Sometimes people ask me why I bother setting a manual exposure on my camera instead of just using the automatic settings. They say that cameras these days are so intelligent, that automatic is as good as manual. But I disagree... so I thought I would make a little illustrated argument here for why I think that manual is the way to go.
Using the little green box (the automatic setting) on your camera is allowing the camera to make all of the decisions for you... which is great SOME of the time, when it makes the right decisions... but it just as often as not makes the wrong decisions. Just to give you an idea of the amount of decisions that it takes out of your hand, the camera chooses your ISO setting, aperature, shutter speed, focal point, and whether or not to use flash. Here is a photo where I let my camera make all the "right" choices for me this evening. All these pictures are straight out of camera, and not edited at all.
This is a smoke tree shrub that I have planted on my back porch. The leaves are changing for fall, but since the flash went off, the colors are unnaturally bright while the background is dark and dull. The dusty miller plant right behind it is quite in focus as well.
On manual, I made all of my choices with regard to ISO, aperature, shutter speed, focal point and chose not to fire the flash (I NEVER use flash as a general hard and fast rule). I focused on the rain droplets on the leaves of the smoke tree, which were all but lost by the automatic settings. I wanted the dusty miller to be visible, but in soft focus so that the vibrant colors stood out on the smoke tree. The light is evenly diffused throughout the photograph.
Using Manual exposure, the same picture taken within a moment of the other one.
So what do you think? Do you find one more pleasing to the eye than the other?