Possible Duplicate:
Why would I use manual camera controls instead of the automatic modes?

I am asking this question particularly relevant to photography in

  1. Sunlight
  2. Indoors

I hope the answer will give me some insight on how to use my camera better. Should I use auto mode often? I am newbie.

Adding : I am familiar with aperture, shutter speed, ISO and I have Nikon D5100.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Never. But how does this answer help you? The only thing I know is if you keep it in newbie more you will stay a newbie longer! \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Sep 30, 2011 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Itai, so I now know I have to play with my camera and produce best pictures without using the auto mode. I wouldn't have known this if I didn't ask this question. mattdm - that question does cover part of it but I asked this question in non technical general way which every body can answer. His question is more technical. \$\endgroup\$
    – TheTechGuy
    Oct 1, 2011 at 0:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enthusiast: help me understand, then. :) If you take out the technical part of the question, what's left that doesn't fall under this? I'm not saying there isn't any, just that it's not clear to me, and maybe the question can be rephrased to bring that out. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Oct 1, 2011 at 1:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I asked this question from anyone, an expert, an intermediate user and and a newbie, just wanted to get a sense what ppl use most of the time, esp expert. If I get "Most of the time on AUTO", is an acceptable answer to me. One does not have to go into detail. But I knew I will get some help as people generally want to be helpful. For your satisfaction, you can close my question and I will take my questions elsewhere. Thanks \$\endgroup\$
    – TheTechGuy
    Oct 1, 2011 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please read the FAQ. "Getting a sense" or survey-type questions are discouraged, not because we don't want to be helpful, but because they don't fit the Q&A format of the site. Those kind of things are best served elsewhere. That doesn't mean that all your questions don't fit. Again, please do read the FAQ as linked. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Oct 1, 2011 at 15:26

3 Answers 3


I use a program mode the majority of the time that I am not in a studio. An example of that would be aperture priority mode - where I get to set the aperture and ISO that stays consistent, and my camera is allowed to determine the shutter speed to keep the exposure proper.

Full Auto mode, which many entry level DSLR cameras have, is great if you hand your camera to someone who is unfamiliar with the unit. Other then that, I rarely find a use for it. It simply does not provide enough options for what I want to typically do.

In sunlight for example - you may be concerned about the depth of field, which is controlled by the aperture. So you may choose to keep everything in focus by selecting a higher aperture value(eg f/8). Selecting this in the "aperture priority" mode will allow the camera to select a suitable shutter speed as needed.

Indoors you may be concerned with freezing your subjects. In this case you may way to select a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action. Shutter priority would be well suited to this.

Experiment and you will find what you like!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1, I've taken my not-so-new DSLR to summer camps for kids, and they really love taking pictures with it. But I always set it for (almost) full auto before handing it over, at least at first. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2011 at 2:21

I'd suggest avoiding a full-auto most of the time, and instead, choose a mode based on what you're shooting -- for creative shooting, aperture priority modes (labelled as Av on some cameras) is great at controlling the depth of field without worrying about exposure too much. For sport, and other fast action, jump to shutter priority ( labelled as Tv on some cameras).

By using these semi-auto modes, you can get an idea of what sort of settings work, in different conditions.


I would suggest not using any setting other than Tv, Av, and M. You want to control something, be it the shutter speed (Tv), aperture (Av) or everything (M). I have yet to see a case where the camera is smart enough on P or Auto to pick better than I would.

In particular, I know whether I'll be able to hand hold with a given lens at a specific shutter speed. The camera cannot know that. So I shoot on Tv. That's me. On a tripod, I may use Av because the depth of field is more important.

Often, I put the camera on full manual and set everything, tweaking if necessary based on histogram feedback.

In the studio, it's always full manual.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ In the general case, I'm not sure it's a matter of "better" as it is expressing a choice. Maybe it's just that I read the Bryan Peterson book and bought into the "there are six possible correct exposures, your camera will only choose one of them" idea... In Program mode (on Canon), you have choice of setting aperture or ISO, which Auto mode does not give you. At the very least, I would use that mode. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael H.
    Oct 1, 2011 at 4:03

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