In the age of digital cameras and automated functions, find out why international fashion and celebrity pro photographer Herbert Julian insists that all newbies learn to shoot in Manual mode as part of their journey to mastery.

Everyone is a photographer until they discover the Manual mode.

With the advent of DSLR photography, the Manual mode (“M” mode) almost seems outmoded. With more photographers preferring to use Aperture (AV) or Shutter (TV) priority mode to save time on calculating. But will that really give you the look and lighting that you want all the time? 

EOS 5D Mark III | F/3.2 | ISO 8000 | 1/40s

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 4000 | 1/60s

Personally, I cannot say that I have mastered my DSLR until I can shoot in manual mode. In manual mode, you need to decide how you want your photograph to appear like you’ve planned – the depth of field, sharpness, and exposure to capture the amount of light and movement in your work – and learning how to adjust your settings like a pro. 

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 4000 | 1/100s

EOS 5D Mark III | F/3.5 | ISO 5000 | 1/40s

Some people may ask what’s the point of Manual mode on an automated camera. That’s a good question.

It’s true that adjusting the aperture and shutter speed manually does take your time compared to just pointing and shooting on your automated functions. But it’s also true that when both aperture and shutter speed are locked in manual mode, you get the best advantage when shooting. So long as the light condition is consistent, you can set the combination of shutter speed, aperture and ISO in perfect exposure for your subject.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/3.5 | ISO 2000 | 1/200s

EOS 5D Mark III | F/5.6 | ISO 4000 | 1/400s

Manual mode is also perfect for shooting a moving subject in constant light. If you want to master the art of exposure, manual mode is the perfect tool to train yourself. When I was younger, my mentor told me to train my eyes like a light meter, especially for outdoor shoots. It helps you become quick and precise. 


EOS 5D Mark III | F/11 | ISO 500 | 1/400s

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 3200 | 1/200s

Some photographers might resort to Photoshop to create the mood and adjust the image. But are you really learning how to shoot by doing that? 

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 8000 | 1/200s

By using Manual ISO, white balance, shutter speed and aperture, you’ll have more flexibility in creating images like a professional. So don’t sidestep from learning how to calculate the exposure, lighting and the stops in your journey as a photographer.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.8 | ISO 500 | 1/1600s

EOS 5D Mark III | F/11 | ISO 320 | 1/80s