As you know, Aperture priority gives control over how wide or how narrow the lens opens. We can also control the ISO. This allows us to vary the depth of field. By doing so, we can blur the background to produce nice portraits or to add emphasis to a specific subject within the photo.
We can also ensure sharpness from the foreground to the distant horizon by selecting a smaller aperture like F18, f22, etc. This is great for landscapes.
With shutter priority, we have control over how long or how short the shutter is open for. We also have control over the ISO. Using these, we learned how to capture fast-moving subjects like sports, children playing or dancing. We’ve also seen how it can be used to slow down movement by using a long shutter speed.
What is Manual mode?
You will encounter times when aperture priority and shutter priority will not give the results you want. It’s time to use manual mode.
Many people shy away from manual mode as it just seems too complicated. However, it uses the exact same functions we have been playing with for the last few weeks – aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The only difference is you now have control over all of these functions and they are all independent of each other.
If you’ve played with Aperture or Shutter Priority, you’re already halfway there. In these modes, you manually set aperture or shutter, and the camera sets the rest to arrive at a good exposure. Manual mode gives you total control over all camera functions and allows you to tweak your exposure quickly. It is used for those situations when aperture or shutter priority don’t quite work out.
In manual mode, we can take a shot, review it on the LCD screen and make subtle changes to any setting to give us the photo we want. If you get used to shooting in this mode, chances are you’ll use it more than any other mode.
When shooting in Manual, you first need to decide what your priority is with a particular scene. If you were looking to maximise the depth of field (how much of the photo appears sharp), then you can select the appropriate aperture first. If you’re shooting an action scene, you can set the appropriate shutter speed first. You would then tweak the other settings to give you a proper exposure.
Shooting in Manual Mode
You change to manual mode by selecting “M” on the main dial of your camera. You can keep an eye on the exposure scale in the viewfinder, or on the Live View screen. As you adjust aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings, you’ll see a bar move up and down the scale. When it lines up in the centre, you have got the correct exposure.
However, there are times we may want a different look and feel to our photos. You may want it slightly brighter or slightly darker. To do this, you could open the aperture, adjust the ISO or adjust the shutter speed, whichever is more appropriate for the particular shot.
Shooting in manual mode gives you the freedom to make these adjustments independently of each other. Experimenting with this mode will give you a greater understanding of your camera and photography.
In manual, because nothing is adjusted automatically, you may need to tweak the settings as the light in a scene changes. Check the histogram on the LCD screen every so often.
Why shoot in manual mode?
Very bright scenes such as a snow-covered landscape or strong sunlight can trick the camera into giving an incorrect exposure. The same is true in very dark scenes. The camera will underexpose or overexpose the picture.
When you shoot a portrait in “Auto” your camera will choose all the settings for you. If the light is anything less than perfect, the camera will inevitably give you an unflattering result. When shooting in manual you have control over everything.
Believe it or not, you’ve been shooting almost in manual mode for a while now. In manual, you choose your focal point. We are already using a single focus point and we are choosing what focus point to use. We have taken control of what we are focusing on, instead of the camera doing this.
Because shooting in manual mode gives you control over all camera settings, you are free to get as creative as you like. For instance, did you ever try to shoot a silhouette? It is only by using manual mode that you can achieve this. It is just a matter of getting your settings right and controlling the amount of light you let into the camera.
Play with manual mode on your camera as the creative possibilities are endless. Most people I know that have learned how to use their cameras use it almost exclusively in manual mode.
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