The whole manual vs auto thing for me isn’t really much of a debate. And whether you prefer to use auto or manual, you’re still going to need to understand the underlying principles of photography and how your camera “sees” a scene in order to get the most out of it and the best possible images you can that achieve your vision.
Coming to you from Paul at Photo Genius, this video compares the differences when shooting multiple scenes using both manual and auto exposure controls. It’s a good illustration of why automatic isn’t perfect for everything (or potentially even most stuff, depending on what you like to shoot) and how understanding manual can get you that control you need.
Manual exposure isn’t a magic bullet, but you do need to understand how it works to get the most out of it. I’m certainly not going to tell anybody they have to shoot manual, but I think everybody calling themselves a photographer needs to at least learn it and understand it in order to be able to get the most out of their camera for any given situation.
But automatic exposure are the same way if you want the best results, too. Even in auto (or the various semi-automatic exposure modes), you still need to understand the settings the camera’s spitting back at you. You need to undersatnd what aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation do so that you know how you might be able to adjust to compensate when you get results that aren’t as you expect.
I shoot manual probably 95% of the time. For the other 5%, I’m either in “P” mode if I’m location scouting and just need a record or “A” (aperture priority or “Av” for the Canon shooters) when I want a set depth of field but the shutter speed isn’t important. But if I want to make sure those fully or semi-automatic exposure modes give me what I want, I still need to understand what it’s doing.
Don’t you want the best results you can get? Even if you shoot auto?