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Understanding Your Camera - Using Manual Mode
Greetings fellow photographers! Today we’re going to talk about the Manual
Mode settings on your camera. Significant improvements in camera technology
have steered many people away from using these Manual Mode settings. Most
people opt for the Auto settings instead. While the Auto settings are helpful,
it is beneficial to understand the four basic principles of Manual Mode
photography. That way, you will have a deeper appreciation of what the Auto mode
actually does, and how much work it saves you. Also, with Father’s Day around the
corner, Dad may enjoy showing off his newfound technological knowledge about one
of his gadgets – or may be impressed by what his family can show him! In the next
edition, we will explain the different Auto settings on your camera, but for now,
let’s focus on the Manual Mode’s four standard settings. We will keep this
discussion short, sweet, and simple, and do our best to not use too many boring
Shutter Speed. The shutter speed is the amount of time your camera
sensor is exposed to light. The longer the camera sensor is exposed, the more
light it will allow into the photo. Longer exposures can lead to blurry photos
(which may not necessarily be a bad thing). Typical consumer cameras will allow
anything from a 15 second exposure all the way up to 1/1000 of a second. Without
getting too technical, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you experiment
with your shutter speed settings:
Anything slower than 1/60 of a second will generally
require a tripod to avoid camera shake or blur. If you are intentionally going
for a blurry or fuzzy photo, use a slower shutter speed setting. A fun shot to
try is use a tripod and a long exposure on a person. The still background will
remain in focus, but any slight movements by the subject will show up with a blur.
This can create a really terrific aura effect.
To freeze a moving subject, use a shutter speed of 1/250 or above.
This can be great to capture moments at your children’s sporting events, or other
occasions when your subjects are moving.
Aperture/f-stop. The aperture setting, which is sometimes called
the f-stop (focal ratio), controls the amount of light that reaches the sensor.
In other words, it determines how wide the lens opens for your shot. The bottom
line is the smaller the number, the wider the lens opens, while the larger the
number, the smaller the lens opens. f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, and f/16 are the
typical aperture settings for consumer cameras. Keep these guidelines in mind when
working with aperture settings:
- In a dark or poorly lit room, you probably want the aperture open wide to allow
as much light as possible into the shot. Try f/2.8.
- When shooting outdoors with a lot of light, such as a snow scene,
a smaller aperture setting will limit the abundance of light. Try f/16.
Depth of Field. You can
also manually adjust the sharpness of your depth of field. Basically, when your
camera aperture is open wide (f/2.8), your subject in the foreground will be sharp,
while your background will be out of focus. This is a short depth of field. On
the flipside, when your aperture is closed down (f/11), your scene will hold focus
from the subject in the foreground all the way through the background. This is a
deep depth of field. Both are fun techniques to try, and the setting really just
depends on what kind of shot you are after. The zoom of the lens can also affect
the depth of field, but that is a discussion for another time!
ISO/ASA. While the aperture setting
controls the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor, the ISO setting
(sometimes called ASA/ISO) determines how sensitive your camera is to the light.
In a nutshell, the higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the camera is to
light. The average consumer camera allows for ISO ranges of 100-800. Keep these
guidelines in mind about ISO settings:
A high ISO setting (800) will be better at capturing a low light scene. However,
the increased sensitivity can lead to pixelization, digital noise, or grain on
your finished photo.
The lower the ISO setting, the cleaner the finished photo will be. When
shooting with a lot of light, such as a sunny day, keep the ISO setting as
low as possible (100) because you already have a lot of light and you want
your final image to be clean.
So, does that make sense? Did we scare you into never
using the Manual Mode settings again? Well, the key idea to take from this
discussion is that you can manually adjust the settings on your camera to create
exactly the kind of shot you are after. Also, you may have a little more
admiration for the Auto settings on your camera now that you know how hard they
work! Experiment for a while with the Manual Mode settings. Above everything
else, have fun – photography is a wonderfully addictive hobby, and the more you
know, the more you’ll want to learn!