Should I use manual mode on my DSLR?

This is a question that seems to do the rounds from time to time.

Should I use manual mode on my DLSR?

The short answer is – it depends.

It depends on

  • What your subject is
  • The lighting
  • The circumstances of the shoot
  • How much time you have
  • If this bothers you or not

What mode do I use to take photos on my DLSR?

For commercial shoots I use AV Mode on my Canon 6D. I actually use AV mode for most of my photography work, unless there is some really funky lighting or locational stuff to contend with.

I take most of my photos on Manfrotto tripods, and I also bracket images, which means that I am less concerned about the exposure than I possibly should be.

The reason I do this is so I can concentrate solely on the composition and where I focus the camera.

If I were to shoot in manual mode all I would be doing is setting the shutter speed for the aperture I would have chosen anyway.

The argument against using manual

I listen to some people in the photography world who are much too precious in my opinion about shooting in manual mode. If I use AV mode on my Canon 6D what is the difference? I set the aperture and the camera sets this shutter speed.

Why don’t I use manual mode that much?

If I were to use manual mode I would set the shutter speed and the aperture according to what the meter says. Or use this as a starting point for the correct exposure for the situation.

All I am doing is removing one thing that I have to do – it amounts to the same. And for architectural photography and interior photography this works just fine. The same can be said for landscape and travel photography.

And there is always exposure compensation

And sometimes when there are factors to be considered I just use the exposure compensation dial.

In terms of mastering your DSLR

In my opinion everyone should learn not only to shoot in manual mode, but also in all the other modes. And taking that a step further, I think that we should all spend more time learning properly how to use our DSLRs.

I have certainly not done this in the past, spending a significant amount of money on a piece of kit without properly learning how to use it, which is ridiculous if I think about it and am brutally honest.


Should I use manual mode on my DLSR?

You should use manual mode when you need to, but make sure you know how use manual mode properly before using it.

If you use AV, TV, Program or anything else don’t feel guilty – that is for people who clearly have nothing better to worry about.

Remember this one final thing.

No-one has ever asked me what mode I took a photo in.



No-one cares. What matters is the image that you create. Everything else is irrelevant.

And that is the point that I keep making over and over.

Rick McEvoy ABIPP – Photographer, photoblogger, writer

Rick McEvoy

I am Rick McEvoy, an architectural and construction photographer living and working in the South of England. I create high quality architectural photography and construction photography imagery of the built environment for architects and commercial clients. I do not photograph weddings, families, small people or pets - anything that is alive, moves or might not do as I ask!! I am also the creator of the Photography Explained Podcast, available on all major podcast providers. I have a blog on my website where I write about my work and photography stuff. Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB

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