What is your preferred exposure mode?

For years I have been mainly using Aperture mode for wildlife shots (birds and butterflies). Since recently joining this site, I have been pleasantly surprised to come across people whose wildlife shots I admire and who prefer Manual or Shutter Speed mode. I know I sometimes switch to S mode for fast moving subjects. Does your choice of equipment influence your choice of exposure mode? Factors like light, shooting position, exposure and composition are probably more important for any shot, but I do feel I have not questioned my own choice of A, S or M (even P) enough. I’m sure there are several “it depends” factors, and I’d love to hear what you all think.

I shoot manual wipe open 99% of time. I change shutter speed only and use auto iso which I will + or _ 1/3 stop at most depending on light. If shooting BIF, I shoot 1/2500 min, for perched or floating ducks usually 1/800 min.
Keep it simple, Birds and wildlife is not that complex.

1 Like

Wildlife photography doesn’t make up a lot of my work, but I have a custom mode on the camera for this and it has worked ok. It’s shutter priority, auto ISO and has focus tracking engaged I think. However, it’s just for grab shots when I get lucky and have a critter come my way. When my blind gets here I’ll probably switch to manual since there might not be as much variation in terms of what exposure to use in one place.

Any advice experienced animal photographers give will be helpful.

Hi Mike: I shoot straight Manual without auto-iso. To me auto-iso defeats the purpose of manual since the camera is still choosing the exposure-albeit in a slightly more benign way. I can alter the iso on the fly pretty easily should I choose to do so, but I do a lot of shooting in very dim light so I often have my iso set pretty high (2000 and above) and my shutter speed is still down in the 120-400 range. I figure if the old bird photographers could work with 1/10 sec or more, I can certainly work with 1/100 or less. Yes, I get a lot of blurred heads when they move quickly, but electrons are really cheap, so I just delete them. My lenses aren’t super wide (f/5.6-6.3 on my 200-600 zoom), so I usually run it at f/8. If you’re out in the sun, there’s no need for anything but manual-you know what the exposure is going to be. Just set it so you don’t quite blow the whites (I find that there’s almost always something white I can take test shots on) and leave it.

1 Like

ISO has nothing to do with exposure which is misconception. By adjusting iso you are not changing exposure so why not let camera do it and adjust in post?
ISO just ampliflies light so you can view correctly and adjust. The latest cameras are better than I am of adjusting the image brightness and I can fix in post.
This is a basic misunderstanding of digital cameras.

ISO is signal amplification and has the same thing to do with exposure as aperture and shutter speed. Of course the choice of ISO doesn’t affect the amount of light hitting the sensor – it works the same way as using a different ASA film did. But it does affect exposure, defining it as what is recorded in the histogram.

But AUTO ISO, which you said above you use, is a different situation. It lets the camera meter determine exposure just as Tv or Av would, but by using an aperture and shutter speed you set, and letting the camera vary ISO to give an exposure offset from the meter reading’s average by an amount you set. (Tv uses the ISO and SS you set and varies aperture. Av uses the ISO and aperture you set and varies SS.) Manual mode lets you set all three and the exposure depends on the light – the camera makes no corrections.

1 Like