I frequently receive emails with questions which seem to vary in content, but essentially come back to the same point. For example:
- how do the automatic exposure modes work on a specific camera, especially when flash is used ?
- do I agree that a certain camera model tends to under-expose in matrix metering / evaluative metering when used in Aperture Priority ?
- can I explain certain inconsistencies when using an auto mode such as Program / Aperture Priority?
Although the questions seemingly vary, my reply is usually the same – that I don’t know the specific answer. And the reason is that, for the most part, any “answer” here is ultimately not of any consequence to me because … I shoot (nearly) exclusively in manual exposure mode.
If you’re getting great and consistent exposures in one of the auto modes of your camera, then good for you. But if you’re frustrated by inconsistent exposures, then I do have an answer for you. (Although it could appear to be tangential to the info and advice that you might have expected.)
The truth is that you’re making it difficult for yourself by shooting with the camera in an auto mode. You see, here’s the contradiction … manual exposure mode with a camera appears to be more difficult than shooting in an auto mode. It just seems simpler to let the camera take care of exposure because the technology is sooooo good. (And the technology really is fantastic. But there are obvious limitations, and always will be.)
So photographers, whether new or experienced, shoot in an Auto mode, and then at some point come up with a difficult scenario, and now have to second-guess the camera’s auto metering circuitry and the camera’s metering algorithms. And then we’re in a position where manual exposure mode becomes easier AND simpler to use than an auto mode.
In manual exposure mode, if the image is too dark, or too bright, or not enough depth-of-field, or has camera shake, etc … then it is something *I* am doing. With an auto exposure mode, the thinking tends to lean towards “wtf is the camera doing here?” And then having to figure it out. Which is contrary to the very idea of using an auto exposure mode in the first place — simplicity.
So instead of second-guessing the D-SLR, I use manual exposure mode, and metering now becomes much simpler. If the image is too dark, then you know to adjust a few clicks of the aperture this way, or a few clicks of the shutter dial that-a-way. So in the end the anguish over what any specific camera is doing in any auto mode under various conditions, becomes immaterial.
Of course, I am talking there only about exposure control with the camera, and not including flash .. since with flash it gets a little more complicated. But only a little. But we’re back to the situation where we make things *more* complicated by shooting with flash while using the camera in an auto metering mode.
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