Do Professional Photographers Shoot in Auto Mode?

Professional photographers sometimes look like nerds. We often think they tweak around the camera for the whole day or that they’re like rocket scientists. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.

The photography, in fact, doesn’t have to be complex and hard to learn. Sometimes, you can get a decent photo with an auto mode. Or better said, an auto mode can be used to get some pretty good pictures overall.

Do professional photographers shoot in auto mode? Yes, many professional photographers do sometimes shoot in auto mode. There is a large number of photographers that use semi-auto modes like shutter priority or aperture priority. The scenarios in which they use it can vary greatly. For example, if there’s a lot of natural lighting, the auto mode can be used because setting up the perfect settings in the manual mode could take a lot of time.

On the contrary, in low-light conditions, you can’t expect the auto mode to do the job, this is where the manual mode should be used almost every time.

That being said, we’re going to talk more about this topic in the following sections. We’re going to see the benefits of auto mode and when you should use it, too. Let’s begin!

Why Professional Photographers Use the Manual Mode?

Why Professional Photographers Use the Manual Mode

To see why professional photographers sometimes use the auto mode, we first need to see why they’re using the manual one. While using the manual mode, you get full control over your photos. For example, you can change your ISO, exposure, color temperature, and so forth.

More experienced photographers know the importance of this camera mode. After all, this is what separates the ’true’ photographers from those who just point the camera and shoot. But, even the manual mode has its advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s start with the advantages. The advantage is that the statics scenes can be tweaked to a higher extent. You can set up the scene, add some props, some lighting, people, animals or whatever. Now, you look through the lens and manually set ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and aperture settings.

Boom! The photo looks phenomenal if you know what you’re doing. Now, go outside, look up in the sky, and capture a flying bird in the manual mode. Go ahead, do it.

The results will probably be terrible. Why? Because moving subjects aren’t manual mode’s strong point. Also, if we’re talking about shifting scenes, it is the same case.

This is where we come to the disadvantages of using a manual mode. When you manually set the camera, you set it for THAT particular scene, and not for another. In the case of a flying bird, it’s easy to see why it works. As it flies through the sky, you move around trying to catch it.

In this process, the lighting changes, and with it, colors and white balance also shift. So, using a manual mode is a double-edged sword if you don’t know how to use it. Additionally, manual mode can be used for making certain effects in photos, such as milky waterfalls, etc.

Why Do Professional Photographers Use Auto Mode?

Why Do Professional Photographers Use Auto Mode

Now, to the nitty-gritty of the articles. Why do many professional photographers use this mode? Here are the reasons:

Shooting in Auto Mode Works… In Most Cases

The main reason many photographers use an auto mode is that it works in most situations. Many times, the photo didn’t turn the way you wanted it to be. This issue, for example, can be fixed with a manual mode. But, if this is your new camera, you don’t know how good it is at certain things, so tweaking it takes a lot of time.

On the contrary, if you aren’t a top-grade photographer, you’ll probably like the photo quality you get in this mode.

If we take smartphones, for example, you’ll see what we’re talking about. How many people shoot in manual mode on their smartphones? Do you know someone? Because we don’t.

And yet, you see beautiful photos on Instagram, taken with smartphones. So, if the lighting conditions are perfect, photographers will often use an auto mode to capture the moment. Sure, the top-of-the-line photographers will probably spot the difference but you, in most cases, wouldn’t.

This doesn’t mean that they always use manual mode. It’s actually quite the opposite, especially when capturing moving subjects.

Related: What Is Auto ISO And How/When to Use It – A Complete Guide

It Lets the Photographer Capture Perfect Opportunities

It Lets the Photographer Capture Perfect Opportunities

Photography is all about catching the perfect opportunity. There’s a term that many photographers call ’the decisive moment’.

It’s first described by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Basically, it’s used to describe the moment in which all factors came together, thus forming the perfect opportunity for a photo.

Now, imagine seeing it and having to tweak your aperture, shutter speed, and so forth. A moment like this can last a few seconds or a whole minute, which isn’t enough to set everything up. Instead, you can just use an auto mode, snap the photo, go home, and edit it how you want if you shoot in raw.

It Makes Learning the Camera Much Easier

Photographers who just bough their cameras can learn more about it when shooting in auto mode. Now, you’ll probably ask – wait, isn’t it the opposite?

Well, not always. Taking photos in auto mode is great for learning what settings your camera used to capture the photos. You can find out about focal length, white balance, ISO, megapixels, etc.

Here’s how photographers do it. First of all, every picture that has been taken with a camera of any type (even a smartphone camera) has info embedded in its metadata. This is known as EXIF data.

Almost all of the image-editing software lets you peek inside and get info about your photo.

For example, a photographer can shoot in auto and get a fantastic photo in certain conditions. Now, he’s curious about which settings were used, thus he uses Flickr, Apple Photos or whatever picture editor to find out.

He opens the EXIF data and looks at those settings. For instance, ISO 100, f/2.8, and so forth.

Now that he knows the settings in which he took, let’s say, a snowy photo, he can use these settings as a reference for the next time.

It Allows the Photographer to Focus on Other Things

It Allows the Photographer to Focus on Other Things

When there are a lot of things around you, you tend to lose focus and make mistakes. Professional photographers might not do that but have in mind that they’re still made of flesh and bones. That being said, we are all prone to making mistakes.

But, if we’re talking about an amateur photographer, he isn’t on a level that the professional one is. If he finds himself in a crowded event with lots of people, animals, music, kids or a combination of these, he’ll get confused and slightly intimidated.

And now, it’s his turn to take some photos of people or animals hanging there. Is he going to draw the camera and set the desired values? Probably not. People care only about getting the photo done and that’s it.

So, this is the perfect opportunity to use an auto mode. The photographer can just pull out his camera, point at the subjects, and snap a photo.

Or if he’s going to use manual mode, he should anticipate the conditions in advance and tweak the settings. However, this is easier said than done.

Does Camera Auto Mode Have Downsides?

Yes, auto camera mode has many downsides. The older the camera, the worse are the auto mode features. Back in the days, the auto mode wasn’t as advanced.

Sure, it would hit a few photos here and there but that’s it. On the other side, now we have modern Canon, Sony, and Nikon cameras that would wipe the floor with the older models. These cameras have a rock-solid auto mode.

Related: Is Canon or Nikon Better for Beginners?

Still, relying too much on auto mode leads to some unsatisfying results. After all, this is a computer inside the camera regulating the settings on its own. It doesn’t have the logic and wisdom but only complex algorithms that make it do what it does.

Should you choose to shoot in the auto camera mode, you’ll get decent photos for the most part. But, what if the camera uses different ISO, aperture or shutter speed than you’d want?

Or perhaps, you’re shooting in low-light conditions and your flash activates? Well, that means that it’s time to learn more about the manual mode.

It may seem like rocket science but in reality, it’s not that hard. We suggest learning the basics of the exposure triangle for the start.

The exposure triangle consists of ISO, aperture settings, and shutter speed. These three factors play a crucial role in the photo’s exposure.

Do Professional Photographers Shoot in Auto Mode_1

Related: How Is Math Used in Photography?


What’s the takeaway from this article? The takeaway is that many, many professional photographers use auto mode. Actually, more than you think!

This is because modern cameras do an excellent job of taking high-quality photos in this mode, so in some cases, it’s unnecessary to tweak the settings.

But, if you want to make some fancy details on photos or enhance its quality, tweaking some of the parameters is crucial. Either way, professional photographers use auto mode and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

It surely doesn’t make them ’less’ of photographers and you are not a bad photographer if you’re using it.

Now that you’ve learned something new, it’s time to make the best out of your day. Go out, take some photos, and have fun. Remember – use auto mode if you feel like it!

Related: What Are the Ideal Camera Settings for Studio Photography?

Do Professional Photographers Shoot in Auto Mode?