9 July 2012

Loving the 'M'- How to work on Manual Setting

Hi, Welcome to the first post in my mini series! Come on in!

I hate automatic setting.

There. I said it.
In my opinion automatic robs you, the user, of any control. Yep, it’s easy and yep it’s quick but you are letting the camera make the decision. If a picture doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, you cannot establish the root of the problem.

Manual is scary. It can be complicated but essentially it is letting you have the power. You are accountable for your photographs. That to me is far more exciting than pressing a shutter. You will get so much more out of your camera.

Manual setting allows you to change essentially three things.

1.       Shutter speed

2.       Aperture

3.       ISO

Shutter speed is the big number on your screen.  It does what it says on the tin. The bigger the number the faster the shutter is closing and vice versa.

Aperture is how wide open your lens is. Aperture numbers look like this on your display.

f/5.0 (for example)

They are sometimes known as f-stops. The lower the number (f stop) the more open the lens is and vice versa.

ISO is how sensitive the camera is to light. The higher the number the more sensitive it is therefore the lighter the picture.

 Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO come together to form the exposure triangle.

Therefore if your picture is too light or too dark you can change one or all of these three things to fix it.
I personally always adjust my shutter speed first. If the picture is too dark like so:

I know that my shutter was closing too quickly- not enough light could get in. I therefore adjust the number on my screen so that the shutter is closing slower.

If the picture is too light like so:

I know that the shutter was closing too slowly- too much light was coming in. I adjust it accordingly and speed it up.

Shutter speed is easy to get the hang of. You soon learn to adjust your shutter speed to go faster when you move outdoors and slow down if you are going into a dark room.

Be warned though. In a dark place there is only so low you can take your shutter speed before you get a lot of blur in the pictures. For instance if you have to slow the speed so that your shutter is closing after a second, you are inadvertently going to wobble in that time and cause blur!

If you don’t want to change shutter speed you can change aperture. Nice and easy. The lower the number the more open the lens therefore the more light that comes in. Adjust this accordingly.

Aperture isn’t just good for changing the exposure though. It is aperture that gives you beautiful blurred backgrounds like this:

This will only happen when your f stop is on a low number ( the lens is wide open). I will cover this more in the next post . I love the blurry background effect so for this reason unless totally necessary I don’t change my aperture to make my picture lighter or darker.

The final thing to change is ISO. This is measured in hundreds.

A photo at ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 1200

The higher the number the lighter it gets. Essentially this is a good quick fix BUT, be warned.

The bigger the ISO number, the grainier the picture is, especially in a dark room.

So there we go. That is manual in it’s simplest nutshell! If in doubt look to the exposure triangle and think “what thing shall I change so that my picture is exposed correctly.” Look at your situation. Look at the pros and cons of changing either the ISO, aperture or Shutter speed. Use a bit of everything.

My normal process when finding the correct exposure in manual is to adjust shutter speed. If it is getting too dark and I am scared I will wobble and blur the picture I push my ISO up a notch. That in most cases makes for a perfectly exposed photo.

The beauty of manual is that you can expose your photos how you wish. I prefer in most cases to have my photos slightly over exposed therefore I can adjust my camera accordingly. If you want to go moody and underexposed, that is easy too!
My biggest tip though is PLAY AROUND. The more you do on manual the easier it is. It becomes intuitive. I don’t think now about how to change my photo, I just do it.

Thanks so much for stopping by


scrappyjacky said...

I really need to get to grips with manual.At the moment I just use macro if I want a blurry background. Thanks for this simple explanation,Abi.

Jennifer Grace said...

Yep, I find Manual SCARY! I will give it a go using your tips though! x

Clair said...

It took me absolutely ages to understand this in my photography class, but you've explained it so simply for everyone. I must admit that I still tend to use Aperture Priority - because I'm a big lover of those blurry backgrounds too. Looking forward to seeing where you take this series and maybe, just maybe, moving my dial towards the M! :)

Ginger said...

I have been playing around with "M" and could use all the help I can get! Thanks for your simpler explanation, I plan to print your post so I have it with me! Thank you :)