, and I got some nice exposures, but I am thankful I was using digital as it took me much longer to find the look I wanted. I use manual focus more and more, but appreciate all the changes that have been given us these past couple decades.

John Horton

Jim, I agree.

I'm a published photographer. As you said get to know Manual, but don't expect it to do all you want any more than "Auto" does everything.

We have to keep in mind that the manufacturer's "setting" are designed for "optimum" situations & results (spandex engineering--one size fits all?). However, we rarely encounter the "optimum" situations; hence, get to know your camera. Use it as a tool in your hand, not an appendage.After all with digital, you can experiment over and over at minimal cost.

They claim the difference between a pro and an amateur is the size of their waste basket. Well, now we can delete more, so it's cheaper.

Therefore, shoot a lot and save the best; but get to know your camera (see things the way it sees things).


Rick Stanford

Jim -- I agree almost completely...we just have to remember that the little brain in the camera wants to make things neutral gray. Most of the time that's not an issue, but try to get snow in bright sunlight correct without changing the exposure picked by the camera! Other similar situations will also require using a 14% grey card or similar device. Thanks for the article.

Allen B

I did enjoy your article. I started “photography” in the digital age but I took pictures in the film age with point and shoot cameras. My first SLR (actually a DSLR) was only a few years ago. If I had to only use Manual mode I would not be where I am now. Using Aperture mode I can let the camera do some of the work and let me worry about composition and developing my own style. Not worrying about the technical details of the camera.
I would go one step further than the article. There are times where the preprogramed settings are worth using. For example fireworks setting, how often do you actually take pictures of fireworks? Can you remember the camera settings for a once a year opportunity? Use the preprogramed settings and concentrate on composition of the shot to make it a fantastic eye pleasing photo.

Kathi Y.

I use P mode a lot! Gonna try RAW and Av tomorrow. Thanks for the info.


Jim, I like photographing in AV mode,it helps me concentrating the other very important things like composition etc. Thank you for being so brave to write this article even being in Photography teaching


I used to shoot aperture priority, until I got a Nikon D7000, with automatic iso. Now, I can shoot in manual mode and let the camera set the correct iso. I shoot mostly theatre productions, and need to keep the shutter speed high and aperture low to catch the action. With actors moving in and out of stage lights, the light level is constantly changing, and the auto iso always gives me the correct iso for my A/S specs.


Its like getting a car with an automatic shift transmission and the ability to use it like a manual shift transmission. You can get a lot more out of your car by using manual in certain situations, but most of the time automatic will suffice. Such is M vs. A & S. They each have their place.


Thanks Jim! I am a photo enthusiast. An "old Lion" caught me shooting in Av and berated me when he discovered that Av and Tv are the settings I use most often.He left me feeling guilty that I seldom use Manual. After reading your article, I can discard the guilt complex and return to trying to capture and enjoy the world around me as creative as I can.

Debbie Crowe

I almost feel like I have been relieved of a burden reading this. We keep pushing and pressing ourselves to improve our photography by not relying on "automatic" settings. Thank you so much - it sure lightens the load of guilt and pressure knowing is OK to not push the manual mania button every time I turn the camera on.

John D. Roach

I think it is as simple as practice, practice, practice....using all the features of the camera and develop an understanding and comfort level with manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and program for all the right circumstances. Today's DSLR cameras offer far more options that need to be learned then then my first SLR of over 30 years ago, the Nikon FM2, which was totally manual. Knowing your camera and its power allows one to select the mode suitable for the situation.

Michael Cooper

totally agree, but need to set the record straight... (looking at my Nikon) it's "A" mode :) Not sure where that extra v came from...

Jim Miotke

Yes, on some cameras, it's referred to as "A" but on others the "A" stands for "Automatic". On Canon cameras, it's often "Av" which stands for "Aperture value". Whatever the particular designation, I usually want the mode where I pick the aperture... not the green rectangle automatic (Canon) or the shiftable "P" program or the A for automatic.

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