When do I use the “M” or Manual setting?

When do I use the “M” or Manual setting?

As I grew up with automation (my first camera was a canon T70 equipped with all the amount of automation you will ever need), and seeing firsthand the evolution of technology, I often tell my students that in this day and age, when technology is for the most part “smarter than beginners”, that when in doubt, use “P” for program.

Using manual does not make you more professional than you already are (although to a lot of hobbyists it does). Manual simply means you have the time (and hopefully the brains) to figure everything out for yourself, and make creative decisions based on your knowledge.

So, here is when I personally use M.

1) studio/outdoor settings when I have to use professional strobe lights.
a) because they usually work on a certain specific setting.
b) shutter sync speeds of cameras have to be considered, as well as the aperture
required by the powerful strobe.
2) in ambient light situations where I am required to use a specific shutter speed or
aperture.
3) in continuously lit situations, where I have a specific preference for again either
shutter speed or aperture.
4) when the safety shift just becomes too bothersome. (it resets within a few seconds)

what if you need to control the brightness of a scene? doesn’t it make sense to use manual?
1) the camera provides a brightness compensation function via the +- compensation buttons. and once advised about your brightness preference, the camera remembers until you change it.

what if I am using an external flash unit mounted on the hot shoe?
1) all the more reason to use Program. all adjustments to control the flash unit will have to be via the camera on Program setting. Once you fidget with it manually, it becomes a hit and miss method.
2) control the flash via the camera settings, not via the flash power settings. in theory, the camera settings overrides the flash settings; not the other way around.

Doesn’t using Program on such a beautiful scene take away the value of a photograph?
1) oh really? Shouldn’t the value of an image rest principally on the beauty of the image?

If the camera can do what you want it to do on Program, then why bother to still use Manual?

Jesus Paul C. Yan
the Paul Yan Chronicles, 2013

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