Often I’ll end up visiting a bookstore to check out fun coffee table books and photography books. I have to have something for my home that will help guests be converted to taking pictures!

So there I was, looking at a table of neatly piled and organized books when I was handed a book that had a slick little title, Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll. Great Photographs, eh? Clearly, I had to find out what I was missing!


The Challenge

The cracked the book open to be met with a random page with the title of:

All good photographers use ‘Manual’, right?

I knew I was already in for a treat when I read that line. You see, I like shooting in “manual.” I’d say I’m on it a good 85% of the time I have a camera in my hand. While I’m told I’m a pretty decent photographer, I don’t attribute my awesome-sauce skills to the use of “Manual”.

Many of my friends shoot in manual so it is kind of hard to see someone bash the use of “Manual.” It takes some understanding in order to get what you want out of using it. For the novice, using “Manual” alone isn’t going to instantaneously make you a czar of photography. Nevertheless, the title got my interest… for a second.

In the first paragraph on the page, I was met with this line.

‘Manual’ (M) is a waste of time.

A Waste of Time?

I probably should have put the book down at that point, but I kept on torturing myself. The author explained a fact:

“In ‘Manual’ your camera is still telling you what it thinks is the ‘correct exposure’, in exactly the same way that it does in every other mode. But instead of making the changes for you, you have to do it all yourself.”


Well, that correct exposure is a reading from the light meter in the camera, right?

Then he continues to write about how adjusting off of the light meter is “effectively shooting in ‘Program” (P), and taking a lot longer.”

I Disagree

While he may be correct in saying that to those who don’t understand anything about photography, I feel that the use of “Manual” is far from a waste of time for those who really want to understand how to make great photos.

Shooting in “Manual” with a bit of understanding, can give you the outcome that you want, quicker and more constantly in many situations. It makes it easy to brighten and darken an image, add or take away depth of field.

The author feels that using “Exposure Compensation” is a quicker and easier way to shoot in “Manual”, but the settings that the camera will use will still change as the light that is gathered changes– a specific case is when you’re moving around a subject and re-adjusting composition, but still want to keep the same exposure. Or, if you’re like me and shoot in the studio a lot, the use of “Manual” is almost necessary with strobes.

So Why Shoot Manual?

I will reiterate that shooting in “Manual” does not automatically make great pictures. Nor will it make you a “good photographer.” It will give you more control when you need it, especially after you understand how light works and how your camera reads light.

You need to level up in order to use it (gotta love video game references).

So, keep shooting. Learn to understand your camera and light. Most importantly, keep an open mind! That’s how I’ve seen great photographers created.

By the way, the rest of the book wasn’t half bad… it was quirky and mostly my style. But don’t shoot manual? This one little thing just bugged the living daylights out of me.

What do you think? Comments welcome below.