Category: Shutter Priority

What is Manual Mode?

What is Manual Mode?

What is manual mode?What is Manual Mode?

In the third part of this series we take a look at What is Manual Mode to make the final step towards creating better photos.

By now you should have read my previous articles about Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority and realise that the camera in your hands is far more capable of creating wonderful images using these modes.  I would like to explain What is Manual Mode and encourage you to experiment with your photography.

Many people (myself included a few years ago) assume that the Auto setting on the dial is the best mode for their camera; this is designed by the manufacturers so why mess with it?

There are many situations that as a photographer you will find yourself in that calls for creativity, the lighting may not be so great, you may only want a very shallow depth of field or to make a portrait stand out want wonderful bokeh in the background.  Auto mode will struggle to do these effectively.

Using either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority will improve your skills to create your photo in challenging circumstances but understanding and using the Manual mode will, with time and practise, produce photos that are unique, crafted by you.

Down to the nitty gritty then – What is Manual Mode?

What is Manual Mode?

By turning the dial to Manual, you are now taking control of the camera settings.  By this, you will now be responsible for setting the shutter speed, F-stop (aperture) and ISO.

The ISO is something we have not really touched on before.  This sets the amount of grain or ‘noise’ in an image.  The lower the ISO equates to maximum clarity.  However, you may want to create an antiqued effect image, with lots of ‘speckles’ or grain.  For this effect you would select a high value of 1600+.  Also, with using a higher ISO, you are then able to take photos in low light conditions without the need for artificial lighting.

So, with Auto firmly switched off you are going to have to think about the following:

  • What kind of photo do I want to create?
  • What do I see?
  • What are the lighting conditions?

I would recommend that you get into the habit of setting your camera as follows in Manual mode:

  • Shutter speed 1/125
  • Aperture F8
  • ISO – 100

What is Manual Mode?

This is a good base to start from.  The shutter speed can be increased or decreased depending on the subject matter and the aperture depends on what Depth of Field you are aiming for.  The ISO can then be set dependent on the values used for shutter and aperture and type of photo you are visualising.

What is Manual Mode?

It is a good idea to get into the habit of checking your camera’s settings before you take photos, as you may have forgotten to change a value when you last used it.  I have done this one or two times and have been very disappointed when I realised this.

What is Manual Mode?

Looking through the viewfinder at the camera’s display, by pressing the shutter release half way you should get a visual indicator to show what exposure you have with the settings.  The plus symbol or the bar being too far to the right means too bright, over exposed.  Highlights will be blown out.  Too far to the left or the minus symbol means not enough light, under exposed.  Shadows will have little detail.

What is Manual Mode?
Image through the viewfinder of my Olympus E400. The value of -4.3 indicates under exposed, too dark for the correct exposure.

You then are able to adjust the shutter, aperture and ISO to correct the exposure value.  A lot of photographers also refer to the camera’s built-in histogram, which indicates whether an image is not balanced.  However this is not appropriate all of the time, but is a good guide.  The histogram can be found by referring to your camera manual and can be used to examine an image that you have taken.

I learned a valuable lesson from the photography course I completed a few years ago.  To better understand my camera, I took 3 photos, 1 deliberately under exposed, one over exposed and one at the correct exposure value.  Using Adobe Photoshop Elements, I was tasked with trying to then pull the photos back, learning what my camera’s capabilities are.  I now know how far I am able to push my camera before the image is unusable.

As you become more confident and accomplished with your camera you will not even realise you are running through a mental checklist, you will start to be able to select the correct values in your camera to take carefully crafted photos in your own unique style.

What is Manual Mode?
Views of Snowdonia.

Thanks for reading this, I hope that this article inspires you to try taking photos manually.  Please feel free to leave any comments below about your experiences.

Happy clicking!





What is shutter priority mode

What is Shutter Priority Mode?

What is shutter priority modeWhat is Shutter Priority Mode?

& when should I use it?

In the second part of this series I would like to explain what is Shutter Priority Mode and suggest some appropriate uses for this mode.

To examine what is shutter priority mode, set the dial to S on the camera.

What Is Shutter Priority mode

As explained here, I would like to help to encourage you to move out of Auto mode on your D-SLR and become a more accomplished photographer, crafting your own images through the settings within the camera.

Shutter Priority (S)

This mode does exactly what it says – it prioritises the shutter speed over the other settings in the camera, compensating by adjusting the aperture and ISO values.

The ‘shutter’ on a D-SLR is the mirror, which lifts up to allow the light through the lens onto the sensor, creating the photograph.  They tend to make a definite ‘clunk’ when in operation.

You can set the speed of the shutter on the dial.  This is based on the time that the shutter is open allowing light onto the sensor.  The measurement of this is a fraction of a second, for example, 1/125.  The shutter is open for 125th of a second, or 0.008 seconds – that’s pretty fast!

The range of shutter speeds depends on your camera, ranging from 60 seconds to 1/8,000 of a second!  The mind boggles at 0.000125 seconds!  Micro time!

Bear in mind the average blink of an eye is the equivalent of 1/3 of a second to help give you some perspective on shutter speeds!

Ok, I now know what is Shutter Priority Mode but when should I use it?

Have you ever admired photos of waterfalls, where the water is milky white?  That’s due to the image being taken using a very slow shutter speed, which then gives motion blur.

what is shutter priority mode waterfall
Slow shutter speed = motion blur

Or conversely, do you follow a fast paced sport, such as motor racing?  Using a fast shutter speed allows the photographer to capture the high speed movement of the car keeping it in perfect focus.

You may want to capture the movement of the water using a faster shutter speed, reflecting the more natural state of the waterfall.  It’s your choice.

The advantage of shutter priority mode is that you do not have to worry about setting the aperture or ISO – the camera makes the necessary adjustments to ensure that the image has the correct exposure, leaving you to concentrate on your subject.

what is shutter priority mode fast shutter
Fast shutter speed = a moment frozen in time

In Auto mode, either of the subjects above would be very difficult to capture effectively, a lot of cameras have ‘scene’ modes which will be based on Shutter or Aperture Priority – Sports for example has a fast shutter speed setting for fast paced photos.

But where is the fun in that?  Why not craft your own images, adding your own stamp of creativity!

It sounds daunting and difficult, but it is all too easy to remain within your comfort zone.  By pushing your boundaries, you will begin to then discover your own potential as a photographer, taking ownership of the images that you create.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and that you take the time to have a browse around the other pages in this website.

Please feel free to add any comments or links below to your own photos taken in shutter priority mode.

Happy clicking!



Lensbaby Composer – Edge 80 Optic

Lensbaby Composer –  Edge 80 Optic is a little different from the others in the optic swap system as it does not require the separate aperture discs supplied with other Lensbaby Optics.  This, doubled with the tilt-shift effect makes it a very good lens to start your collection with as you will build up your confidence with this in no time at all.

The aperture is controlled on the lens, via the built in aperture blades.  This differs from other Lensbaby optics as they have separate aperture discs that you insert.  There are 12 sturdy aperture blades in the Edge 80, from F2.8 to F22 giving a very workable range for the depth of field.

Robin – Olympus E400 and Lensbaby Composer with Edge 80 Optic. The focal plane is straight, no tilt and close focus used.

The Edge 80 is a very straightforward lens to work with. It has the additional feature of a close focus lens, which is activated by pulling the ring at the front away from the camera.  This adjusts the focal point as it has moved the lens further away from the sensor.  This can be utilised as a ‘zoom’ lens or, for best effect, a close up or macro lens.  This works best with the tilt angle set to zero, or to maximum of 19º.

Used in conjunction with the Lensbaby Composer, the Edge 80 works very much the same as a traditional lens if the focal plane is in line with the camera.  However, if you unlock the Composer and adjust the angle to up or down, left or right, you then achieve the ‘slice’.  This gives a very narrow depth of field, blurring the background of the image.   With the right subject matter, the image takes on a new perspective; miniaturised, a diorama.

Waterfall, Olympus E400 and Lensbaby Composer with Edge 80 Optic. Note that the focal plane is tilted, giving the ‘diorama effect’.

Focusing is as always, via the focusing ring on the Lensbaby Composer, which moves the optics in the lens away or toward the camera.  As stated before, it is very important to adjust the diopter or viewfinder in manual mode (there is an adjustment knob or lever beside the diopter) as this will affect your ability to get the subject in focus.

Due to the nature of the Edge 80, it is a more expensive lens within the Lensbaby range, however good quality used lenses can be sourced via reputable internet marketplace sellers, such as Amazon, Ebay, Gumtree and online camera retailers.  The build quality is very robust and this optic will last you for many years to come.

Happy Clicking!