Turn Your Cameras To M, Please
I’m finding myself referring people all the time to Photoexpress for their $25 intro to digital photography classes… but they are known to have a wait list. So, how about a quick guide to getting out of automatic mode, and into Manual?
There is so much more you can do when you stop letting your camera make all the decisions for you.
First things first, you’ve got to turn that dial to M. Don’t worry about all the other dials for now, your first step is just to get aqainted with controlling the exposure on your own in manual mode.
The next thing I advise you to do is to make sure your Auto Focus (AF) is set to one shot, and then read your camera manual and figure out how to set your AF point (the point where your camera will find focus) to the center. This means that whatever you point at, the camera will find focus in the center of the image (center of your viewfinder). If the center is not where you want your focus to be, you simply move your camera position to where your subject is in the center, press the shutter release half -way until the focus is set , and hold it while you recompose the shot to take your photo. So, if your trying to take a portrait , make sure the eyes are in the center of the image, focus and hold that focus until you’ve recomposed your shot to where you want it to be (because good portraits have the eyes in focus) . This alone will be so freeing!
Now, back to exposure. Your photo is not going to work if you don’t get the exposure correct. You know your exposure is correct when the meter you see in the view finder of your camera is position in the center. This is how we get there.
Exposure is controlled by 3 main things:
Shutter Speed: That’s the fraction number 1/250 etc… shutter speed should always be twice the length of focus or your hands will create camera shake. And most people cannot hand hold at less than 1/60. If your shooting with a 18-55 ish Kit Lens, your shutter speed needs to be between 1/60- 1/100 at MINIMUM. Choosing your shutter speed will be based weather or not your subject is moving, and what your other settings will be. Fast moving objects require fast shutter speeds if you want them to be clear.
Aperture: That’s the F Number. Aperture controls light and depth of field. But let’s keep this simple. The higher the number, the less light and the more overall focus your photo will have. The lower the number, the more light and the less areas of focus your camera will have. If you want to create those lovely softly focused pictures, you want a lower number. If you want to take a photo of a landscape where everything needs to be in focus, you want a higher number.
ISO: That’s what used to be known as film speed. It ranges from 100- 1600, or higher. In your consumer or prosumer camera, 1600 is about the highest you can go before your images get noisy and grainy.
despite a bright, sunny day, shooting action like this requires higher ISO’s to allow for higher shutter speed in order to freeze the action.
Ok, so how to put all this together? It’s matter of deciding what the conditions are. If it’s a bright, sunny day, your probably going to want to set your ISO to 100, adjust your aperature to the look your trying to acheive (and maybe even blog more light with a higher number if it’s really bright outside), and then play with your shutterspeed until you get your meter centered.
Meter Centered? Yep, that’s right. When you look through your camera viewfinder, you’ll see a “meter” and if you play with rolling dial in Manual mode you will be controlling shutter speed and moving a meter back and forth. For proper exposure, you want that meter to be centered.
Ok, so what if it’s not a bright sunny day? What if your shooting action shots and need a high shutter speed? Simple, turn your ISO up, set your aperature, and then meter. What about if your indoors? Crank up your ISO, lower your aperature and try metering. If you can’t get your meter in the middle then your going to need to think about flash… and that’s a whole other blog topic.