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is manual mode photographic snobbery?

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by pete1w, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    There's no particular magic in a particular exposure mode although in the late'70s/early '80s you could be forgiven for thinking so with some of the blether coming from camera makers. Lots of people did pretty well with auto only Olympuses, Nikons & Pentaxes.

    In the same way this is somewhat slightly inverted snobbery:

    'Don't use the "sports" program, or any other of the picture modes; they are for snapshots, not serious photography. I still cannot understand why manufacturers continue to put these programs on DSLRs.'

    Sorry Roy, to be so harsh, but ultimately it's the picture that counts. We get the photo despite and in spite of the camera sometimes - it's just that with modern kit the camera can help us along much more than not. Then again, it has that many more ways to trip us up (speaking personally ;)) than it used to. I currently have in my possession a little camera that I haven't really fathomed out, yet, that I think only has auto modes, the bulk of which are 'GreenPea' or Idiot Modes - strictly, Pictogram modes. In limited use so far I have found (as I did on my Pannie LX2) they can make a better fist of a certain picture at times than the straight auto or manual mode with the photographer pretending to be in charge. I hope to write a bit on this camera and others, here or on a Blog, sometime soon if I have a good summer.

    Is it not significant that the GreenPea modes tend to be on entry level DSLRs and evaporate from specs 'moving up the tree'? I guess in the maker's mind this is helping the new owner to make the change from compact or Bridge camera to DSLR. Makes 'em feel at home right away ... :)

  2. Roy5051

    Roy5051 Well-Known Member

    I agree with most of what you say, but I was trying to help the OP, who seemed to have problems taking aerial shots using the auto modes, getting awful results. It then transpired that the OP was using the "sports" mode, which does not allow any exposure adjustment, so, unless the scene he was taking was "average" (i.e. 18% grey), his exposure would be "wrong" and he was not allowing himself to make any necessary exposure adjustments.

    I use P(rogram) mode almost exclusively for my photography these days, together with Program Shift and Exposure Compensation when necessary, and am satisfied with my results. However, I learned photography with manual cameras, and like to think that I can adjust the camera settings to suit myself when necessary. Using Green Pea and other fixed auto modes does not allow ANY adjustments to the camera settings, but provided that the scene is "average", good results can be obtained. With aerial photography, as I understand it, it is often necessary to make manual adjustments to the camera's recommended settings, to account for bright skies, for example, and these adjustments can not be made in auto modes.

    Which probably brings us back to the original question - is manual mode photographic snobbery? Well, no, if photographers prefer to shoot in manual mode, making the necessary adjustments that way, it is just an alternative method. Some photographers like to do things that way, whilst others like to do things a different way, depending on what suits them. Personally, I haven't used Manual mode since I got a semi-automatic camera, as I think I said in one of my previous replies.:)
  3. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    I don't have time to read the whole thread so sorry if this has been explained.

    Please will one of the folk 'wedded' to manual explain exactly how they go about taking a picture.

    How do you meter?
    Maybe you guess the first exposure and don't meter.

    Having metered how do you set the camera? Match needle?

    Then assuming that you don't like the meter reading how do you then decide to vary from the metered reading and how do you know how much you have deviated?

    In my case I carry the camera set to aperture priority, I lift it to my eye, press the button and I have the picture. Then, having got that first frame I think about exposure compensation and/or whether a different aperture would give me a 'better' result. If the answer is yes (in either case) I turn a wheel (camera still to my eye) and bingo - another picture. Quicker than it's taken me to type this.

    There's no way that I can imagine manual being as convenient - but I await the replies with interest.

  4. paul james

    paul james Well-Known Member

    I usually take an estimated guess , then if needs be meter off a neutral surface such as tarmac concrete or grass with the cameras meter depending of course unless it benefits from spot metering like a swan on dark reflective water for instance

    but for general shots you are metering all the time depending on shutter speed or aperture movements I often add up to a stop with shutter speed but if aperture isn't a factor i'll use that

    depending on what I'm after i'll use a few combos to give different effects as I go along as you never know a different combo to what you tried before may be more pleasing as I often find just because it looked and worked el once doesn't mean it will the next time

    it isn't that I disagree with programme modes they're great for snaps if you don't want to think too much about what you want to achieve

    by relying on hem too much you can fall into the trap of being too reliant on them and not trying different approaches
  5. mikeh201355

    mikeh201355 Well-Known Member

    Sorry, but that comment is as asinine as saying 'auto modes are better because some idiot will put it on f8 and 1/125 and leave it there'.

    Fully automatic is perfectly fine - they are getting so good nowadays that some professionals use it some of the time. But the important thing is to understand when the camera's judgement fails and when you need some manual input.

    I have still not heard a definitive, irrefutable explanation from anyone why Av+manual compensation is operationally inferior to fully manual. All I have heard is 'that is how I learned'.
  6. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    When you've invested a lot of time and ego in something, the last thing you want is a machine coming along that does it "faster and better" than you.
  7. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    I know a lady (in fact I know her very well indeed :D) who eschews pretty well all labour saving devices. The kitchen floor isn't clean unless she's been on her hands and knees and scrubbed it herself, the dishes aren't clean unless she's done them by hand ...... and so on.

    I can't help feeling that this insistence on 'manual' is similar.

    Like you I haven't seen a single logical argument that makes me even pause to think that it might be better. (Please no-one reiterate the special situations when manual is the only proper way). It seem crazy to me to spend hundreds, maybe even thousands, on a sophisticated , highly developed machine and then ignore all the most important features.

    Be under no illusion. I'm NOT claiming that the camera gets it right all the time. Nor am I claiming that particular results (sometimes) can be achieved by ignoring the camera's recommendation. It seems ludicrous to me that anyone should use a guessed exposure as a start and then make 'adjustments' from that. Any effective exposure done that way is a fluke and is probably not repeatable. That's no way to learn our trade!.

  8. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Hi Roy,

    Agreed. However your post made me go for the 'the tiddler' which I had brought in from the car earlier. Guess what? I switched on and found it was left in Sports mode since Saturday when I used it to take a flower photo. Why Sports mode for a flower photo? Well, it was windy and Sports mode gave a higher shutter speed than Macro or full Idiot auto. This particular camera does have override that can be applied in the GreenPea modes and it is one of the cheapest compacts available. [I had been just trying to play with it some more while at a coffee morning. The camera actually sabotaged my attempt to have a good play on Saturday instead of scoffing cake :eek: as it is especially battery sensitive and told me the batteries were flat. Didn't have spares with me. :(] This one camera may be an exception in allowing override, of course, although it does have a Fuji twin.

    I tend to use A mode mostly, with M & P for special occasions. :D That may be due to being used to OM2ns from 1982/3 onward although I also used the fully manual OM1 as part of a trio as well as having had, ahem, 'affairs' with s/h XE1s (similar) & AE1s (different - shutter priority) because colleagues were disposing of them and were only offered sixpence by local dealers.

    Not long ago, I discovered by accident that my LX2 appeared to give better flash results switched off my usual A mode with override into Program, oops.. sorry ... creeping Americanisation .... Programme mode and it seemed to respond better to any override that I input.

    Whatever suits? Yes, absolutely. Lord Snowdon said (in an AP interview decades ago) that he felt the camera always 'got in the way'. That's the trick: finding a way of working that, for you, gets the camera out of the way so you can concentrate on getting the results you want.

  9. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    That sounds just like bracketing exposure to me.

    At the end if the day if you are taking the camera meter reading as guidance it makes not a jot of difference whether you choose to punch in S & A or fix A or S (according to choice) and apply exposure lock or compensate.

    in consistent light and photographing subjects of different brightness it makes sense to fix S&A instead of messing about compensating each shot. Ditto shooting (small) objects against a variably lit background such as the airplane example.
  10. AlexMonro

    AlexMonro Old Grand Part Deux

    My personal reason for moving from mainly using aperture priority to making more use of manual is that in my usual technique of chimping to try to make optimum exposure to the right, I found that when applying exposure compensation and re-shooting, the light had changed slightly, or I framed slightly differently, and this threw the AE system to produce a different exposure to that which I expected, and I ended up fighting the automation. So I use manual because it doesn't change unless I tell it to. Also, in some conditions, the 2 stops exposure compensation available didn't go far enough.

    I do usually leave the camera set to Aperture priority f/8 auto ISO, so that when the flying saucer lands in front of me and Elvis and Lord Lucan ride out on Shergar, I've got a chance of a usable grab shot! :)

    However, I've recently upgraded from a Pentax K20D to K3, which does seem to have rather more relaible AE metering, so I might have to relearn to put more trust in the automation.
  11. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    By coincidence (or something) there is a moderately interesting article in the August issue of [name of magazine removed on the grounds I don't want Nigel coming after me with a baseball bat*] entitled 'The importance of going manual'. It mentions a supposed "rising tide of desire for DIY and manual capture".

    Just thought I'd mention it. ;)

    * a magazine only available in my local Smiths as part of a 'two for the price of one in a plastic bag' offer.
  12. paul james

    paul james Well-Known Member

    lets put it this way !! once whilst working in my friends studio using olly gear I saw an old zenith E

    for inquisitiveness I loaded a mono film went out shooting and returned to develop and print it

    I promptly discovered that I'd produced some of my best shots for a while

    partly because I'd stated thinking about why both aperture and shutter were used together

    but also because I'd built knowledge up from relying n one program or another

    and I also realised the most basic manual camera can outperform the most expensive all singing and dancing camera [​IMG] [​IMG]
  13. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    It's snobbery to tell people that they need to use manual mode to take good pictures.

    It's not snobbery to suggest that they might get what they want more easily if they force the camera to use certain settings, provided that the speaker actually knows what he's talking about!

    And for my next trick, I shall reveal the meaning of life, the universe and chocolate...

  14. paul james

    paul james Well-Known Member

    far from snobbery it's called being interested enough in a subject to try and learn it inside out

    I believe the 911 terrorists learned everything about flying but didn't bother learning to land fine if you intend hitting buildings but then there's the rest of us !!
  15. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    I didn't mention anything about using manual, only about telling others that they ought to.

    What you do in private with your camera is no concern of mine!

  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    In fact it's probably a flat lie as well, at least at first. On the other hand, once you're fart-arsing around with exposure compensation on a difficult subject, it's often easier to use full manual.

    Increasingly I advise beinners to use full auto until they see it's limiting their photography (which it will do, sooner or later, with some shots, unless your photography is very undemanding). Then go to aperture priority as necessary to control depth of field (but keep an eye on the shutter speed). Then, when that's not enough, you should know enough to use manual.

    Sports portrait autobracket candle-light mode (or whatever the 43rd option is among the modes) is much less likely to teach you anything.

    For some subjects I use full auto, but if they're difficult to expose, or in fact most of the time (especially with the M9) I normally switch to full manual, metering the area that I regard as most typical or important and then adjusting exposure on the basis of experience afterwards. And how do you get the experience? Shooting manual!

    Very often I'll set aperture and shutter speed by guess; see if the meter agrees; and then, if they differ, I'll see whether I or the meter can give the better exposure. Sometimes it's the meter.


  17. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    I had a real laugh at the camera club a while back when one member insisted that he got better results by using Manual. When asked how he metered, he said that he first of all set the aperture he wanted and then twiddled the shutter speed wheel until the exposure meter in the viewfinder was centred.

    He was quite miffed when another member pointed out that all he was doing was manually setting his exposure in exactly the same was as Aperture Priority auto would do more quickly, more easily and, probably, more accurately.
  18. paul james

    paul james Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't have laughed so hard ,there's no lie in that but there are too many variables to make that an accurate statement

    what area is being metered , what metering is being used , what's the desired outcome how would you skip from one mode to another when suddenly shutter speed is less important than aperture

    how do you cope with wildly varying lighting conditions from one second to another ??

    50% of the time I ignore the meter as I know it is saying nothing like what I want out of the shot as all a meter or auto settings give you is what a panel deem to be the correct exposure when sometimes the wrong exposure is the way to go for the best result

    all auto modes give you is thinking in the box !! manual is the ability to break out of that box


  19. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    If you have the experience, you can easily see if the automation is doing what you want it to.

    Of course, that depends on whether you have five years experience or the fifty six years of experience that PhotoEcosse possesses.

    Just sayin'.

  20. paul james

    paul james Well-Known Member

    47years experience brought up in a house with a police phorensics photographer and a family friend with is own studio also good friends with the main camera shop owner in the town , first colour dark room experience at 12 yrs old , worked freelance from a friends studio , first SLR at 15 yrs first 500mm lens at 16yrs

    this week on pixoto a photo I shot is running at no 6 out of 154 in the airplanes category ( most probably taken on auto )

    just sayin !!

    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014

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