I got lucky with my first camera, it had no auto mode. I had to learn to use the only information the camera gave me to guide my choice in setting the exposure manually, using the aperture and shutter speed controls. The information was in the form of a small needle in the viewfinder that pointed up when the image was going to be underexposed and down when it was going to be over exposed. Manipulating the controls so the needle was set in the middle I knew my exposure would be correct (most of the time.) Modern cameras don’t afford us these luxuries. They are crammed full of all manner of AI wizardry that is all to often relied to to set the camera’s exposure for you.
I love teaching people to go beyond the ‘help’ their cameras give them in choosing their exposure for them. Getting back to the basics of knowing how to manually set you camera so you are achieving what you want creatively is a dying art.
Learning to set your exposure manually is not so complicated or difficult as most people think, it just requires a some study and practice. There are really just three settings you need to master, somewhat like learning to drive a manual shift car. When you first start driving you have to focus on co-ordinating the clutch, gear shift and accelerator every time you need to change gears, but as you keep driving you get better and after a while you action the gear shift without much thought at all. Learning to see the light and read the exposure meter to help you set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings is very similar.
Once you understand the basics, it’s just a matter of practice until controlling the exposure settings on your camera becomes second nature. But, if your camera is typically stuck on an auto mode you’ll never progress to being in control of your exposures and your creativity will be stalled.