Is manual mode dead? 1-2-1 training shooting winter portraits on Whitstable beach


After a cold start, rain and some strong winds, I spent some time on Sunday morning on the beach at Whitstable for 1-2-1 training on shooting in variable light. My client had brought some of her family as willing subjects and one of things that came up from a different photography course provider was the idea of manual mode being redundant because of AV. I hadn’t heard this before as for me manual mode is simply brilliant. If the lighting conditions are constant, or you keep your position to the subject and light fairly constant then manual exposures won’t change. They’re locked in, unlikely to fluctuate the way Av can when it gets confused by elements of light and dark being picked up as you move around, zoom in and out etc. With rapidly changing conditions Av has many benefits but it still requires a degree of exposure compensation. Manual of course is my preferred mode for working with off-camera flash.

The pictures below highlight a couple of things and they were taken against very string directional light one minute and then cloudy skies the next. Here’s a couple of observations.

  • Back-lighting –  great for portraits with reflected light to front
  • You can shoot into the sun but the risk is lens flare and a washing out, low contrast etc. You can put contrast back in afterwards. Into the sun can also give a retro feel.
  • Shadows can be fun as long as they are not from you!
  • The subject doesn’t always have to face the camera
  • Neutral and unchanging backgrounds mean that you can shoot in manual mode without too much trouble
  • Meter, set your exposure, frame it, shoot it!