How To Use “Emergency Mode” To Never Miss The Shot

How To Use “Emergency Mode” To Never Miss The Shot

Or are you always in Emergency Mode?

For starters lets talk about how I shoot, but more importantly why I shoot that way. I shoot in Manual mode all day, every day. The reason for that is 4 fold.

I am a professional.

I aught to act like it. My clients are paying me thousands of dollars a wedding. I have enough self-respect to learn my craft accordingly.

I am smarter than my camera.

I call the shots. My light meter in my camera is not the best. It's dumb. It uses reflective light rather than incidental light. It sees bright light reflecting off of a white dress and thinks “I better under expose this.” On top of that, our camera does not know how I am going to light a scene with off camera flash. I do.


For me, it is a confidence issue too. I want to know deep down inside that I know what I am doing. Modern day Photography offers a ridiculous amount of crutches. At the very least I can be satisfied as a photographer knowing I know exactly what I'm doing.


I do a ton of editing in house. Shooting in manual gives me consistency within the editing process. For example if I have 10 images all shot in the same lighting set up, I can batch edit all of them the same. Other shooting modes give variations depending on what light reflects off of what.

There are too many professional photographers still using AV mode as the primary mode.


When you use AV all of the time, you just might be half-assing it as a pro. I think it comes down to you not wanting to think.


When you use AV all of the time, you are doing one of three things:

  1. Using it correctly, but putting as much work into Exposure Compensation that you might as well be shooting in manual.
  2. Lacking in confidence to shoot a full event in manual. (maybe you are beginning, learning a new camera)
  3. Half-Assing it as a pro. (some people may have their preference for remaining in AV mode all day long. I don't buy it.  I honestly believe it comes down to not wanting to think.

We call AV (Aperture Mode) Emergency Mode because it is used when there is no other option.

The setting changed too drastically for you to get your exposure right in manual and the shot will disappear any second. On a wedding day, a good majority of the time you are with consistent  environments. The lighting at the salon only changes so much. The lighting at the church only changes so much, etc. If we are thinking about light as we shoot, we will notice the queues that exposure is changing before we take the shot.

There is however a time where it makes sense to go into AV or Emergency Mode.

One example of when to use Emergency Mode
The ceremony just ended. You are inside taking pictures of the groom hugging his friends. You notice that the bride has just stepped outdoors with her mom.  You have 1.5 seconds to get the shot. go!

I mentally note my iso. Turn it down since I'm going from dark to light. Switch to AV. shoot shoot shoot.

I got the shot and walk back inside, I switch back to Manual and change my iso back to what it was and keep shooting as I previously was indoors.

I know that each photographer has their own preferences.  I am not saying that this technique is the best approach, but I am asking that we challenge ourselves and ask what are the real reason that we are staying in AV mode all the time.  Like I said at the beginning, we are professionals. Let's act like it.  Our clients are paying us thousands of dollars a wedding. Let's have enough self-respect to learn our craft accordingly.

How far do we take this concept?  Do we only use manual focus? Do we ignore white balance presets and only shoot using Calvin temperatures for WB? Do we ignore our cameras light meter and bring old school incidental light meters with us?  Obviously not.

All I am suggesting is that if you are going to elevate your brand to thrive in 2015, that you learn to do something as foundational, accessible, and advantageous as using your camera in Manual Mode.