There are two types of photographers: the tripod mounted manual shooter who only captures RAW files and the hand held shooter with the camera always on automatic who only shoots JPEG. What kind of photographer are you?
Of course this is an over simplification and most photographers shift between the two extremes depending on the situation. The key is to know your camera and decide which approach works best for what you are shooting.
Many photo tutorials instruct you to get out of automatic and take control of your camera settings. This is an essential approach but there are times when the automatic setting can be your friend. An example is outdoor events in changing light with moving subjects.
The Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco is a case in point. The key here is to aim the camera and shoot fast. After the serious runners have passed, the costumed walkers make interesting subjects. But nobody wants to stop and pose while you set your camera. Speed is essential here for quick candids or fast shots of subjects willing to pose. The automatic setting here isn’t lazy, just efficient.
Moving Subjects Benefit from Continuous Mode
When subjects are moving quickly or light is changing through sun and shade or passing clouds automatic is a help. Multiple shots can also be a scene saver. An example is dancers in the Carnaval parade. It is difficult to hit the shutter at the exact moment when one or more dancers are in the best position. Set the camera on continuous shooting and take many exposures over a few seconds. One shot will probably be better than the rest as in the example below.
Manual Camera Control Is Often Necessary
Of course there are times when you want to control one or all of your camera settings for specific results. Examples include sports photography where you would want to set shutter priority at a fast speed to freeze the action. For macro photography or portraiture you would want to control depth of field with an appropriate aperture priority setting.
Low light and night photography is where you would want to be on a tripod or other stabilizing support like HandlePod and adjust all your camera settings manually. These include low ISO to minimize noise, best aperture setting for maximum sharpness, and a series of slow, bracketed shutter speeds to achieve the best exposure.
This is where you may also want to shoot in RAW to preserve a maximum amount of information for post processing later. RAW is the best capture format but the images cannot be shared or viewed by others until post processed and converted into JPEG or other common image format.
Most photographers do not fall exclusively into the two simple categories described above. It is best to apply the settings and techniques appropriate for what you are shooting. And depending on circumstances, “automatic” can be the most user friendly way to go.