So you’ve had your digital SLR camera for a while now. You’ve been shooting using many of the different automatic modes but you want to branch out and start using your camera in the way it was intended by shooting in manual mode. You want to start taking control of the shooting process and gain a better understanding of photography. You’ve even gone so far as to carefully read the following important articles:
Now you want to start shooting in Manual Mode! Well, to get you started, here is a simple Four-Step Guide to shooting in manual mode. At the end of this article you will also find a link to a downloadable “cheat sheet” that covers the most basic decisions that highlighted in this four-step process. This cheat sheet can be downloaded and saved to your smart phone so you have it handy when needed.
But there are two important points that need to be made. Firstly, in order to shoot in manual mode you must have a reasonable grasp of White Balance, ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture as well as how ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture work together to create exposure. The steps covered in this article do not go into detail about these very important elements of exposure but instead provide you with a reminder of the decisions you need to make.
Secondly, this process can only be perfected with practice. By making a concrete decision to shoot in manual on a continuous basis will allow you to gain a much better understanding of exposure and how you can get the best exposure you can possibly get given the situation you find yourself in. It is only with practice that you will advance your knowledge and be able to make the required adjustments when needed. Having said that, there will always be those situations where getting the right exposure proves difficult and you will need to seek advice on how to best handle those situations. Nevertheless, if you don’t stop reading and instead get out there are shoot, you will never discover those situations!
The Three-Step Process to Shooting in Manual Mode
So here it is:
STEP 1: Set the White Balance
A. The quickest and simplest setting is to start with AWB
B. If after taking the shot you need to make a CORRECTIVE ADJUSTMENT,
a. Try setting the WB to one of the pre-sets to match the lighting
b. Use Custom WB and use a grey card or white paper to set the WB (see Simple Guide to Getting the Perfect White Balance)
C. If you wish to make a CREATIVE ADJUSTMENT,
a. Set the WB to the OPPOSITE of what you want.
STEP 2: Set the ISO
A. If you have a lot of light to work with (outside daylight, no shade), set a low ISO
a. The lower the ISO you set, the slower your shutter speed will be – keep this in mind in case you intend to shoot with a fast shutter speed in order to freeze motion, for instance. You may need to increase ISO in order to increase shutter speed
b. The lower the ISO you set, the wider will be your aperture – keep this in mind in case you intend to shoot with a very narrow aperture in order to maximize depth of field. You may need to increase ISO in order to achieve greater depth of field.
B. If you are in a low light situation, set a high ISO
a. The higher the ISO you set, the faster your shutter speed will be – keep this in mind in case you intend to shoot with a slower shutter speed in order to blur motion, for instance. You may need to decrease ISO in order to decrease shutter speed.
b. The higher the ISO you set, the narrower will be your aperture – keep this in mind in case you wish to shoot with a wide aperture in order to minimize depth of field. You may need to decrease ISO in order to decrease depth of field.
STEP 3: Set Shutter Speed OR Aperture – Which is MORE important?
A. If Aperture is more important:
a. Set to Aperture Priority Mode, then set desired Aperture and Shutter Speed will be set automatically
b. Set to Manual Mode …
i. then set desired aperture
ii. then set desired shutter speed UNTIL exposure level indicator levels off at zero.
B. If Shutter Speed is more important:
a. Set to Shutter Priority Mode, then set desired Shutter Speed and Aperture will be set automatically
b. Set to Manual Mode …
i. then set desired shutter speed
ii. then set desired aperture UNTIL exposure level indicator levels off at zero.
So there it is. You can download the Manual Mode Cheat Sheet by clicking the link.
Here are some important related articles regarding exposure:
If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me directly with your question!
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