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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.