Your Life As Art – Manual Mode

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Last week, we learned the exposure triangle. This gave a basic understanding of the 3 elements (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture) that work together to get a properly exposed picture when using manual mode.

In manual mode on your camera, you choose the setting for each of those to create the image you have envisioned.


Where do you start when determining your settings?

  • First, what kind of picture do you want to take? Is there movement involved? Are you taking a portrait? Do you want to take a landscape photo? Knowing this will help you determine what your priority is with your camera settings.
  • Second, how much light is there? Are you outside on a bright sunny day? Are you inside with little light? Has the sun set already? Knowing this will help you determine whether you need to let more light in or reduce the amount of light coming in to get a properly exposed image.

How to find the correct settings example

Kids Playing Outside on a Sunny Day

  • What I know: Kids move a lot when they are outside playing.
  • First question I ask: Do I want to freeze their motion? If the answer is yes, then my shutter speed will need to be at least 1/200 but preferably higher.
  • Second question I ask: How much light is there? It’s a sunny day so, there is a lot of light. I need to reduce the amount of light coming in my camera.
  • Third question I ask: How can I reduce the light? I can set a low ISO (200, 300, etc), a higher shutter speed (1/300, 1/1000, etc) or a higher aperture (f10).
  • Finally, making my settings: I have a lot of light, so I set a low ISO (400 or lower). Next, I like to use a low aperture number (f2.8) for the bulk of my pictures. I like my subjects to be sharp with blurry backgrounds. Finally, I look at my shutter speed. Since it is sunny, I can use a high shutter speed. I will set it, take a picture and adjust up or down based on whether it is too dark or light.

When you are practicing in manual mode, give yourself time to get your settings right. Take a few test shots before incorporating kids or pets that may not have patience while you play with your settings.

Next week we will go over how your camera meter will help you determine if you need to adjust your camera settings for a properly exposed image.

Life As Art Assignment #4

Set your camera to manual mode and think of an image you want to capture (kids running, sunset, portrait, etc)

Ask yourself what it is you want to capture? Is it kids or pets playing where you want to freeze the motion? Is it a picture of landscape where you want a lot in focus? Is it a portrait where you want the background blurry?

Then ask yourself how much light is there? Do you have a lot of light where you need to think about restricting the light coming into your camera or is there only a little light where you need to think about letting more light into your camera?

Next, ask yourself what are some ways you can let more light in or reduce the light entering your camera? Remember to think about your goal image during this step. If you want to freeze motion and have little light to work with, you would not lower your shutter speed to let more light in because then you will not be able freeze that motion. You would need to use a low aperture and high ISO.

*Remember to always be conscious of your shutter speed. If it falls to low (under 1/100) your picture could be blurry from just holding your camera.

As I mentioned in my first Your Life As Art post, the only way to get better is with practice, practice, practice.

Let me know how you’re doing or if you have any questions by commenting on my Facebook post.

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