Here on the site, we consistently talk about how shooting manual is key. The truth is that for many photographers that are still growing their chops, yes–it surely is key. These photographers should spend a year or more shooting exclusively in manual mode. But for a moment, we’re going to be incredibly real here.
Not every single situation calls for you to shoot in manual mode and not a single person in the world is going to look at a photo and say, “I hate this image. You know why? Because this idiot didn’t shoot it in manual mode like a true pro.”
The absolute complete truth is that the metering of many cameras these days is good enough (providing you use spot metering) to give you the results that you want providing you use the right spot. But in addition to that, Aperture and Shutter priority are just fine and can help you to ensure that you actually get the shot in the right situation. Shooting street photography? Why not give Aperture priority a go? Sports shooters often use shutter priority to ensure that they can get the Quarterback making that special throw or that incredible tackle.
So when do you need manual mode? If you specifically have a creative vision that needs you to have a specific amount of movement in the scene, a specific depth of field, a specific ISO, or if you’re using a flash. When a flash is added into the equation, you’ve got something totally different happening.
Overall the most important thing is that you need to get the photo. At the end of the day what someone cares about the most is that you have an interesting image. No one cares if you use manual mode, they want to be visually stimulated.
If the mode is there, use it as an available tool to you to help you create a better image.