13 Jan 2008

How to use Manual Mode - part 2

There is nothing mysterious about the Manual (M) mode on your camera. I said last time that ‘M’ also stands for ‘magic’, well it’s true – the magic comes from you being in control and not the camera.

For those who have not used their camera on ‘M’ before, let’s take away some of the confusion and myth by saying that you do not need to juggle BOTH the shutter speed settings AND the aperture settings straight away and at the same time. You simply start with one or the other, set it – then look at the exposure scale (see pictures in last post) and move the other setting until the pointer is in the centre of the scale.

So how do you know whether to set the aperture or the shutter speed first?

Well, there are many subtleties, but basically it is very simple - let’s say you know that your subject is moving quickly so you need to set a fast shutter speed. Do it – set maybe 1/250sec. You can do that even before the camera comes up to your eye. Now, look through the viewfinder at your subject and change the aperture setting until the pointer on the exposure scale is in the centre.

If you know you need a small aperture in order to get the maximum depth of field for a landscape shot, for instance, set the aperture first – say f16. Then look at the exposure scale through the viewfinder and change the shutter speed (slow it down or speed it up) until the pointer is in the centre of the exposure scale.

Of course, as a rough guide, the smaller the aperture (higher the f number) the slower the shutter speed will have to be. The faster the shutter speed, the wider (lower f number) the aperture must be.

All this needs practice – but so does anything worth doing. Eventually you will get to the stage where you can take pride in the fact that your camera craft has become intuitive. You will make mistakes – don’t worry. We all do.

Never let setting the exposure get in the way of capturing the moment. You will be surprised how quickly you will be able to set your exposures manually. Do bear in mind that once your exposure has been set roughly for the light in a particular situation, chances are that only minor adjustment, if any, will be necessary for each different picture. If you think you are going to miss a picture – revert to Auto Exposure mode. It’s the picture that matters, not the way it’s exposed.

For photograph of the cows on the beach, I set a small aperture first – f16. That was because I needed all the depth of field I could get. The shutter speed was then set to match that aperture. The photograph is not just about cows, it is about cows out of context in an unusual setting. That setting had to be sharp and clear – hence lots of depth of field.


Irene said...

First of all, I really like your blog. I am a very novice photographer, just trying to learn and really appreciate all your tips. I don't have an SLR camera yet, hopefully, someday. For now, I have a Fujifilm S8000fd. A p&s, but offers quite a few options.

Anyway, I have a pretty good basic understanding of how to set up your camera for various situations, but my problem is, if I am in manual mode and am setting my camera up based on say, aperture, then adjust the shutter speed accordingly, and the camera never gets the correct exposure, what is the next step? Do you start adjust ISO? I know my camera maybe just doesn't have the range of options that an SLR camera would, and maybe that is the problem.


Philip Dunn said...

The S8000 is a great little camera and you should produce beautiful results. One difference to it and most SLRs is that the smallest aperture available is f8. This is common to most ‘bridge’ cameras. You just have to work around it.

Assuming you are pointing the camera at the subject, and that the subject is of reasonable average tones, the exposure reading it gives should be spot on. First check that your Exposure Compensation setting is at ’0’.

Although it is bad practise to set a very high ISO when it is not needed, it should not matter what ISO is set when you are on ‘M’ because when that camera’s exposure meter pointer is in the centre of the scale, that should be telling you the correct exposure.

I think the S8000 has a fastest shutter speed of 1/2000sec. If the ISO is set very high, and you have set a very wide aperture (f2.8 for instance) I can envisage a situation where you will be overexposed. But this should still show on that metering scale.
Hop that is some help.

Manual Man said...

great article. it took me a while to figure out manual mode and when I did i soon realised it is not scary at all.

the real improvements start to come when you learn where to point the camera to get your meter readings/settings.