In the past I have talked about different shooting strategies for different situations. My work varies a lot, from commercial shoots on the beach for Nikon one day to photographing wildlife for a tourism campaign another day. I really enjoy this variety not only because of the diverse subject matter, but because I have to use a variety of techniques and styles to create a strong image. My default shooting mode is Aperture priority, but I regularly shoot in manual mode as well. And when in manual mode I will also sometimes shoot in Auto ISO. I just returned from photographing in the jungles and rainforests in Costa Rica, and Auto ISO/Manual Mode was a good choice there.
Here was my approach. I set my camera to manual mode, and chose 1/500 at F5.6 (wide open on my 500PF 5.6 Nikon). Since I was photographing wildlife, I wanted at least 1/500 and often I even set a faster shutter speed. F5.6 was wide open for my lens, and I didn’t need anymore depth of field for 90 percent of the images I took (I regularly shoot my prime telephotos wide open). Here is where Auto ISO really helped. Since the exposure could vary widely from deep in the dark understory to bright against a blue sky, I set Auto ISO to max out at ISO 3200. My D850 chose between ISO 1600 and 3200 when it was really dark, and close to ISO 100 when it was bright…all the time maintaining my 1/500 F5.6 manual setting. If my exposure was off, I could set exposure comp to adjust…this is the only way exposure comp works in manual mode…i.e. in auto ISO mode. In short, Auto ISO works great if you are experiencing a wide range of exposures values during a shoot.
Why don’t I just use manual mode/auto ISO all the time? Because there are a lot of situations I want full control of the exposure, such as using flash. And with landscapes, with less dramatic exposures shifts, I would rather choose my ISO at a static low value using aperture priority. Lower ISO values always give you better results…sharper images, less noise, better micro contrast and better color.
One thing I like to discuss on workshops are different techniques for the situations photographers encounter. In my experience I’ve found there is no one perfect technique for every shooting situation. Better to know how to photograph a wide variety of subjects, and apply the best technique to your situation. Manual mode/auto ISO is very effective for dynamic shooting situations with fast moving subjects like wildlife and sports. Give it a try and see what you think!