7 things I did to start photographing in manual
One of the questions I am asked most often as a photogrpaher, is “how do I start photographing in manual mode?” Unfortuantely it is also the hardest question to answer and something I can’t address in a single blog post.
What I can do though is share the 7 things I did to start taking those scary first steps into the world of photographing in manual mode.
Work on your composition
This is maybe a controversal one but for the first few months of getting your camera I would recommend keeping it on automatic. I know, I know, it’s the opposite of what you want to learn but I would recommend that you just get used to the feel of your camera first.
By this stage my camera is an extention to my arm. I know the composition of an image that I enjoy capturing and I have a style that has naturally emerged. This sa happed over a number of years though, so the best way to develop that is to simply practice.
Mess around with your zoom if you have a vari-focal lens. Get low and experiment with how it puts you in the action, go high and have a play with the difference that it makes to your images. Before you know it you’ll be looking around you with imaging framing in mind and will be ready to take the next step and switch over to photographing in manual.
First up: ISO
In short, the ISO on your camera refers to how sensitive to light it will be. The lower the number the clearer your shot will be. The higher that number gets, the grainier it will become.
Now it’s easy to assume that you should simply always keep it as low as possible on 100 but unfortunately as your settings are a mix between ISO. aperture and shutter speed, there is a balance that needs to be found between the three. It may sound complicated but don’t worry, after time this will become second nature to you.
I personally usually try and keep within the following ISO ranges.
- Outside: 100
- Shade: 200
- Indoors: 400-800
This isn’t set in stone but is a good rule of thumb which works for me. I always set my ISO first when looking at the conditions of the day.
On to aperture
The aperture refers to how wide your lens open and therefore controls how much light passes through. It it calibrated in f/stop. The aperture also controls the depth of field on your image.
Ok, let me break that down for you.
The lower the number the wider the lens becomes letting more light in. This also provides a shallow depth of field making the background of your images blurry.
The higher the number the light filters in through a smaller hole and therefore creates a deeper depth of field keeping both the foreground and background in focus for you.
In short, the lower the number the more light comes in and the lower the depth of field will be . The higher the number, less light comes in which gives you more depth of field.
I do a lot of portrait work and like to photography my children so I tend to favour a shallower depth of field which has the added benefit of letting in lots of light and therefore allowing me to keep my ISO and shutter speed lower.
Which brings us on to……
Well, shutter speed is exactly what is says on the tin. The speed at which the shutter opens and shuts. The quicker the shutter speed the shorter the exposure and the sharper the image. The slower the shutter speed the longer the exposure.
When setting your shutter speed you need to consider light and motion. The darker the enviornment the higher the shutter speed will need to be to get the correct exposure. If you’re trying to capture a moment in time, then you need a quick a shutter speed as the light will allow, especially if your subject is in motion.
So for movement aim for a 1/800 – 1/1000 shutter speed, whereas for landscapes or portraits lower 1/250 – 1/500
Test your shot
What I usually do is set my ISO based on the conditions I’m shooting in. I will then set my aperture based on the depth of field I want and then finally I use the light sensor on my camera to set the ideal shutter speed.
Set your camera up and take some test shoots to make sure you are getting the effect you’re looking for.
Image too dark?
- slow shutter speed down as much as you with without creating unwanted blur
- lower aperture
- raise ISO
Image too bright?
Ok. you need to:
- lower ISO
- speed up shutter speed
- raise aperture
Finally edit, edit, edit
I’m ending on another controversal one and editing your images is a bit of a controversal topic. Now I’m not talking about editing an image to the point of where you no longer look like you, but I’m a big advocate of using editing tools to let your images shine. You and your camera has done the hard work of composition and getting your settings to let you capture as much as you can in an image, editing will just give it that final polish.
You don’t have to spend a fortune either. VCSO, the Adobe Lightroom app and even Instagram will give you basic editing features for free.
And that’s it!! If you’ve brought yourself a good camera than the likelihood is that you want to take your photography to the next level, and the key to doing that is getting off the automatic setting of your camera.
Hopefully these 5 simple steps will help you start your journey to photographing in manual!!
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