October 20, 2011

#41 – Switch to “M”anual mode and get total control of your photos.

You can do this and you’re going to thank me for it.

Turn your camera mode to “M” for manual. Just stop reading for a second, pick up your camera and give it a shot.

See? Nothing blew up. Nothing went wrong. There’s a (big) fear for anyone who is getting to know their camera that the non-auto settings “P,” “Tv,” ‘Av” and “M” are the scary domain of professional photographers who have had years of training.

Lies, all lies.

All those settings do is put you in control of your photos. You get to decide how bright or how dark. What you want in focus and out of focus. You get to think about how to make your photos look the way you want them, instead of depending on the camera to make all the decisions.

If you’ve been following along with Frame One this year, you already have all the skills you need to dial in “M” with confidence. It’s the mode I use most often. In fact, I find it frustrating to use anything but “M,” “Tv” and “Av.” Nothing ever looks the way that I want it to. So flip your camera over to M and remember these things:

Pick a white balance.

Think about what light is happening in the photo (daylight, tungsten light, fluorescents), then dial that in. 
·      If you take pictures using the RAW format, you can change this setting later.

Choose an ISO.

Look around. How dark is it? If you’re in a well-lit space, choose a low ISO (100, 200). If it’s darker – go higher.
·      A higher ISO lets more light into your camera.
·      The higher the ISO, the grainer your photos will be.

Choose a shutter speed and aperture.


Now think about what you want to do with your photo. Set the one thing that gives you the look for your picture. Blur the background: aperture first. Freeze motion: shutter speed first.
·      High apertures (e.g. 2.8) blur the background and give more light. Low apertures (e.g. 11) are better for landscapes – more stuff stays in focus, but they let in less light.
·      Shutter speeds vary depending on what’s happening. Freezing action for football needs a high shutter speed (e.g. 1/640) – but it lets in less light. Don’t go below 1/60 in most cases, unless you’re trying some nifty ideas that capture motion. (Go ahead – dial in 1/15 and see what happens).
·      Keep an eye on your meter to ensure that your exposure looks right. Keep a closer eye on the actual photo after you shoot it – it gives you a better sense that you got what you set out to get.

Take the picture.
That’s it. Three-and-a-half basic steps that take seconds to dial in and give you more control. “M”anual shooting is easy and powerful once you get in the habit – and your photos will look all the more excellent.

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