If there's one thing I'm adamant about, it's manual mode. I firmly believe that if you have a DSLR, you should learn how to use manual mode at some point. I only started using manual mode this past spring, and WOW! Manual mode changed my photography so much.
If you're just getting started in photography, you should still stay away from total auto mode and use aperture or shutter speed priority, which is when you control one setting and the camera adjusts for the other settings.
Once you're comfortable with that, practice using manual mode a little bit. Take a look at this tutorial on manual mode from Kirsten Oliphant (it has a picture of a goat in it!!! and the goat is wearing a hat!!).
When I was shooting with Julia a few weeks ago, I decided to take my photos in manual mode as usual and then also take some in auto mode to show the difference.
1. I shot on total auto mode.
2. The auto/manual photos aren't taken from exactly the same angles each time.
3. The photos marked as 'manual' are edited and cropped. They aren't super-edited, but for this shoot there's a noticeable difference between SOOC and edited (see below for example).
Okay, onto the comparisons!
I'm trying to put up a blog post every Wednesday at noon, so let's see how that goes...