No, You Don’t Have to Take Pictures in Manual Mode

I saw something today in a photography group on Facebook that I found annoying. Someone posted a picture of a T-shirt that said, “Everyone is a photographer until,” then, below this phrase, was a picture of a dial on top of the camera set to M. In other words, if you don’t shoot in manual mode, you are not a “photographer.”

This is annoying, because it suggests that people who take advantage of the many wonderful features on their cameras are not photographers. It suggests that only those people who fiddle with dials and settings are photographers. It suggests that people who do things differently are not “real” photographers.

I started taking pictures on film of the 1970s, and I know how to use manual cameras and lenses. But, for the most part, I see no reason to do that today. I have fairly expensive cameras with lenses that include multiple advanced features such as autofocus, auto-ISO, exposure compensation, film simulations to create different looks from the photos I take, and much more. Why shouldn’t someone take advantage of these features? Do these people who shoot manual only shoot film? Because, if they are trying to be fundamentalist photographers, that is absolutely what they should do. This said, I do use manual focus at times; using my camera’s AF/MF mode, to ensure that certain things are focused exactly as I want.

This sort of attitude is not uncommon, as people who think they know everything want to shame people who don’t. I think the same people would say that if you use an iPhone you’re not a photographer, or even if you use a point-and-shoot camera you’re not a photographer. Only putting your camera in manual mode makes you a real photographer.

It’s not that big a deal, but when people who are new to photography see this it must be frustrating. And I imagine the camera companies don’t really agree with this; why else would they be constantly improving the features and technology that they put in their cameras? No, it is just another case of snob is him shared by people who like making fun of others.

I’d like to see these people in a darkroom with some negatives.

I think a better T-shirt would say this: Everyone is a photographer until Lr.

6 thoughts on “No, You Don’t Have to Take Pictures in Manual Mode

  1. That might be a bit bold coming from me as a non-native English speaker, but can it be that you interpreted that T-shirt exactly the wrong way round?
    If the intention is as you understood it, shouldn’t it read “Everyone is a photographer from (on)…” ?
    “Until” means – for my understanding – that you’re not a photographer anymore, as soon as you start using the manual mode.
    You might say: “That makes even less sense!”
    Maybe the idea (not my own opinion) is – in a kind of cool trendy street photographer kind of way – that the most important part of photography is to find the right moment for a picture etc. And as soon as you start to fiddle around – concentrating on technical perfection, it “drains your artistic soul”.

    • I see it as meaning that you are a photographer until you put your camera into manual mode, because you don’t know how to use manual mode.

  2. “I’m at work until I go home (at 5 pm)”
    means I’m at work before 5 pm, but not after 5 pm.

    “Everyone is a photographer until [manual mode]”
    should mean everyone is a photographer before they use manual mode, but not after they use manual mode.?!?

  3. I would take more offence at: Everyone is a photographer until [AUTO]. And I think that’s what you took it to mean. But this conversation’s gone on too long already!

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